Well everyone, I'm back over in Afghanistan now and a lot has happened since I wrote you last, I'll split it into leave and post leave. There are probably some things I'm glossing over since the last newsletter that happened before I went on leave but trust me that thinking about and planning for leave dominated my time. That and basically it was me getting to know the new commander, which was good, but not as critical now, as you'll see shortly.
So we'll start with leave. I left on the 31st of Aug to start my journey home and arrived home on the 4th. I went from my base, to a bigger base in Afghanistan, to Kuwait to a few layovers and plane changes and finally safe and sound in NY. I got home on a Thursday, and for those of you who know my cousin Rachel, was immediately told that I needed to attend her Thursday night 'church' also known as the bar, Porterhaus, which she attends religiously. So I went and less then an hour in, get burned by a drunken girl and her cigarette. That figures, 6 months in Afghanistan, not a scratch on me, come home and less then 12 hours in get burned which produced a scar I still have now..........welcome to NY huh?
Now if I listed every detail of my leave in hour by hour it would be a small volume, especially since it would probably take more than an hour to describe certain hours of leave, due to the nature of the hour so I'll just hit the highlights. The first weekend was probably the most low key of the three. Went out a few times and got to see some friends. Also got to ride my motorcycle, which I had been missing and drive babygirl (my corvette), which was good, but since I am trying to sell her, I wish she had been gone already, but it worked out. (Incidently, I'm lokking for a buyer, 01 coupe, 16k asking, but I'll let it go for 15.5....let me know). The next weekend was dominated by my cousin Dana's wedding and my boy Mike's visit. Mike is a fellow graduate of the Air Force Academy and a teamate and close friend. He came out to see me and was also around for the wedding. We went up Thursday night for the rehersal and then stayed up there for the wedding the next night. The wedding was amazing. My family loves to celebrate big events and this was the first wedding from my mom's side of the family so it was a big event. It was a lot of fun and Dana looked great. I, of course rocked the military uniform and since the drinks were already free I thought I'd take it up a notch and see if I couldn't get free drinks from the wedding going on next door........no problem. Both the night before and the wedding night we went out to some bars and its funny how quickly time passes. I talked to some of the locals at the bars and you should have seen how big their eyes got when I told them not only was I not in college anymore but graduated over 2 years ago....at 24 are you too old to be hanging with college kids? I hope not. On Sunday I got to see a Yankee game, which was sweet. They won. Next weekend was dominated by more visiting friends. Jen (another fellow academy graduate) arrived first and went with me, my brother and my father to another Yankee game, only this time we were 3 rows back from the visiting on deck circle, I could have reached over and taken Ken Griffey Jr's hat off. After the ball game Lindsey arrived (yet another close Academy graduate...noticing a theme?). We spent the weekend split between the city and my hometown and got to meet up with my boy Brian (another Acad...........yea you got it) and Jen's sister (not an Academy grad, but we don't hold it against her ;-). Also had the extended family over my house at the end of that weekend (unfortunately all my visitors were gone by then and I was a little exhausted (ok a lot exhausted but I blame my visitors for keeping me up). There are too many events to recount from a simple lunch with a friend, to a night out with the crew, to some wings at a bar, to just hanging out at home with the fam, and on and on. I enjoyed it all and it made it tough to leave it and everyone behind, but it had to be. So I bordered a plane and started the long journey back over here.........
Well coming back was not as easy as going over. It's always tough leaving family and friends behind and unfortunately, I was in for a rough patch upon returning. I was delayed in Bagram while I waited for transport. Apparently, while I was gone, the activity level around my base had picked up a little. It culminated with an engagement right outside the COP and then an attack on the COP. We beat them back both times but unfortunately not without taking a few hits ourselves. One soldier was in a guard tower when it got hit and had to be medevaced. Another soldier was on the ground outside the COP for the first piece of the engagement, and he also had to be medevaced. The birds went to one base first, and then to me at Bagram. The soldier in the tower got hit pretty bad but I visited him often in the hospital, he was eventually medevaced to Germany and I hear that he is doing well. He regained consciousness while at Bagram and we would talk sort of (he had a broken jaw so he would use hand gestures and write on paper). The other soldier did not fare as well and we lost him. There was a fallen hero ceremony at BAF and it was easily one of the most humbling and saddest things I had ever experienced. All the soldiers on this massive base lined the runway to salute and say goodbye to our fallen friend. This was the first time I experienced these things in war close to me(as in at my base) and it was rough, but I had a friend help me out and all is well. I will always remember it, for better or worse, and the friend lost that day.
I evnetually did make it back to Herrera when I found out that I was going to be taking over a new platoon and they were up at Herrera. I left with them and we hit the ground running. We moved back to the home base for the platoon and immediately left for a mission. This one was for 5 days up on a mountaintop, where we could come down and walk to local villages. We rode in and out on helicoptors, which was pretty cool. When we got back we got another assignment to help build an outpost for the afghan army and police. This one was 11 days long and by the time we got back it we looked pretty rough, but we all returned safe and sound. I can't say the same about the bad guys but thats a good thing. Well thats all I got for now. My platoon and I are resting up until we head out on the next mission. Talk to you all later.
Pictures: Pic 93: from the mountaintop looking down to the village. We walked to two and the moutaintop was about 500m above ground level, talk about an ass kicker with all the gear
Pic 116: My new platoon welcomed me with a suntan lotion and other verious items fight, don't worry, I got a few of them as well.
Pic 146 and 154: Me about halfway through and at the end of the mission. Grooming standards are a little relaxed on field missions.....well at least while no one higher is around.
Pic 182: My platoon and I upon return, I am on the end on the photographers right.