20091006

Rambling Rememberances

Yesterday i was catching up with an old Army buddy on Facebook. As i was looking through his old pictures two of them caught my attention. The first one here is a snapshot of our platoon when we did a rotation to Honduras. What an incredible experience that was. I remember it being incredibly HOT. August in Central America is like that. We flew into a really small air strip in C-130's and then got trucked - literally to the small Honduran army base. It was not all that big, but i remember it being lined with concertina wire, and the tents (pictured above) were already set up for us. Misquotes were incredible. I remember being issued this bug spray in a nondescript aerosol can. You had to take your uniform off and apply the bug repelant directly to the uniform, let it dry (which sometimes took a little while with the humidity), and then you could put it back on. But it worked great. I remember getting heat rash for the first time. We had to burn the barrels beneath the latrines. One of the Platoon Sergeants even demonstrated the water purification tablets, but then couldn't get any of us lower enlisted to follow up the demonstration. About the third or fourth day there my body stopped digesting meat and dairy products. I could only drink water, soda (five for a dollar), and eat only fruits and vegetables. Bread i could tolerate in small quantities. I lost 10 pounds off of my 155 pound frame in a little over 10 days. Even now, about once a year, usually in the early parts of summer, my body will not tolerate meat or dairy for about 3-5 days. The country was beautiful. The jungles were lush and green. The mountains incredibly steep - i know this because i had to lug my young butt up and down those slopes carrying five gallons of water - plus my regular load. At night i leaned my ruck against a tree and sat on it to sleep so i would not slide down the mountain. I remember sunlight streaming through the clouds after one of the daily downpours. I remember it mostly because i was a brand new Christian (less than two weeks) and one day while i was changing my drenched t-shirt one of my Honduran counterparts said, "Cristo" and pointed to what little chest hair i had. Apparently what i did have was in the shape of a cross. I traded one of my unit patches with the man for one of his, and then he mentioned "Cristo" once more. He then gave me a hand woven cross made of some kind of durable string. He tied it around my neck. It stayed there for many a year until it literally wore off. My next picture is one of my high points of my Infantry career. My first job was that of a 'Heavy Weapons, Anti-Tank, Infantryman. My job was to be the eyes and ears for my battalion as well as provide anti-tank support. You see, i had joined the historic 29th Infantry Division (light) and vehicles were in short supply so we had a dual scouting role as well (which led to a lot of interesting competitions with the Scout platoon. Anyway, although we trained with the TOW system we did not get the opportunity to fire an actual missile all that often. In the six years i was in the TOW platoon we fired only two missiles. In order to determine who would have the honor of getting to fire the one missile we would have (at the time) we held a two month competition to determine the "Top Tube" award. The winner would get the honor. When the competition started i did not consider that i would have a chance because, despite all of the training i had on the missile system, i was nowhere near the qualification scores of many of the other soldiers. But what i didn't know was that our APFT, Rifle Qualification, and a few other things that i can not recall all played a part. When they announced i had won you could have knocked me over with a feather. The picture below is one that my old Army buddy on Facebook actually took of me on the day i got to send that baby down range. I still remember the sound of the missile's systems starting up, the discharge motor igniting and the wash of heat as the missile launched out the tube. I remember my sight picture and how i gently brought the crosshairs down onto the old tank out on the dropzone, and i remember nailing that sucker right between the turret and the deck - a perfect shot. I remember feeling slightly disappointed that there was not a bigger flash of light or puff of smoke -something. I learned later that the reason for this was that it was a perfect hit and all of the energy went into and through the tank. The spectators in the stands, including my photographer here saw the hit, and on the backside of the target the remaining energy of the shot knocked down a small tree that fell over in "slow motion". I still have the electrical connector cap as a memento. From all of this i also received a 29th Division coin from the commanding General (which, i can't remember his name now ). The only other award that i cherish from my time in the National Guard as an Infantryman was when i earned the Air Assault badge. That was the toughest course i have ever taken. I still have my handbook from that school. On the back i kept track of the number of students in the class. We graduated just over half of out starting number. Of the seven students my battalion sent only three of us came home with our 'wings' (above right). Of the three Scouts sent, none of them came home with them. A source of pride for both myself and the TOW platoon. Not too long after i met my beloved and i was smitten. I had been a "hard charger" and referred to as "High Speed, Low Drag" soldier. But then i met her and a lot of my priorities changed. For a while i allowed myself to get mired in an MOS i really, really, didn't like - but it allowed me to be home a lot more often. More on this some other time. I remember not just these vivid memories of my (then) young military career, but the tuggins God was placing on my heart. How is transformed me through the military from a young man who could not care less about anyone, or any thing, other than himself (for example i would not keep a job more than three months) into the man who i am today. I found something that i loved and could excel at, but even then that was not the end point. God would introduce Himself to me in 1989 and my priorities changed even more. He did this through the Chaplain's assistant i would meet in my first NCO school, and many other men i would meet in and out of uniform who witnessed to me - and not just by sharing the gospel. I have many fond memories of this time of my life... but time is linear... and it ever moves forward. There are a few examples of God not wanting His people to dwell in the past, but He also encouraged them to set up monuments in tribute to what He had done. I give thanks to God for these memories, and the incredible journey He has brought me through. While the verse i want to use below is in the context of the writer being in a severely oppressed position, but...
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. ~ Selah (Psalm 143:5-6, ESV)
While i was never in the same league of trials as this writter, God did use the pressure and the 'heat' of those years. And for that i am grateful and will ever praise His name.

2 comments:

Ms. Coffee said...

Amen

Susan said...

I so hope my DS 1 is able to look back on his experience and feel similar someday.

Susan