Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Times Union

OMG...today was quite hectic. I got a lot of positive feedback on the article about me in the Times Union paper. Matt did an amazing job making me sound so fabulous. 
Jacksonville blogger's mission to Afghanistan
Mare Contrare knows just what she'll...out on a bet.Besides, Contrare likes the new name. It suits...nickname, anyway, ever since Mare Margaret Elizabeth Goddard...transport to Camp Leatherneck. Contrare will be in Afghanistan Jan...
http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2010-12-29/story/jacksonville-bloggers-mission-afg

I have to say I was a bit jittery today. Lots of friends and family calling and wishing me well. It must be strange for my three big brothers that their little sister is going off to war, especially at my age. Just when they thought it was safe.

It's the flights that have me worried the most. I really don't like flying.

If you saw my tweet at: marecontrare you saw all the stuff I had to pack. I was successful packing it all in one duffle bag. I'm carrying my helmet and my flak jacket plus a change of clothes with me just in case.

If I wasn't so exhausted from packing, I'd be nervous.

I'll try and blog at least once during the trip over. Until then...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - red tape

Today I was interviewed by Matt at the Times Union Paper in Jacksonville. He was real easy to talk to and I probably said too much. I'd like to thank him for taking the time to come to my office and bring Bob Self the photographer. He took a picture of me in my flak vest and helmet. Ladies, I think I may be on to something here. Men seem very excited about these two items and want me to model them and try them on themselves. Some of the guys at my office really liked my helmet and were very impressed it was real.

An interesting fact: I spent a good portion of the day registering my helmet with the government and filling out forms etc. so I am allowed to take it through customs. Apparently Uncle Sam wants to make sure all of the helmets etc. return to the US. I didn't have to do a thing for my fabulous Israeli flak vest, made in Israel and shipped from Israel to me. Besides being so stylish I figure they know how to really make them over there...I will wear mine with pride and the helmet made in the good ol US of A too of course.

The following video shows NATO headquarters celebrating the Korean Lunar New Year. I'll let you know how we'll be celebrating on January 1st in Kabul at headquarters.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - preparation

More shopping! I realized it wouldn't do to be unprepared. I don't think I'd be in good graces if I had to borrow anything.

I had planned on wearing white. Mostly because the good guys wear white. Seriously because I thought it was going to be snowy! There is no snow. Plan B today has been to find some khaki. You'd think the cheap places would have ugly khaki snowpants...but no, they only have black.

Luckily after over two hours online googling every khaki combination I finally found some lined khaki pants that are boys. I'm hoping I can fit into them. My tush is a little bigger than a boys. They only had up to size 14 in the color I wanted, if they had the 16 it would be no problem. I just pray GAP doesn't have vanity sizing like their upscale sister Banana Republic. I only know this because I use to be a Customer Service Manager for Banana.

I also got a call from US Calvary telling me they forgot to send the document with my helmet allowing me to take it out of the country! I don't have any documents for my flak vest. I'm hoping my orders are enough.

It is very complicated for a civilan going to war nowadays. During Vietnam you could just get on a plane with a camera. Holy smoke!

Check out this amazing video of war photographers, one of my favorites: Robert Capa is featured along with Warren Zinn at the end.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - How much does it take to outfit a soldier

Today I went shopping for all the stuff I need to take on my trip. I spent about a thousand dollars. That coupled with my airline tickets, vaccines, passport fees etc. I've spent about 5k going to war. That is a whole lot cheaper than what the government spends per soldier. Of course I'm only going for two weeks. The government spends 1 million dollars per soldier a year...

Can you imagine what you or I would do with a million dollars a year to bring peace to our world? It's an interesting thought. I know what Greg Mortenson would do and he has the right idea. Educate! That is the only way to stop terrorism. The Taliban approaches boys out of school who have no hope of getting a job or any money and pays them the equivalent to $300 US dollars for their life.

Ignorance is the real terror.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Veteran's Chapter

Happy Holidays to everyone.

It's important to remember that for military families or families who have lost loved ones this time of year can be extraordinarily difficult.

In nine years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 5,800 families have lost a mother, father, son or daughter to the war. Some 42,000 families are caring for a family member with physical wounds or the less visible damage of traumatic brain injury or combat stress.

Among those most severely affected are the children of military families, kids struggling with sorrow, fear, anger, resentment and a sense of betrayal: My Dad promised he'd be OK but he isn't, and the military didn't keep him safe either, so who can I trust?.

For these children and their families, a new hero has emerged: a Muppet named Elmo.

Elmo and his Muppet parents and friends, together with real humans, figure out how to talk through anguishing situations, how to find the words to use to express grief, fear, anger, and how to harness the healing power of love.

Thank you David Woods for reporting on this.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - security

Yippee, I got my vest yesterday. It's quite the thing, actually stylish. I may be the best dressed reporter in Afghanistan. It is REALLY heavy. I knew it would be but it is about 1/4 of my body weight. I can't wait to lug my duffle bag etc. through all the airports I'm going though. I hesitate to check a bag. It will also be interesting to see how TSA reacts to me.

When I was in Chicago a few months ago, I lost my personal wallet. I had my business wallet with my business credit cards. I was trying to catch an earlier flight. American Airlines issued my boarding pass with no problem...then I went through the line and sure enough I had to stand aside. They called for the TSA head and she asked me to show her my credit cards. I opened my wallet and she noticed my CostCo card. I had forgotten a CostCo card has a picture! So I got through security with my CostCo card.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - provisions

The update is: my helmet will now arrive no later than Monday and my flak vest has cleared customs. At least I will be prepared if I return in spring with the 25th division. I'll only have to wait for my embed orders.

When I told Gabriel that I'd be coming through Kabul I asked him if there was anything he wanted from the US. He told me no, that they already have metric tons or Oreos. This comment reminded me of an excerpt from the book, "Brave Men" by Ernie Pyle. He was speaking with an infantry man who had just received yet another package of SPAM from his wife. For those of you who don't know SPAM was created by Hormel as the miracle meat in a can. The catch phrase was, "If You Want Something Grand Ask For Spam." 100 pounds was shipped to the Allied Forces in WWII.

But for me personally, I can't imagine there ever being enough OREOS.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

As the date gets nearer it's hard to believe that for my vacation time I'm going off to war in Afghanistan.

There are still a couple of hurdles that could prevent my going. I haven't gotten my helmet yet, but Juliette at USCav has assured me it will arrive on Thursday. I also haven't gotten my flak vest and I'm very concerned about this! The company I bought it from in Israel have assured me to be patient that the mail takes longer during the holidays...All I want from Santa is a level 4 ballistic flak vest.

When I first got this idea and started posting blogs, there was a certain thrill in watching soldiers fight...but now when I watch these videos, I see too clearly what I'm going to experience and it isn't thrilling at all, it's tragic.

I'm eager to know what makes these soldiers put on these uniforms and sign up for the job of being a soldier.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - prayers

I've got my travel all booked. Believe me it wasn't easy. Lots of changes...first through Dehli into Kabul, then Dubai into Camp Bastion, then back to Delhi through Kabul, but couldn't actually find any airlines that really flew into Kabul so back to Dubai up to Kabul and using a military transport into Camp Bastion! The great news is I get to meet Gabriel who has been helping me through the logistics the entire time.

A friend sent this to me and I must pass it on.

We are asking everyone to say a prayer for "Darkhorse" 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and their families. They are fighting it out in Afghanistan & they have lost 15 marines and 1 corpsman to date. IT WOULD BE NICE TO SEE the message spread if more could pass it on.
Justin Allen, 23,
Brett Linley, 29,
Matthew Weikert, 29,
Justus Bartett, 27,
Dave Santos, 21,
Chase Stanley, 21,
Jesse Reed, 26,
Matthew Johnson, 21,
Zachary Fisher, 24,
Brandon King, 23,
Christopher Goeke, 23,
Sheldon Tate, 27,

All are Marines that gave their lives for YOU this week!
Honor THEM by forwarding this.

Go to my blog: writesoftly.com and check out the video

Friday, December 17, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - tweets

I'm thinking I need to name each of these posts by different names. Looking at my blog it looks like a big glitch of Afghanistan Through My Eyes.

Today Adam at work gave me a 45 minute tutorial on how to use Twitter. It was really helpful and I urge all of you to follow me at marecontrare. One of my missions on this trip is to prove the 6 degrees of separation by tweeting and having people retweet the messages from soldiers.

If Navy Admiral Mike Mullen tweets, so can you!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - orders

IT"S happened! I got my orders today!

True to the department of the Navy, the orders themselves are a little confusing. There are a lot of rules about talking to people. I have to have an escort to talk to anyone! I'm allowed to travel around within Afghanistan to other installations etc. and I can use miliatry conveyance, and I don't have to have an escort to do that...but I can't talk to anyone while traveling.

I may have to reimburse the ISAF for my billeting, rations, medical attention etc. I hope they take Mastercard.

I have to carry these orders everywhere along with my passport and my ISAF credential badge.

My friends in KW will appreciate this video.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

I've received a few more emails. It seems I won't be flying into Kabul as I planned but directly into Camp Bastion in Helmand Province. It is the Britsh stronghold and has one of the best field hospitals in the world and it is where the Leatherneck Marine Division is which is where I will be embedded.

I'm thinking I've hit the jackpot here. In my two weeks in country I will be able to visit almost all facets of wartime life. I will have access to British, US, Afghan and captured troops. Plus I'll even get to eat at Pizza Hut.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Jullian Assange

I've sent a message to my guardian angel Gabriel to help me get this straightnened out. I'm still hoping to be in Afghanistan on New Years Day.

I've been contemplating spending New Year's Eve in Delhi, India. That will be a first for me. It made me think, this is the life I've always wanted, to travel and be on my own, doing something for the good of mankind, giving hugs to humans.

Today I got my first offical hug of this adventure. At Shands Travel Clinic, the beautiful Rebecca gave me my final inoculations. It was only three shots, but 4 vaccines. I didn't feel a thing! She is a lovely lady and when we parted ways she asked me if she could give me a hug and told me to stay safe.

Doing something like this, going to a war zone as a civilian, makes you think about remarkable people. I hope you will watch this entire video of a remarkable person and make up your own mind...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - geotagging

I've put my ticket on hold, but still haven't gotten the confirmation. I also don't know if I'll be flying into Kabul now that I may be embedding closer to Bagram Airfield. I hope they explain what I'll need to do and how I'm supposed to get there in more detail.

My daughter sent me this amazing email about geotagging. Apparently, all of our cell phones will show exactly where we are if we take a picture and post it to a social network unless we turn off that feature. It's in your general settings. Turn off the location services feature. Of course if you want to be tracked leave it on.

It is very important for anyone in a war zone to have this feature turned off.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - holidays away from home

As the Christmas holiday approaches I can't help but think about all the soldiers away from their families. Holidays can be very hard and stressful.

There are all kinds of organizations that focus on our soldiers during the holidays. If you are reading this, please contact one of them and show a soldier you care.

Contact your local USO or go to www.operationgratiture.com

Friday, December 10, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - preparation

Progress has been made.

I don't have a difinitive date, but have been contacted. It shouldn't be long now.

I have ordered my flak vest...and it should arrive on the 18th or thereabouts. I ordered my helmet and that should arrive on the 22nd. There has been a lot of documentation needed. Apparently, you just can't buy ballistic vests and helmets...which seems very silly to me. But the government is always retroactive. In LaGuardia Airport after the fact over Thanksgiving it was posted all over that ink cartridges and printers weren't allowed on flights.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - preparation

Getting my equiment isn't easy. It's taken numerous phone calls and documentation to CAVUSA for my ballistic helmet, which is obviously out of date compared to the video I've posted here. I have ordered my vest but who knows where that is.

It's not easy to go to war when you're not a soldier and it's really expensive. I look forward to seeing exactly what is US winter issue for soldiers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Col Jeffery E. Lay - Veteran's Chapter

Who is the person when they take the uniform off?

I'd like to introduce you to Jeffery E. Lay: Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery E. Lay was a Top Gun fighter pilot, who fought back from the dead after a long battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After that he flew another 1,000 combat hours in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia... supersonic speed 50-feet above the desert floor, under the radar, with 4,000-pounds of high explosive aboard.

Jeffery will always be a Lieutenant Colonel in his soul and he has taken what he learned and applied it to a new life.

Congratulations Jeffery.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - freedom

I got to thinking about the person that gives up their life and puts on a uniform to go out and fight for freedom. I belive that the soldiers who fights in the US Forces is the only soldier who does that.

Other soldiers fight for property, or religious beliefs or to conquer, but the US soldier fights for freedom.

Freedom is the most powerful entity because with freedom you can believe in what you belive. Isn't belief what we teach our children is the crux of their life? Isn't belife what happiness is founded upon?

Our citizens, give up their families, the comfort of their homes, their jobs and all that they value for the core of what they hold dear...freedom. Who are these people and what kind of person does this for strangers? Would you do this?

It's quite amazing when you think about it. I don't know a lot of people who would risk their life for me even though they know me and love me, much less a stranger.

These soldiers, our soldiers are the real heroes.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

I'm getting nervous.
I guess it comes with the territory.
When I had the idea of going to Afghanistan to hug soldiers, it was July and it was hot and sultry. Now it's cold, but freezing in Afghanistan.

I still am determined to go. How can I write about soldiers and not see them in action? When I think about my heroes, mostly combat photographers, I know I have to go.

I can't write about something when I haven't seen it firsthand. I'm not a hypothetical writer.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - ANA

Okay, so I finally figured out that I should get my orders the 10th of December....

I've been reading all the latest about the war and am not surprised. It is very depressing. It's depressing that we can do so little to help the Afghanistan people.

What I have seen regarding the Afghanistan Army is pathetic. Where are the men who walk barefoot in the snow and fought off the Russians in 1977? They can't have all joined the Taliban. Why is the Afghanistan Army filled with hash smokers who don't care, can't care about their life? Who is that person wearing the Afghanistan uniform? I think they plucked deadbeats off the street who wanted a meal...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

Another week with no news.
It's really cold there now. Two feet of snow.

Obama made a surprise visit today to Afghanistan. It had been planned for a month and didn't exactly go as planned because of the weather. He wanted to thank the troops for being there on our behalf over the holidays instead of being with their families.

I thank them too. I thank a soldier everytime I meet one. It's the least we can do for someone to step out of their life and into the life of a soldier.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

Still no news...
The holidays are upon us. Tonight was the first night I drove around with holiday lights twinkling their bright colors in the dark. I doubt if there are any signs of holiday cheer in Afghanistan.

Reading an executive travel magazine got me to thinking about adventure travel. I have always loved to travel and been lucky to have spanned the globe as many times as I have. But being a traveler you always look for the next place...In Three Cups of Tea it's Pakistan and K2. For me it's war, but not as a soldier, as a traveler an observer of the natives.

When I first planned this trip I definitely didn't want to be in Afghanistan proper, just fly in and get to ISAF and check in. But now that the airline tickets are so freakin expensive...I just might stay a few days more and see the sights of Kabul.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - VAS

I haven't heard anything yet. But I'm not so worried anymore. If I don't get this embed I will try again. I am lucky enough to have the support of the 25th division thanks to Captain John. I almost feel like a poster girl. The 25 division will go back to Afghanistan in the spring and will request me by name. So I surely can get in then. If I'm lucky enough to get in during the holidays I will try and save my pennies to go back in the spring as it would be such an honor to be with them.

I wanted to mention a WARNING TO VETERANS

An organization called Veterans Affairs Services (VAS) is providing benefit and general information on VA and gathering personal information on veterans. This organization is not affiliated with VA in any way.
http://www.vaservices.org/us/index.html

VAS may be gaining access to military personnel through their close resemblance to the VA name and seal. Our Legal Counsel has requested that we coordinate with DoD to inform military installations, particularly mobilization sites, of this group and their lack of affiliation or endorsement by VA to provide any services.

In addition, GC requests that if you have any examples of VAS acts that violate chapter 59 of Title 38 United States Code, such as VAS employees assisting veterans in the preparation and presentation of claims for benefits, please pass any additional information to Mr.Daugherty at the address below.

Michael G. Daugherty
Staff Attorney
Department of Veterans Affairs
Office of General Counsel (022G2)
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420


Tomorrow I will be calling sweet Juliet at US Cav to order my ballistic helmet. I needed a letter from the Editor in Chief at Saturday Evening Post. I am so blessed to have so many people in my corner. I just received it tonight.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - body armor - US Calvalry

Okay, I still haven't heard from ISAF, but I ordered my ballistic vest with the IV level ceramic plates and the disbursement plate and carry bag.

While I was ordering my helmet, sweet Juliet who was helping me and was once with the military police gave me a great tip on wearing the vest. She said to put a hankerchief in between your boobs...she didn't actually say boobs, but that is where she meant to put the hankerchief. She said you sweat like crazy and it gets very uncomfortable and itchy and can't just reach your hand in and scratch.

Is that sweet or what! Thank you Juliet for your words of wisdom.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - fallen soldiers

Today I was reading about the funeral of a fallen Ranger. What filled me with pride was how his brothers honored him with their words and presence. I know how hard it was for all of them to be living and carrying their fallen friend.

What hurt me and shocked me was a Church group from Kansas that came to terrorize the funeral. There is no other word to discribe their antics. These zelots who are so misguided by their ignorant interpretations can only be punished by the God they believe in.

Taps is played every evening. It is a reminder of how precious life is and what a soldier's sacrifice is.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Veteran's Chapter - Jason

Tomorrow is Monday, November 29th almost three weeks before my requested dates to go to Afghanistan.

On Saturday night I met Jason a Naval Reservist, fighter pilot on active duty. I told him my plan to go to Afghanistan. He thought it was an amazing idea. I told him how I was waiting for my orders and how it was beginning to make me a little crazy. I then mentioned I had friends with the 25th division. He said I was a lucky lady.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - holidays away from home

Happy Thanksgiving to all those men and women in Afghanistan.

As I walk around NYC stuffed with a delicious meal, I think about all the men, women and children who have nothing here in the US. Their bellies are empty and they have no place to sleep. Their shelter is the overly bright subway station or dark alley where they hide unseen. Who were they once and what are their dreams?

Everyone deserves to have a dream.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - three cups of tea

Thanksgiving week is upon us and all of us alive have so much to be thankful for.

A dear friend of mine whose son is a Ranger, lost his best friend. He has lost so many brothers he must feel lonely. I know he feels guilt beause he is alive.

We must all remember it's not guilt we should feel, but worthiness. Why are we the ones who have been chosen to live? How are we worthy of this life? How can we contribute and make the world a better place?

I met with a Navy commander over the weekend and he asked why would I want to go to Afghanistan? I answered him by saying, "How can I write about these men and women who put on these uniforms and become soldier's without being there and seeing it for myself?"

Right now I'm reading Three Cups of Tea. Greg Mortenson is my newest hero and someone I hope to meet one day.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Dr. Timothy Miller

I came down to Key West to celebrate an 80th birthday with a dear friend, J. Pintauro. I love KW, if ever there is a creative vortex it's here.

People magazine just put out their sexiest man alive issue. The best part of the issue is on page 10 in the mailbag there is a comment regarding the 2010 Heroes Among Us Award winner, Dr. Timothy Miller and the four injured servie men whose faces he helped rebuild.

This is courage. This is an example to others on how to turn tragedy into triumph...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why the US is in Afghanistan - Afghan Children

Still waiting to hear if and when I'm going to Afghanistan. I'm trying to make it real, but I guess it will be a dream over the rainbow until I get there.

The more people I talk to about my journey the more I'm amazed at how receptive everyone is. Yes, who are these men and women that don a uniform and fight, risking the most precious thing of all...life? Why do they do it?

One day people will realize that we are all the same. We all want the same things. If we could only live and let live we could accomplish great and powerful things.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Veteran's Chapter

War is a different kind of vacation. It's a vacation from your life, but it's memories will always be with you.

The young boys that go to war, quickly become men. Some of them retain their boyish demeanor, but inside their hearts have been frozen by what they've seen. Most of them don't have ideas about who they want to become before they go to war, but they all have one thing in common...they all want to come back alive.

I don't understand why there are so many homeless Vets? Wasn't that one of the great promises of the government? They were supposed to train the soldiers and teach them amazing skills plus they would see the world! I think whoever wrote their travel brochures were the boy geniuses of Madison Avenue.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Inoculations...

I had 5 of my shots today and it was a breeze! I mentioned to the doctor at the travel clinic my trepidation and how I used to beg my parents to take me to the doctor's office, my Dad's office, because then Mrs. Zurek, his nurse, could give me the shots and they wouldn't hurt at all. This woman Rebecca, sure know's how to give a shot. I go back in a month to get the other 4.

Funny how you build things up so much in your head, but then when it happens it can be anticlimactic. I used to do that a lot more when I was younger. Everything was stressful or agonizing...going to school, swiming a race, taking a test, having your in-laws visit, then the day would come and it would be fine. I'm trying to take one day at a time, live one day at a time and just do what you need to do.

Did you ever notice the most humble and brave people do that. They just live life and don't think twice about it, it's deep inside of them like posture. It's integrity. I'd like to think everyone still has integrity, but they're saving it for something big, like the good crystal and dishes. Kind of stupid.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

It's funny about going to Afghanistan...it's a great conversation opener. But thinking about it I wonder about my selfishness in going. Yes, I originally wanted to go to hug soldiers and tweet a holdiday message from them to their family, but I can see how it's affecting my daughters.

Don't get me wrong, they are being 100% supportive, but I can at times sense some anger because of the danger involved. They are now without a father and I don't think they could bear it to be without a Mom.

But then I think about why I need to go. There is something inside me that is compelling me to go. I really do believe that if it's meant to happen then it will. There is some divine fate at work here and that is why I moved to JAX in the first place.

Mostly I want to give the people wearing the uniform a voice. I know I can do this.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - women warriors

I get very frustrated at times when talking to people about the soldier behind the uniform. People want to bring in their beliefs. It doesn't matter to me what their beliefs are. It matters to me what the person who puts on the uniforms belief is. What are they fighting for?

They are fighting for us. Listen, hear what they say....they are fighing for our freedom. They are fighting for their freedom as American's.

Listen.

It's not that hard to understand. Women in Marine divisions are going to the front and fighting because they believe all women are created equal. They are fighting in combat on the front line for women...how close does it have to get before you believe?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veteran's Chapter - Katie Couric

Friday in NYC. What a great place, what an exhausting place.
I haven't spotted any more soldiers in uniform, but I'm on the lookout.

Things are going to start to get into full throttle when I get back to JAX. No sense waiting and sitting on my hands.

I am very interested in getting in touch with more Vet's and finding out how they're adjusting to civilian life. I'm especially intersted in the women.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Chapter

Tonight I'm in NYC.

It was really sweet coming into the city over the Williamsburg Bridge in my taxi and seeing the Empire State Building all lit up in Red White and Blue in honor of Veteran's Day.

It is a glorious night. On the radio the newscaster was talking about the Veteran's Day Parade on Fifth Avenue. That must have been a wonderful site. My taxi pulled around and dropped me off at the corner of Mulberry and Canal and there were three marines in their dress blues waiting to take my cab for a night on the town.

There is nothing more handsome to this girl than a soldier in uniform. YEOW...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Chapter

Tomorrow is a great day...Veteran's Day.
Make sure you thank all the Veteran's you meet for fighting for your freedom. If you can take part in a Veteran's Day Ceremony. There is nothing more moving.

Veteran's Day isn't about politics and shame on those who bring that in. It's about honoring the soldiers, the men and women who put on that uniform and do unspeakable things and witness horrors for a belief. It's about honor and respect for all the soldiers who didn't come home.

I can't wait to go to Afghanistan and give every soldier I meet a big 'MOM' hug. It's not much, but it's something I can do to let them know that me, a regular gal thinks about them everyday and thinks so much about them I'm putting myself on a plane and going to them. That's how much they mean to me. I want them all to come back and live lives doing something they love, because they can, because they're free to do so.

And you don't have to wait for Veteran's Day to say thank you to a Veteran, you can do it everytime you meet one.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - red tape

I sent another email to Gabriel today telling him I hate waiting, but I will wait and I'm not complaining, but what if it gets to be two weeks before I go and there's no email from ISAF?

What prompted this was the fact that I made the appointment to get my innoculations. NINE shots plus two series, one of two and one of three. The latter is for rabies, which I am not going to get. It is discretionary and costs $900.00! It is so expensive being a soldier...in every way, clothing, inoculations, life.

I don't like getting shots. My father was a pediatrician and he used to give my brothers and me our shots at home. You would think that would be a nice thing, but my Daddy'O was a terrible shot giver. The only person he gave shots too were us! We longed to go to the office and get our shots from the nurses who gave hundreds a week.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Veteran's Chapter - Chaplin James D. Johnson

Today I got the December issue of Vietnam Magazine. It is always filled with interesting articles. You'd think after over 30 years there wouldn't be much to say on the subject. Wrong.

It's full of everyday men who were hero's everyday in the war.

This months article on James D. Johnson and the war that rages on inside of him was enlightening. James was a chaplain with the 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division for nearly a year beginning in July 1967 through the Tet Offensive. He just wrote a new book: Combat Trauma: A personal Look at Long-Term Consequences. Johnson and 15 of his comrades share their most intimate experiences of the intense combat they witnessed in Vietnam.

We don't think about the Chaplains that for the most part see the death and excruciating injury and pain of the war. He talks about how hard it is for Vets to share their experiences. Some people won't be able to finish the book. He doesn't want to be judgmental, but sometimes he thinks, he lived this and you can't even read about it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Veteran's Chapter - women warriors

I've noticed that with Veterans Day fast approaching, Veterans have been in the news a lot. I am glad to hear about it.

This morning on NPR they did a story about female Vets. It's a sad situation. There are so many Vets who are homeless and need help, but a female Vet doesn't find help as easily. When she goes to clothing banks for Vets, it's all men's clothes. When she walks into a VA hospital she's asked if she's there for her husband. There are no images of women as Vets and VA care is basically designed around men, only 1/3 of the Veteran's Hospitals do gender specific exams!

During the Vietnam war 3% of Veterans were women now it's 15% on active duty. But here's the real story...1 in 5 women in service are harrassed or raped.

This was from last year's Veterans Day. I hope this years dedication includes women.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Veteran's Chapter

Being Saturday, I don't really expect to hear anything. I treat it as a reprieve.

I did do one thing productive today. I sent out a questionaire to all my favorite Veterans and asked them to fill it out and also to pass it on to other Vets. I hope to get some interesting feedback. I asked questions like what made you most proud to be a soldier in in the United States military and what made you most disappointed and what was your happiest memory and what was your most fearful memory and lastly to tell me a story. I'm really looking forward to reading these.


It's cold here in Jacksonville today. It's going to be really cold in Afghanistan when I go in December. There will be snow. I remember driving in the snow in Wisconsin. It was never fun, but I would imagine the soldiers in Afghanistan know how to deal with road hazards.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - preparation

I have not heard, but I'm trying to be more proactive.

I researched flak vests today and have decided I need a level IV with two ceramic inserts. I have mixed feelings about this as yes it will protect my vital organs, but I could still get my legs blown off, my arms blown off and various other tragic wounds that I would not want to live through, but because I have this vest could.

Being my age, 52, I do not want to live with any disabilities. There is no reason I should have to suffer my golden years this way.

BAE is in Jacksonville and they have a body armor division. I approached them asking if they could give me a vest for my 10 day trip. I guess if you break it down, 7 days of actual exposure to combat comes to $142.87. That's quite a bargain for life...substantiating my point that life is cheap.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Ernie Pyle

Still waiting.

Today while driving I somehow tweaked my back. I am very out of shape. How quickly it happened I thought because I had just run a 1/2 marathon. Then I realized that was 4 months ago! I need to get in shape quick. As I passed gyms, yoga studios and personal training facilities I couldn't help but think how our bodies age, but our minds don't...in the sense that we still believe we can climb a tree and hang upside down at 52. I do believe I can do this...

But will I be able to hump 20 to 25 pounds of gear and keep up with a 20 year old. Ernie Pyle felt old at 42. He complained when taking a walk with the Rangers in Oran, North Africa that he couldn't keep up. They were walking and he was running!

I better start getting in shape. I don't want to hold anyone back and I certainly don't want anyone to resort to making fun of me as an old grandma! I believe putting on the uniform has a lot to do with being a soldier.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Veteran's Chapter

I'm still waiting to hear.

Today while I was waiting I finished writing my latest novel. It's a story about love of Romeo and Juliet proportion. Billy and Donna Jo meet on a beach in 1968 and they have the most amazing one day love affair. Billy gets shipped off to Vietnam and Donna Jo goes and finds him. It takes place during the Tet Offensive.

I got the idea from talking to Vets who were in Vietnam. This was a fantasy that most of them had, that their girl would come over and get them. There is also an Urban Legend that a girl does come over and joins the special forces. It was touched on in the book "The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien.

My novel is titled: "Words That Go Unspoken", it's a tear jerker. But it got me to think about how in WWII people displayed stars on their doors in honor of their sons in battle. In Vietnam there were no stars. Now we see yellow ribbons. It's as if the Vietnam Vet is somehow responsible for the tragedies that took place and because those battles are their memories its a reflection of them as people.

There is nothing good about War. Warning: do not watch this if you are afraid to see

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

I still haven't heard and am on the fence.

while waitng I am reading all about the wars and researching the different styles of writing and reporting. It's interesting reading about WWII and the heroic efforts of each soldier. It'almost like reading a novel that talks about the greatness of America.

Reading about Vietnam is totally different. Its like reading about a great and horrible mistake. There are rare mentions of the person in the uniform accept when talking about the heroism of leading the troops into a specific battle or of commenting on the arrogance of their leadership and taking soldiers to their death. I've noticed when taking men into battle, they are troops. The personalization of WWII is gone.

Today I'm including a clip of someone who has become one of my personal hero's. I hope to meet her one day. She gets it. These soldiers are people first. Thank you to Dennis H.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

I haven't heard anything yet.

I was planning on starting my fitness routine today and making an appointment for my inoculations, but I'm down for the count with a horrible cold. I don't think getting all those bugs injected to me would be a good idea.

I would like to add how greatful I am to my friends, family and others who are reading my blog. I am starting to get some really facinating information. Thank you David S. for this.

For instance did you know how many steps a guard takes over the tomb of the unkown soldier?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Veteran's Chapter

Tomorrow is November 1st. If all goes well, I'll leave for Afghanistan in one month and 22 days.

I'm starting to question the logistics. When I came up with this idea one afternoon in July, it was just a pipedream so far away. But as it's approached reality my emotions run the gamut.

This weekend and last Veteran's solicit cash on the street corner in a ligitimate effort to help other veteran's who can't beg for themselves. Each time I give money the soldier is so gratful for the few dollars I drop into the bucket. I can't help but think how sad in my great country, the United States, soliders have to beg for money like a homeless person.

I don't believe begging was part of the bargain when enlisting.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Veteran's Chapter - Adam Burke

Trying to focus.

Being great is about focus. You probably know the successful artist, writer and business person. One thing they all have in common is focus.

I got in touch with Adam Burke of WVFV (Work Vessels For Veterns). Here in Jacksonville they are giving farms to help the Vetern. Red White and Blueberries. I can attest that there is nothing better than working out in the fresh air, digging in the soil and growing things. They are having a booth at the Duval County Fair on November 3rd and 4th.

I think this is a great organization and I plan on getting involved. This is not about the politics of war...

It's about knowing the person behind the uniform.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

Today was total procrastination. I should be preparing.

Mentally, I'm totally not prepared to go. I really want to go. But I know in my heart I'm not ready. It would be good if I got my orders and only had two weeks to think about it. I guess being a writer I function better on deadlines.

I had written a whole other piece for this blog, but then found this video. It reminded me that life is about perspective. We all need an adjustment.

Tonight when you sleep in your comfortable warm bed, kiss your mate or children, aren't hungry and have a job to wake up to tomorrow or just plain get to wake up, remember it could be a lot different.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

I heard from Gabriel. He let me know that 80% of the embeds happen. The only reason they don't is because the division requested isn't accepting embeds or there are too many reporters requesting time. He also wrote that the embed usually comes about two weeks before you go. EGAD! This means I better make an appointment to get all those inoculations.

Today on NPR radio I heard the sad statistic that suicides of soldiers has now surpassed all the soldiers killed the entire time we have been in Afghanistan.

Why, how could this happen?

Perhaps, it's because the atrocites of war aren't even imaginable. Worse, it's likely that when the soldier gets home and needs help there isn't any or it takes 3 months to see a psychiatrist or get therapy. Our VA hospitals are an embarrassement.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Garry Trudeau

Still waiting.

I awoke today to hear Garry Trudeau speak about his new book, 4 decades of Doonesbury. I remember reading that comic strip. As a 12 year old in 1970 I didn't really understand the level of integrity and truth a comic strip holds. Imagine telling a story in 4 panels with fewer than 75 words.

I have followed the characters ever since. I know these characters like my family. I know BD and I remember when he lost his leg in Iraq and his ever evolving helmet came off. I know the character BD behing that uniform.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

I broke down today and emailed my guardian angel Gabriel. I'm getting a little concerned about the logistics. Hopefully I'll hear from him tomorrow.

I have always been interested in logistics and how things work. I didn't know about the Ordnance Division until I read Ernie Pyle's book, "Brave Men". They are the division that repairs refurbishes or recycles everything, from jeeps, to tanks to ammunition and small arms.

In WWII they couldn't get the rifles back out to the infantry fast enough. Soldiers would be standing around begging for them so they could get back to the front.

Of course soldiers being people, like to personalize things, carve their names etc. There was a story about a rifle butt that had a circle hollowed out and replaced with a picture of a girlfriend or young wife and sealed with a silver dollar size crystal probably from a watch. They didn't know what had happened to the soldier, but some other guy was out in battle with someone else's girl.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Veteran's Chapter - WVFV

I still haven't heard from ISAF. I'm hoping because tomorrow is Monday I'll be getting that email.

Last night, I attended an amazing concert and benefit for Work Vessels For Veterans. It was very exciting because after the first act of Kal David and The Real Deal they had an award ceremony. A gentleman who flew in a bomadier squadron during WWII was there. He had a hard time getting on stage. He then told about his service during the war and how he had a hard time balancing because his feet had been frostbit so many times while flying missions.

He went on to talk about being a person behind the uniform and how hard it was to return to civilian life. He came all the way from Connecticut to make the presentaion of a star cut out of an American Flag to the organizer of the WVFV here in Jacksonville, Florida.

I wish I had a pen and paper because I wanted to write it all down. I am just terrible with names. He went on to explain that it was perfectly acceptable to award the star from the actual flag because they had to be either disposed of by burning or by serving another useful purpose.

I have always been a patriotic person and still get goosebumbs when I sing the star spangled banner looking at the flag blowing in the wind. I think of all the soldiers who fight under it and sometimes die for it.

Did you know that: When the Flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

Aftet the awards ceremony we were treated to Dave Mason who plays one mean guitar and performed his song, "All Along the Watchtower".

I was proud to be there in support of the Vets.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

Still waiting.
I sent in my embed forms on September 29th; so it hasn't been a full month yet. The forms say it usually takes a month...being that it's the government it will definitely be one month at least.

I'm thinking about all the things I still have to do and think that maybe I better order the flak vest, but only if I can return it. I don't think I'll be needing one even though I do live in the hood. The helmet too. Although I envision myself donning it at news of a nuclear attack...

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Shoulder to Shoulder

I haven't heard anything from my guardian angel Gabriel.

But I couldn't help but read this:
Virtually all of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers tasked with defending the rugged, volcanic crag were killed in the battle, which became a symbol and rallying point for the United States in the Pacific war after the U.S. flag was raised on its highest ground, Mount Suribachi.

In WWII Ernie Pyle writes about the cemetary. There was a cemetary on Omaha Beach. I wonder...under all the crosses at your local Veterans Cemetary's are there soldiers remains? Or is it in name only?

I know in Vietnam there was "No man left behind".
In Afghanistan it is "Shoulder to Shoulder".

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

I'm still waiting.
I'm wondering if I'll ever get to Afghanistan.

The moon is almost full. I like to think of others around the world looking at the same moon and wonder what they are thinking.

I wonder how many soldiers, American, Afghanistan, Taliban are looking up at the same moon thinking the same thoughts. Thinking about loved ones...thinking how good it is to be alive.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

OMG...I'm still waiting.

This waiting is driving me crazy. I am trying to rationalize this is what it's like for a soldier to get their orders.

Hurry up and wait...I'm sure someone in the armed forces came up with this saying.

Think about what it must have been like waiting on the ship before they stormed Omaha Beach.

I know that a lot of battles are predicated upon the weather.
Napoleon waited one extra day and that was the end of his career. That night it snowed and he couldn't move his men for months.

While I'm waiting to get to Afghanistan,
Soldiers are waiting to come home.

Some of them will do anything to pass the time faster, better and with a little fun.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - designations

Still waiting....

Looking at all the pins, ribbons and patches on unforms I wondered about them.

For instance: How did the 25th division become, Tropic Lightning?
The division's rapid movements during its campaigns led to the adoption of the nickname Tropic Lightning.

Ernie Pyle's boys, the 34th infantry division got it's nickname from the Germans. They wore a patch designed to evoke the desert training grounds of Camp Cody, New Mexico, by superimposing a red steer skull over a black Mexican water jug. German troops in World War II, nicknamed them the Red Bulls.

There's a pin with of a fish that was worn under the collar in WWII. It meant you survived the drink and was fished out.

A dolphin pin means you're a submariner who knows all the systems by heart and can be entrusted both with the submarine and crew.

There are calvary pins, tank and armor pins, pins for the chaplin corp, dental corp, transportation pin. There's a pin for everything!

Besides pins there are slogans!

On the beach at Omaha is where the famous Ranger slogan comes from, when Colonel Max F. Schneider, commanding the 5th Ranger Battalion, Yelled out “RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!”

Monday, October 18, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

Another day of waiting.

Today an article made the news regarding the suicide and drug addiction rate of our soldiers once they get home. I'm not the least bit surprised. I'm sure it's not that different from all wars, probably just better documented.

I want to help our soldiers. I want to do something for them. I want to listen and tell their thoughts and reveal who they were or who they are or who they want to be.

It's important they want to be. To take what they know and pass it on. Maybe we are finally admitting that war is idiotic. There is no value anymore to territory when we're fighting terrorists whose threat is loss of freedom and trust.

The world has changed and war has changed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

Waiting is not easy.
I think of the soldier waiting to go home. Calendaring the days on his or her helmet. The closer it is the harder it gets.

To hope for the best, I decide to check out some gear to see what I'm going to be wearing in Afghanistan. I cannot look military, but I still need a flak vest and a helmet.

The first thing I look at are the flak vests. There are so many to choose from. They are expensive, around $500 to $600. I wonder is these are good enough. I wonder if I should just get a cheaper one figuring that nothing is going to save me from a rocket launcher anyway. I am obsessed with rocket launchers.

Then I look at the weight. I remember in the book "Things That They Carry" stresses such importance on weight. I weigh about 110 lbs. The vest weighs about 5 lbs, my helmet will weigh about 2.5 lbs and I'm going to have to carry a pack that will proabably weigh 20 lbs.

I'm suddenly worried. Will I be able to carry all of this?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

I was called out on yesterdays blog piece.
I wrote something that wasn't the total truth.
It was right to have been chastised for this because I want this blog to be only the truth, but somtimes it's hard to write. Truth can be difficult to articulate or face and sometimes it is evasive.

My dear friend who sent me the Jonny Mathis hit albums is definitely a dear friend, but also a past lover. I would have to say that this former lover was one of the most poignant relationships I have had. He being a writer and a Vietnam war veteran totally understands me. I don't think there is anyone who has hooked into me more.

I seem to be overloaded with emotion. Perhaps it is because I am waiting for a decision that will affect my life dramatically. Perhaps I am discovering how precious life is.

One thing that I have learned in life is that sometimes we learn to live around our own. I want to live through mine.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

I was very tempted to contact Gabriel, my guardian angel at ISAF, but I knew he wouldn't know anything; so I didn't.

I'm trying to keep my mind busy, but everything reminds me of going to Afghanistan. It's funny to me how you always think about what you don't want to think about. Trying not to think of Afghanistan of course...makes me think of going to Afghanistan.

A dear friend of mine sent me an all hits Johnny Mathis album. The songs are so beautiful. They remind me of when I was young which makes me think of dancing close and necking with boys, which makes me think of young soldiers and there I am...back to Afghanistan.

I try not to check my email too often. I try to plan how I will react to the words that will read positive or negative. Positive and negative makes me think of blood and there I am back to Afghanistan.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

Still waiting for my orders.

The hard thing about waiting is that your imagination begins to wander.

This morning I woke up in a cold sweat.
I was in a sand colored hummer with other soldiers and we were driving on a long desolate stretch of highway. Looking ahead between two soldiers helmets I saw the flash.
Should I jump out? Will we be be hit with a rocket? Is it too late by the time you see the flash?

Then I thought, why do they, the soldiers do this? What goes through their mind?
Is it because we the American people have sold being a soldier as a job, like being a police officer or a fireman. Are they risking their lives in Afghanistan for their country or to put food on their table or to get an education?

These are questions I want to find answers too. I want to know who these soldiers are who are risking their lives.

I still want to believe life is not cheap. I need to believe life is not cheap.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

Waiting.

Sometimes I'm better at waiting than at other times.
I'm good at waiting in line. I just go someplace else mentally.
I'm good at waiting for people to show up. I relax and people watch.

I pretend I'm fabulously famous or even royalty and the commoners around me have no idea who I am. I must get a funny look on my face when I have this thought, because I find people start to stare at me and then whisper...I of course imagine they are whispering, "Who is she?", but they are probably commenting about the smudge on my face or the inappropriate saying on my too tight t-shirt.

I've never been good at waiting for things. I've gotten better as I've aged. But I remember one Christmas when I was seven and I found all of the Christmas presents my Mom had hidden away for me. I opened every single one of them carefully and then sealed them back up. Everyone except the box of Thelma Lou's candy.

I opened the box and ate every piece.

Then I closed it up and rewrapped it.

I have never been more disappointed then that Christmas morning when I knew what everything was before I had opened it. I don't remember how I got away with not sharing any of the candy, which was good because it was all gone. My Mom was probably on a diet. She was always on a diet.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Dickie Chapelle

I made my list and checked it twice.

There wasn't enough room to write all the divisions I want to embed with. I put in the two that I definitely want, the 25th Infantry Division and the Leatherneck Marine division. I picked these two because I couldn't find Ernie Pyle's buddies, the 34th Division in all the paperwork; so I picked a dear friend of mine's division the 25th, Bobcat. The Leathernecks are in honor of Dickie Chapelle.

I would also like to spend time at a field hospital and with the Army Corps of Engineers and with the all women's Marine engagement team.

I wrote a brief note to Gabriel that I would go anywhere they wanted me.

Then, I scanned everything into my computer. I didn't think twice or hesitate to email it.

Now I have to wait.

Again, within hours I received an email from Gabriel....now what did I forget I thought?
Nothing, everything was in order and was been sent off for processing.

I am now resigned to wait...again, trying to be patient.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

The questions on the ISAF documents are very explicit. Which divisions do you want to embed with and what part of the country do you want to go to? Although, it also says you may not get what you want.

Strangely, I am comforted by this. It sounds just like the government I know. It promises me everthing, but in reality gives me nothing.

Within a few hours after sending my documents, I get an email from ISAF.
I open it with intrepidation. Surely I haven't been rejected all ready.

Just as I suspected, I had done something wrong. I didn't include this document and I didn't fill out another document. I carefully wrote down all of the instructions again. I needed five more documents scanned or filled out properly ASAP ordered Gabriel from ISAF.

Gabriel, and I have become email acquaintances. Mostly because I emailed him several times trying to clarify this or that. He has been very patient with me.

It is significant that his name is Gabriel, as I feel he is my guardian angel.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - red tape

I figure I got the Visa I'm sure I can get an extention.

So, I knocked this hurdle down...I'll make it up on the next run.

What I'm really worried about is the embed. According to the form, in BIG BOLD LETTERS, it reads: YOU ARE NOT EMBEDDED UNTIL YOU RECEIVE YOUR ORDERS. I wonder how long it's going to take. I can get a Visa in 48 hours, I better just go for it.

I fill out the papers as best as I can. I have to pitch the ISAF the story and tell them what I'm going to be writing about. They actually ask: What's the hook! I have to print all this in a little box. My printing isn't that great and I don't have any whiteout. If I make a mistake, I have to reprint the forms.

I ask a friend who was a base commander to look it over. He says I'm good to go.
So I send the forms in by email as instructed.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

afghanistan Through My Eyes

In Chicago I poured over the instructions for getting a visa to Afghanistan.
1. The areas of jurisdiction are: 1. Illinois, 2. Indiana, 3. Iowa, 4. Michigan, 5. Minnesota, 6. Missouri, 7. North Dakota, 8.South Dakota, and 9.Wisconsin.

I live in Florida

2. You may bring your passport in on Tuesdays, between 2 and 4 pm to be picked up on Thursday between 3 and 5 pm.

Either way I was screwed and it wasn't going to work out. Besides, it was really the Embassy for India.

So I sent in my passport by fedex to the Afghanistan Embassy in DC and paid the fee to have it returned in 24 hours with a visa to Afghanistan.

It worked. Except...the visa is only good for three months and expires 10 days before I am to arrive!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Saturday Evening Post

The story I pitched to The Saturday Evening Post is to do a parallel of soldier's lives of WWII, Vietnam and Afghanistan. I'm going to find out what happened and why our heros have been forsaken.

The Editor liked it enough to give me his blessing and a business card with the words good luck on it. I told him I would carry it with me when I go to Afghanistan.

I got my press credentials.
One hurdle down, two to go.

The next step is to get a Visa to Afghanistan. Egad another form to fill out.

Looking up Afghanistan Consulates I found that there was one in Chicago. I was going to Chicago in a couple of weeks. I'll just walk in and get it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Veteran's Chapter - Charles Mohr

Since 1954 the United States had maintained a nominal force of 685 military advisors in Vietnam.

Vietnam is a graveyard of lost hopes, destroyed vanity, glib promises and good intentions - The lead sentence filed by Time Magazine correspondent Charles Mohr for an August 9, 1963, cover story. The sentence was not published.

There are three books among the many I have read about Vietnam. The first, "Once Upon A Distant War" by William Prochnau is what I consider the bible. The second one is: "On Point". A Rifleman's year in the boonies: Vietnam 1967-1968 by Roger Hayes. His personal account of fighting with the 25th Division. It is one of my hopes to be embeded with them in Afghanistan. And lastly, "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brian. His account with Alpha Company.

Accounts of the politics and what these two soldiers saw, all artfully written and let you experience war as they saw it.

But who were these men before and who were they going to be afterwards?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Dickie Chapelle

But we should start at the beginning with Viet Nam.

Another hero of mine is Dickie Chapelle, a combat photographer. Dickie was a woman, Georgette Louise Meyers, who cut her teeth during WWII.

Dickie recieved the Overseas Press "Polk" Award for her triple truck shot, (that's an unheard of three page photograph, two with a fold out) in National Geographic proving our Special Forces were fighting, when they were supposed to be in Viet Nam in an advisory capacity only. Her photo was published in the November issue in 1962. It had been buried by the Kennedy administration for an entire year.

It was hard to get behind the Viet Nam war when the American public was lied to from the very beginning. It was hard to separate the man from the soldier from the war.

Another honor Dickie received was, she was the first woman killed in combat. She was killed in 1965 at age 47, on her 5th tour of Viet Nam, the first with her beloved US Marine Corp.

She was 5 years younger than I am now.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Veteran's Chapter

And then there was Viet Nam.

"No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported
then, and it is misremembered now."Richard Nixon, New York Times, March 28, 1985

I was nine in 1968 when the Tet Offensive occurred. My oldest brother who had attended NMMI, was drafted with a low number. As soon as he graduated from college he was going. I don't know if there was any talk about a choice. I believe it was expected.

From what I remember there was nothing good about Viet Nam. From what I know, there was nothing good about Viet Nam.

Who were the men wearing soldiers unforms? I know they were sons and brothers, but other than that they seemed to be the devil's helpers. Who ever they were, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Veteran's Chapter

WWII was definitely portrayed to the American public in a different way than Viet Nam or Afghanistan.

What happened? Ernie Pyle writes of brave men. Men wearing a soldier's uniform doing a soldiers job. Every man he writes about is a hero, even the other war correspondants.

The other interesting thing is that there isn't anything about the politics of WWII in his book. It's just about men who go to war to do a job. They itch to get to the front to see action and then as soon as they see what war is all about they itch to get home.

The men of WWII are as civilized as soldiers can be. The worst off, the infantry who sleep on the ground and just keep plodding forward for months that turn quickly into years.

Ernie Pyle's writing is simple and pure. It gets the point across vividly. You feel as if you are eating k rations, living in a foxhole and burying the dead. The chapter on taking Omaha Beach is just as explicit in his style of writing as Steven Speilberg showed in his masterpice, Saving Privat Ryan.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

My Editor at Solares Hill thought my idea was fantastic and wanted to help, but it was ultimately up to the Editor in Chief at Cox Publishing.

No go with him.

What next? Who do I know that could help?
Then, I remembered I know an editor at The Saturday Evening Post. I contacted him and he too thought the idea was fantastic and the adventure of a lifetime. He put me in touch with the Editor in Chief at the Post. He liked the idea, but what's the hook, what's the story? Egad, I realized then that I had to come up with a story.

Of course it would be a bit ridiculous to go all the way to Afghanistan, 1/2 way around the world to just hug soldiers...

I thought about all the combat reporters I knew or knew of. I thought of Ernie Pyle. When I was a girl, my branch library was Ernie Pyle's house. He was my first real life hero. I picked up my copy of "Brave Men" and began to read.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

How could I get a new press pass?

I contacted a friend who was on staff at the NYTimes, who had been embeded with troops in Iraq. I specifically asked him not to mention it to my daughter with whom he was friends with as I didn't want to worry her. After all I, even though I was committed to going to Afghanistan, it may prove to difficult to get to and I didn't want to alarm her.

I was hoping the NYTimes could somehow sponsor me.

He emailed me back with a treasure trove of information that included the fact that the NYTimes only sent 'Staff' writers like him to places like Irag and Afghanistan. Next, he emailed my daughter who immediately called me and aske me if I was out of my mind.

But this gave me the idea of contacting the paper I write for using a pen name. Maybe they would indemnify me, thus paving the way for a press pass.
Solares Hill

Friday, October 1, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

The first hurdle for me to go to Afghanistan is to get a press pass.

I had a press pass once. It was from CBS. During the Presidential election of 1972, when I was 14. My Mom was in charge of an election precinct. Apparently, results needed to be reported to CBS. My Mom believed that involving me would somehow make me interested in politics. For making this phone call and reporting the numbers to CBS I got this cool CBS press card, which I still have today...somewhere. It's not the kind of thing you throw out. It takes up no room and is very neat'O. In fact I carried it in my wallet until I was in my early twenties.

However, I don't think this particular press pass from 1972 will work. Especially, since it has on it in big bold letters, 1972 Election Coverage.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

After thinking about this idea and talking it over with some friends, I decide to give it a go. But I also decide that I will just go with the flow; if it's meant to be, it will happen.

I read the embed forms and anxiety surfaces.

I am a C+ form filler outter. I actually feel form illiterate, always putting my name in the wrong place, and generally just not putting the right answers in where they go, it brings back test taking all over again. I know the answers, I just can't recall them correctly to fill in the form! It must be something spatial with the lines and the one dimension of paper and print.

There are a lot of qualifications for getting embeded with a military division during a war. Probably a good thing.

So I break the qualifications down in hurdles. Now hurdles I was good at. In fact I set a school record in high school for running the hurdles.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - NMMI

Going to Afghanistan to hug soldiers seemed like a 'great' idea.

I've always had a love affair with soldiers since I visited my brothers at NMMI, New Mexico Military Institute. So much so that I wanted to attend...my father and brothers laughed at me. It was 1962 and girls were not allowed at NMMI, it was a 'boy's club'. This was my first experience with segregation. I did not like it even then as four-years old.

This was my opportunity. This was an adventure.