Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is for remembering those who died in the service of our country. We set aside this one day a year to grieve for those known to us, and those unknown. However, for an increasing number of families, Memorial Day just brings to a national level what they experience every day.

I have often read and heard about the experiences of losing a spouse or a child to war, but rarely do we hear the voices of those who have lost a parent.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, nearly 150 children who have lost a parent to war gathered at a hotel in Arlighton, VA for a yearly grief camp run by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit group founded in 1994 that helps military families and friends cope with death and talk about their loss. This article gives a poignant glimpse into their weekend of shared grieving.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Mother’s Love

I was chatting on the phone with my mother last night, and she mentioned something that my eldest brother had recently told her.

He said to her what a good mother she had been, because when he had asked for a t-shirt from Ocean Pacific, a local Hawaiian brand, my mother had sewn an O and a P onto a shirt of his, imitating the company’s logo.

It’s funny how in retrospect, something that was entirely un-cool when we were children or teenagers, looks so different when we are older, and in my brother’s case, have children of one’s own.

From that perspective he was able to see how although my mother was unwilling to spend the money on what she considered an overpriced t-shirt, she wanted to give him what he wanted, and sacrificed her time and effort to do so. So years later after shunning that t-shirt at one time, he looked back at that shirt as a symbol of our mother’s desire to make us happy.

I think as children we often overlook the sacrifices that our parents made for us , but they soon become crystal clear as we grow older…hopefully.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

You gotta love Germany...

...if you are a smoker.

Last night I went to go see the Da Vinci Code. Blah...whatevers. Perhaps the movie was good. But my viewing experience wasn't and thus pretty much ruined it.

Movie start time was 8:15pm. So my friends and I decided to meet at 8:15...we didn't care if we would miss the commercials.

8:18pm: We enter the theater. It is completely full. We have to split up to find seats.

8:20pm: the commercials start.

8:55pm (I am not sh*tting you): the movie starts.

10:20pm: In the middle of a chase scene: Intermission. Um, no...I am not kidding. And you know what the Intermission is officially called in the cinema: “Raucherpause” - smoking break. Yes. So all smokers were able to leave the room to go smoke, while us non-smokers waited on them. On the ticket it said the Raucherpause was going to be 10 wasn't.

10:40pm: Movie picks up where it stopped off: mid-car chase.

11:40pm: Movie over.

Those just weren't optimal viewing conditions. Wait for 40 minutes, building up anticipation. Slowly actually gather interest for the plot. Movie stops. Try to regain lost enthusiasm. Unsuccessful. Decide that it was a crappy movie, when perhaps under better circumstances I would have decided it was only half-crappy.

I don't mind waiting for people I know to smoke, but complete strangers? No ways. Man how enabling of German cinemas. I can't figure out if the economic power of smokers in Germany is so large that cinemas think they have to cater to them over non-smokers, or if this is just some throw-back to the 50s when movies had intermissions. But man, dragging out a 2:30 hour film into a 3:30 hour ordeal? Not necessary.

(Note: not all German films have intermissions. In fact intermissions are rare. It seems to be only films that are longer than 2 hours.)

Update: I just wanted to add here: on the ticket stub it actually says "smoking break". It doesn't say "intermission." I just object to that kind of wordage. I am getting my panties in a knot about that. And like many have pointed out, I probably would have been less annoyed, if I had been drinking some beer, because then I could have used the "Rauchpause" or "Raucherpause" to pee.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Heartwrenching and heartwarming

I read this post, and was a blubbering mess at the end. What an ordeal these two went through, and how disappointing the behavior of a few idiots can be, but thankfully they are the minority. (Via ArmyWifeToddlerMom)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Free Time

I took the second exam in a series of four which will hopefully lead to me finishing my degree this summer. It went okay. I say, ok, because although I felt confident with the content, I totally butchered the German. I mean, it was mangled. But hopefully the professor will look-over that, and see through to the content, and be able to judge if I answered the question correctly.

I actually came out of the test 30 minutes short of the 4 hour total, and was welcomed with pouring rain. Biking home I was shivering, but didn't care because the biggest exam albatross had been removed from my neck, and I was feeling pretty free.

Lately, I haven't felt myself too much. I am so stressed out that I don't understand my own thought processes. Also, I have practically aborted my whole life. If it weren't for the fact that I stayed at my boyfriend's last week, I probably would have had no human contact for a week. He took me out to dinner on Wednesday night, because I had literally not left his apartment since Sunday. I was just learning all day long. And eating. And drinking Coke. I don't drink Coke, I am a coffee drinker...but I got sick of coffee. I actually called him at work to ask him to bring more Coke back with him.

That is huge. You have to understand, I am not an “at-work-boyfriend-telephoner.” He was awesome. He would come home, massage my shoulders while I sat at the laptop, make dinner...oh, he bought me ice cream, too.

Which brings me to complaint #23: I haven't done anything mildly athletic in about 2 weeks. Unless you count dancing at the ball...and well, if you saw me dance, I think “athletic” would be the closest thing to a compliment my dancing will ever get.

So, I was feeling stressed out, isolated, and jiggly. Now I feel less stressed out, less isolated, and well, the jiggly I can get over.

I only have two more exams to go. And I feel more confident about those 2 exams, than the two I have already taken. So I am starting to think about “the afterlife.” As in, what will I do with my “free time” then.

I guess, part of me was so focused on last year's deployment that I think I lost myself along the way. It seemed like my goal was my boyfriend's return. And now that he is back, and life goes on, it's almost like I have lost that “hobby”. I don't read the Milblogs as much as I did. I don't scour the net for all the news on Afghanistan. Oh, I definitely still read Milblogs, I just don't feel so involved. Some may call it selfish, but my soldier is home, and I want to spend time with him.

I was getting giddy this afternoon thinking about things I would like to pursue. I would like to attempt to learn some basic verbal skills in Chinese. I would also like to start branching out in my running. I feel the next step is perhaps a triathlon. And someone sure has inspired me.

Also, I have a projects. I have so many pictures collected over the last 9 years of my stay here in Europe that I just stashed in boxes. I want to organize them in some matter. I don't think I would want to scrapbook them all, but certainly a few, and perhaps put the rest in albums.

I want to read again. I never really stopped reading, but I feel so out of the literary loop. I want to get lost in a book again. Read it in 2 days. Not over the course of 2 weeks.

I know I would be kidding myself if I believed that I will suddenly have all this free time when school is over, because other responsibilities will fill its vacuum. However, I am nonetheless very excited. Just two more exams!

Friday, May 19, 2006

A friend forwarded me this marvelous joke

My plan to save the bankrupt Airlines.........

Replace all female flight attendants with some good-looking' strippers! What the hell? The attendants have gotten old and haggard-looking. They don't even serve food anymore, so what's the loss?

The strippers would double, triple, perhaps quadruple the! alcohol consumption and get a "party atmosphere" going in the cabin.

And, of course, every heterosexual businessman in this country would start flying again, hoping to see naked women.

Muslims would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing nakedwomen.

Hijackings would come to a screeching halt and the airline industry would see record revenues.

Why the hell didn't Bush think of this? Why do I still have to do everything myself?

Bill Clinton

Lazy Ramadi

So now the Army Boys have made their answer to Lazy Sunday.

(If you don't know what this is spoofing, here is a whole set of links. Well, actually, there you will just get a links to other spoofs of the original, which was on SNL. But NBC sent YouTube and other webstreaming sites cease and desist they don't have it anymore.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Aviation Ball

Friday was the Aviation Ball. It had been something I had been looking forward to since, well…the last ball. See, the last ball, my boyfriend kind of bum-rushed me into going to. It was like this: hey, there is a ball in a week, wanna go? What? Are you kidding? So, I had about a week to find a dress, and I was just pretty peeved. You have to understand: I never had a prom at my small school (our graduating class was only 8 people). So, ever since that last ball, I had been preparing for this upcoming ball.

Also, throughout the deployment, the ball represented something bigger: it meant that they were all home, and the deployment was behind us.

Here are some pics. You can also find some more at Hookersgirl, and Siegs.

There is just something about men in uniform...*sigh*...hotties!

Me with my own personal hottie!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Benevolent Blogging on Mother's Day

Fellow blogger, Katie of Scentzilla wanted to do something special for Mother's Day this year: for every comment she gets on her Mother's Day post on Sunday, she will donate $1 to Finca, which provides loans to low-income microentrepreneurs, focusing especially on women.

So stop on by, and a happy Mother's Day to all!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ahmadinejad Jib Jabbed

I wish wish wish I could understand Arabic. This looks like an Arabic version of a Jib Jab cartoon.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hollywood revisionists

I was reading the Huntress' post about upcoming films Hollywood has in regards to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it occurred to me that they had a point of view that reminded me of the revisionist view of the Cold War.

My next exam is on the Cold War. And I have been studying up on it. The historiography of the Cold War went through many stages, and it was interesting to read John Gaddis' take on it, in We Now Know. Unlike other conflicts, like WWI and WWII, historians didn't wait until the war was over to start writing about and interpreting the events. As the conflict lasted for four and a half decades this was reasonable enough. However, in result, the histories of the Cold War lacked equivalent access to archives on each side, and they were written without knowing the outcome. Thus according to many scholars these histories lacked the detachment that comes from following a historical epoch and not reflecting it.

Whether orthodox, revisionist, or post-revisionist most of this scholarship gave one side disproportionate attention: whether critical or complimentary, most of this scholarship focused on the United States, its allies, or its clients. It neglected the fact that two superpowers dominated the post-1945 world; that each often acted in response to what the other had done; and that third parties responded to – but sometimes manipulated – each of them. It emphasized interests, which it mostly defined in material terms – what people possessed, or wanted to possess. It tended to overlook ideas – what people believed, or wanted to believe.

Until the 1960s, most historians' view of the Cold War was: the Cold War was the direct result of Stalin's aggressive Soviet expansionism. This is called the traditionalist/orthodox view. The revisionist view was blamed the US for the Cold War. This ‘revisionist’ approach reached its height during the Vietnam War when many people suggested that America was as bad as Russia. As time went on, however, a group of historians called the ‘post-revisionists’ tried to present the foundations of the Cold War as neither the fault of the Americans or the USSR.

In 1991, Communism in the Soviet Union collapsed. This has allowed historians to get to see the Russian archives, and to investigate what Russia was really about in this period. In Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: from Stalin to Khrushchev (1997), the Russian historians Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov, use declassified Soviet documents to analyze Stalin’s part in causing the Cold War. They reveal a fanatic belief in Communism, lots of personal faults and mistakes, but above all a genuine desire to avoid confrontation with the USA. Many of these recent studies of early Cold War history are increasingly portraying the Cold War as a clash of ideologies, as a clash between Capitalism and Communism.

Although I am loathe to say this, as I have learned that every epoch in history is quite different from other epochs, I feel that historiography is repeating itself in regards to the war in Iraq..

Only after the war, with equal access to all sources, will we be able to create a less lopsided analysis. I am not saying that one shouldn't analyze events until they are over. I just wish that analysis was less lopsided. We don't have access to many sources on the other side of this conflict. We are just operating with what we know and understand: our side.

It is easier to blame oneself for a problem than to blame someone else, because there is a sense of control over the situation. As in: “if we just elected someone other than Bush,” or “if we just pull out of Iraq,” or “if we stopped supporting Israel,” or "if we weren't so dependant on oil" etc.

If you assign partial responsibility to someone else, it is more difficult to find a solution, because it is easier to change one's own behavior than someone else's.

Like in the Cold War though, this is a clash of ideologies. Ideologies which reject the other.

Gaddis' words with regards to the end of the Cold War:

“For the events of 1989-91 make sense only in terms of ideas. There was no military defeat or economic crash; but there was a collapse of legitimacy. The people of one Cold War empire suddenly realized that its emperors had no clothes on. As in the classic tale, though, that insight resulted from a shift in how people thought, not from any change in what they saw.”

Perhaps this is just a sense of self-preservation. I think a collapse of legitimacy will end this conflict, too. Not as quickly as the Cold War, but similarly. However, I don't want it to be a collapse of legitimacy of Western ideas and a victory for the oppressive ideologies behind al-Qaida, the Taliban and other such brutal groups.

I am not exonerating the West for any perceived wrong doing. I will be the first to admit that US foreign policy, along with domestic, is occasionally quite flawed. However, I refuse to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. I want our ideology to survive. And I don't want to watch Hollywood films, which try to convince us that this is a futile fight.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Request for footage

I got this email, and don't quite know what to make of it. I haven't seen any of his productions, so I can't vouch for him. However, I think anyone attempting to publicize soldiers' personal stories is doing a good thing. In any case, here is the info:

I am a television producer who just finished working on a documentary series for the (Discovery) Military Channel called BATTLEFIELD DIARIES. Three of the 10 hours have highlighted various aspects of the Iraq War – a Kiowa crash rescue in September 2004, the USMC drive towards Baghdad in April 2003 and the 724th Transportation Company Ambush of April 2004.

I am currently developing an exciting new television project for another major cable network that will utilize images personally shot by the troops and some text from various MilBlogs. So I am looking for personal videos and stills of our servicemen & women in Iraq, shot by those same servicemen & women. I'm especially looking for soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines talking INTO the diaries, having fun, being creative, interviewing one another, explaining what life is like in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, down time, training, explaining what happened to them that day, music videos, etc. Nothing is out of bounds! The good, the bad, or the ugly. Action, down time, fun time, helping Iraqi communities, interacting with Iraqi civilians/children/police/military...anything that has little a story to it or is visually interesting. If you know of anyone that kept a video diary while deployed; or did some "interviews" with his comrades in arms, please ask them to contact me. Any format is probably workable. (CD, DVD, cassette, etc.) All originals will be returned at my expense. If you have some ideas about how I should go about trying to get some footage together, I'm open to suggestions? Are there a couple of websites I should post my footage request on? Also, can you help me by passing the word around to other units? I need to act quickly as I must show the network some sample footage in 8 weeks. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Please pass this email to ANYONE you think might be able to assist with either footage or their experiences as a MilBlogger!

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you and stay safe.

Jake Klim
Normandy Films
Please Visit -

Update: AlliCadem, Yes, I guess this is by-passing a lot of military protocol. Thanks for pointing that out, as I am not that clear on those kind of things.

Perhaps it puts the burden of checking with Public Affairs squarely on the soldiers' backs.

On the one hand I think you need to go by the book, but on the other, from what I can see the military isn't always behind the 8-ball when it comes to these things, and a request like this might just be overlooked and disregarded. Thus, I don't fault Mr. Klim for appealing to the soldiers directly. So I think that any soldier considering responding to Mr. Klim's request should check with Public Affairs first.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Jarhead and Afghanistan

Friday evening I was a bit restless, since I didn't want to study anymore, but I also couldn't go out, since I needed to be up in the morning for the exam. So I decided to rent a DVD. When I got to the DVD store, they were a bit cleared out, which seems to happen on the weekends...but they still had a copy of Jarhead. I had heard a lot about the movie, mostly criticism, since I read a lot of military sites, and many thought the film was anti-military.

So I watched the film, ready to get ticked off. But I didn't. All that happened was I got bored. I can't believe they actually made a movie out of Swafford's sob story. Oh, poor you, you joined the Marines, and you didn't like it. Oh, poor you, you joined the Marines and were sent to the desert to sit around waiting for a war to happen for 6 months, and you got bored out of your mind. Oh, poor you, that finally when war happened, it was so anti-climatic for you, and such a let-down for your sniper buddy, because you didn't even get to shoot your gun. Poor you.

Really, Swafford was lucky that he got his book manuscript published before OIF started. Perhaps his story was interesting for some, but his book is literally equivalent to someone sitting in Kuwait writing a book, moaning about how boring it was, how hot, how he got into trouble and was punished, how his girlfriend left him, etc.

I am sure that most people watching the film nowadays just wonders, what was he complaining about? I guess, perhaps I am so used reading blogs from soldiers telling more graphic and moving stories than that, but the film seemed like a complete waste of time...except perhaps for Jake dancing in his thong...and the soundtrack from the early 90s.

However, one line rang true. At the end of the movie, he said: “We are still in the desert.” And I very much understood what he meant, because part of me still feels like my boyfriend is still deployed. That the deployment has become a part of who I am.

Saturday morning I woke up, made some coffee and turned on the computer. And there in the headlines something took me right back to the deployment: “Chinook crash in Afghanistan.”
So many thoughts ran through my mind: The families of those in the helicopter unit hoping that their love ones are alright, the families who will get the worse news. The families of the passengers, hoping and praying that their soldier wasn't on that helicopter. I wondered about a soldier I know in the 10th Mountain Division who is based very near to where the crash was. I wondered if my boyfriend had heard about the crash yet.

Yesterday I got a short note from my friend serving in Afghanistan, that he was okay. The families are still being notified, so the names of those fallen haven't been released yet. As the Chinook community is so small, it will surely be familiar names to some guys in our unit. I feel very much for the families going through the notification process right now, and I once again, feel like half my heart is in Afghanistan. And I guess a part of it will always be there.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

D-Day Minus 3

My first final exam is on Friday. I have a total of three written exams, and one oral. Once those are over, I will have finished my degree. Whoo, acutally, I need to add a qualifier to that: once those are over and I have successfully passed them, I will have finished my degree. Whoo hoo...(I hope).

The exams consist of answering one question in essay form on a topic chosen in agreement with my professors. I will have four hours to write to my heart's content, and hopefully answer the question. The exams take place on Saturday mornings, every other Saturday. So my final exam will fall on June 3rd, the day before my 28th birthday.

After that I will have to prepare for the oral exam, which consists of preparing two topics, and answering questions about them for 45 minutes. That will take place sometime in June.

I am feeling pretty confident about the upcoming exam, but a little worried about the 3 to follow. Also, I am starting to get feel a little anxious about things, because after having the structure (well, that would be an overstatement, because any college student knows that college life can be as unstructured as you would like) of college, I will be diving into the unknown world sarcastically called “reality” by many.

I am at a real crossroads. Part of me is very excited about being able to finally make decisions beyond what classes to take next semester, and what topic to write a paper on. But another part of me is a little afraid of the huge vacuum that university will leave in its wake in my life.

But for the time being, I must focus on passing these exams. Wish me luck!