Thursday, October 6, 2011


As soon as we decided we want to be done with Army life, I started second guessing that decision.  I am so worried about going back to civilian life, and Gunnar settling into a career that will be everything we need it to be.  Maybe we should stay in longer?  Maybe he should change jobs and get some sort of training that will be useful in the civilian world?  Maybe we should request a move to Germany for a few years?  See some of Europe while we can?  I just don't know!!!  I feel like I'd really miss the financial and medical stability of the military life.  Is it really so bad all the time?  I wonder if we missed the window of opportunity to make that decision.  The closer his unit gets to another deployment (which still hasn't been officially announced yet), the less likely they are to allow a soldier to transfer out of the unit.  I just wish I felt more comfortable about making this decision.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Thousand Words

This is the face of a boy missing his father so much it hurts my heart.

He sat there forever just staring at that photo.  I asked him what he was thinking about and he said he just like to think about Dad and remember him.  I think my heart just broke.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Army NTC

Gunnar is spending the month over at Ft Irwin California in the National Training Center (NTC).  It's designed to be sort of a mini-Afghanistan to simulate what a deployment would be like.  It's hot and in the desert and they have a mock village set up and battles etc.  His unit gives us cheerful Facebook updates so we know they are all doing well and working hard.  Here's the link if you want to read one for yourself. 

The only problem is that it's all bullshit.

They aren't doing fine.  They are sick, sunburned and shitting in buckets.  They don't have enough facilities for the number of people that are there.  They aren't being fed for days at a time. 

This is worse than a deployment.  It cost $22,000,000 to send the guys there.  This is the National Training Center and this is the best they can do.  Seriously? 

I certainly don't appreciate being lied to, especially by my husband's employer.  I'm not big into conspiracy theories either, but it's a fair warning to say that you shouldn't believe everything (or sometimes anything) that you read.  I've been able to get only bits and pieces of info since Gunnar's been over there but hopefully he'll be able to give me the full picture when he gets his phone back.  All of the soldiers had to turn in their phones over a week ago and aren't able to communicate with their families. 

The purpose of this training is to make the soldiers ready for a deployment to Afghanistan.  I'd just like to point out that soldiers that have already been to Afghanistan do not benefit from being treated like shit stateside.  They certainly haven't forgotten what it was like to be out in the desert fighting.  Gunnar was deployed already without any of this fancy desert training so it's not an actual requirement before a soldier is deployed. Not feeding people or not giving them places to poop doesn't build a team, or teach them a damn thing.  It breaks down their motivation and their spirit.  Is that what we really want to do to the people we send to war?  I am realizing more and more that while I still support our troops, I have very little support for most of their leadership.  This stuff is pissing me off.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fayetteville, NC: A Photo Tour

I spent some time a few weeks ago snapping some photos in and around Fayetteville, NC.  It's the "city" most closest to Ft. Bragg and where you go for Applebee's, Chili's, Target and not a whole lot more.  It has a disproportionate amount of tattoo shops, strip clubs and pawn shops.  More than I've ever seen in my life.  And obviously, the only way to set your aforementioned business apart from the others is with an extra catchy name.  Here's some of my favorites.

One of the gates to enter/exit Ft Bragg

One of the bridges at the Cape Fear River Trail.  Beautiful.

I'd just like to point out that it's virtually impossible to read street signs that are BROWN and in between bright lights.  No wonder it took me a year to find my way around here.

Another entrance/exit gate.

Leftover tornado wreckage.

Lots of businesses were flattened and the piles of debris are still there.

The Pearl Necklace.  Awesome.

It is located directly beside a fantastic sandwich shop that makes one of the best cheesesteaks I've ever had.

Balla World.  I believe they do haircuts there.

"Men's Fashion, Scooters, Phones, Ladies Fashion".  One stop shopping at it's best.  In an old gas station.

Sonny's Gold Teeth.

The sign on the door reads "Solicitors will be shot on site".  Sounds serious.

I just thought this was a cute anti driving and texting message.

Downtown Fayetteville, one of the more appealing sites around here.

Bottom's Up.  The name says it all.

Sharky's.  They have military discounts and you can still smoke there.

"Shady Lady" What a great name for a strip club! 

Another gem:  "30/30 Grown & Sexy".  Obviously geared toward a more mature crowd.

I think this is a car dealership.  All I know is it's really strange-looking.

"Knokkers".  Very Kreative.

The previous four photos comprise this whole strip club plaza.  Interestingly enough, soldiers are banned from most that you see here.  They have an approved list of places to go.  Really.

It's the Tramp Stamp Studio tattoo shop!  Who would ever go to a place with a name like that???!!!

Getting Jiggy wit it.

That's right, Dirty South.

I hope you enjoyed your tour of Fayetteville as much as I did.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


My goodness it's been forever since I've posted.  Kudos to anyone still reading.  Instead of rambling about my complaints about Ft Bragg etc I'm going to tell you about something really special that happened recently.  I was home (see how I still call it that?) home, my Ohio home, with my family several weeks ago and it just hit me like a ton of bricks.  These people love me.  They do.  They.  Love.  Me.  I've always proclaimed my ever lasting love for my mom, dad, sisters and brother but to think of the reverse is so different and so wonderful. 

They love me.

There's no other place in the world I can go except my mom's kitchen and look around and know and feel that these people love me for me, forever.  They are my best friends in the world.  This doesn't take anything away from my husband and kids, by the way.  I know they love me too, and it's a two way street.  But when I was sitting at Mom's kitchen table with her and my sisters right there, I realized that there's no other place in the world I can have what I get from them.  I started crying and realized that is the only home I want to have. 

So it was then that we decided that Gunnar isn't going to re-enlist when his ETS (end of term of service) comes around next year.  We're done.  The Army life isn't for us anymore. 

Of course we still have a long time before that can become a reality.  But Gunnar and the kids and I drove around and picked out our houses we want to live in when we come back.  We want that life, our own house and garden in which all our roots can grow and thrive.  The transiency of Army life will never make that possible.  I want my kids to be close with their cousins, just like I was when I was a kid.  I want my new baby nephew to know me and me to know him.  I'm tired of missing out on get-togethers and being able to lend a hand when someone needs it. 

To have an uncertain future is scary as all hell.  But fingers crossed, we'll make it work.  We have a little time to figure out if there's jobs available when we move back etc.  And we're hoping Gunnar doesn't have to deploy back to Afghanistan in the meantime. 

By the way...I drove around Fayetteville recently and took some pictures of things that make me smile.  I'll post them soon (I promise!!) and hope you get a little chuckle too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

As if war wasn't dangerous enough

Gunnar's unit are still working on some phase of the Intensive Training Cycle to prepare them for their next deployment (which currently doesn't even have actual dates!).  Somehow they seem like they are always scheduled to be out sleeping in the woods when the weather is the absolute worst.  Last time a tornado blew through here, leaving a heck of a lot of damage in it's wake.  This week we had the hottest days of the year so far and the guys were of course, out in the field again. 

I know these are tough guys and the Army isn't into coddling anyone.  However, putting their lives at risk is completely ridiculous and totally unnecessary.  War is dangerous enough!  There are enough soldiers dying over there, we don't need to kill them in training over here!  Earlier this week the temp reached about 101deg here.  Which means the heat index was at least 111deg at some parts of the day.  There were guys passing out from the heat.  They have medics out there but their jobs are definitely to treat those hurt by the heat, and no one is preventing the injuries.  On top of that, there was a thunderstorm that night and one of their vehicles and a soldier were hurt by lightening. 

A few weeks ago a paratrooper died during a night jump.  It could have been anyone.  This guy lived through a few deployments before he died in training.  No one is going to make it to the next deployment if the Army kills them before they go.  This was an accident, but there's no excuse for putting these soldier's directly in harm's way for training.  It's irresponsible. 

I wish there was a way to vent to people that might actually listen, or care or do something about it. 

Gunnar, of course wasn't sleeping out in the woods during the thunder and lightening storms - they had him sleeping on the concrete floor of the arm's room.  Stupidest idea ever, but at least I know he's safe in there.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

All American Week 2011

A few weeks ago I had the enjoyment of experiencing All American Week here at Ft. Bragg.  I vaguely remember this going on last year (it's an annual event, usually before Memorial Day) but without Gunnar here to explain anything to me, I really didn't know what was happening except for lots of road closers etc.  Ft. Bragg is home to the 82nd Airborne and they are called the "All Americans" because when they were first organized, there was a soldier representing each state, at the time.

Did you know this blog has a fact-checker now?  It's true.  And I'm sure if I messed up any of those historical details, we'll all be properly corrected.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah!  All American week.  I sort of compare it to when you're in high school and they have Senior Olympics right before graduation, but on a much grander scale.  They had tug-of-war competitions and wrestling (rasslin'?) and combatives and volleyball, to name a few.  There was a Division Review, which is a really big deal type of ceremony.  I really wanted to go but had Gus's preschool graduation at the exact same time.

I was really glad to attend the few events that I was able to.  This whole Army base was teeming with veteran's from the past and it was amazing to me to see how far they had traveled to get here for this event.  There really is a lot of history here, most of it unpleasant war stuff, but it's still part of our country's history.  Here's a few of the highlights from the week...

This was the Division Run.  Imagine 20,000 guys running in formation.  Each company (little group of guys) had their own cadence to sing to.  This was a really neat thing to watch.  I'm working on uploading a video to show you the full effect.  One of the funniest parts was the accordion effect that happened over and over again.  Eventually the soldiers would get all bunched up, then they would be running in place till the whole group started moving again and they would have to run at a dead sprint to get back in place.  That's the Army!  Also, running with reflective belts when there's 20,000 people on a closed road seems slightly unnecessary but it was cute.

We were actually able to find Gunnar in the mess of people.  Not an easy feat considering they all look exactly the same!!

We headed over to Sicily Drop Zone a few miles away to watch the paratroopers jump competition.  They were jumping from these helicopters.  Very, very cool.

See the guys dangling legs?  Crazy!

Helicopters this close to me is always the coolest thing I've ever seen.  Every time. 

Three in a row!  I love it!!!

I argued with my Father in law quite a bit over this.  I was pretty sure this huge "tent" was really a huge parachute, but he wasn't convinced.  It really is actually a massive parachute and they use these to drop Humvees and crazy big things like that. 

Break time

We came back to the Sicily Drop Zone to see a Joint Operational Access Demonstration.  Logistically, the entire set up was a nightmare getting to and from the drop zone (why expect anything else?) but the actual demo was pretty interesting.

The kids enjoyed the show but it was HOT that day and we spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for the next thing to happen.


They invented a game of running back and forth, which I liked a lot better than the previous game of making snow angels in the dirt.

The Army has a marching band.  Who knew?

This guy was in Gunnar's unit too.  I loved meeting and talking to these guys and hearing their stories and their pride.

Jumping instructions.

"Jumping" seems to be a waste of energy.  Gravity will get you where you're going.

Humvee that was dropped from a C-17.

This was breathtaking.  Seriously.  Dozens of paratroopers dropped from a C-130.  This was amazing to watch.  Alternate title "It's raining men".

Weapons demo.


More helicopters!!

Just wouldn't be right if they didn't blow something up!