Tom came home on midtour leave during the month of April, and then stayed pretty busy throughout May.  His email updates picked up again in June.

June 15th

Hello again to everyone,
My apologies for the 3 months since my last update email, but as you can probably imagine we've been more than busy.  I'll try to do "more gooder" in the future, but sometimes you've barely got time to catch your breath before you're right back out on another mission here.  We've had our fair share of us and downs, but life is moving along and each day gets us closer to early December when we can go home.

I was able to go home on midtour leave in April and had the time of my life while away from the grind here in Iraq.  I ran into a former instructor of mine, MAJ G., from WP at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) before flying out and it was good to see a familiar face in the sea of bodies waiting to go home.  When I finally got home I spent the entire time with Erika so whether we were in Savannah, San Antonio, or the mountains of northern Georgia we were together and it was fantastic.  We spent the first few days in Savannah just hanging out and seeing the town and then flew to see my parents and sisters in Texas.  That was the first time we had all been together under one roof in almost 2 years, because of deployments with either myself or my mother, so it was nice to have a legit family reunion like that.  We climbed Enchanted Rock north of the city, went to Six Flags, and spent a day at an overgrown county fair called the Poteet Strawberry Festival.  Overall it was just great to see everyone together again and a nice feeling to look around the dinner table and see everyone that was supposed to be there. 


Family Portrait '07


Enchanted Rock


Six Flags


After our time in San Antonio we flew back to Savannah and the very next day took a drive into the mountains of northern Georgia.  The last time I was in that part of the country I was a Ranger student in Mountain Phase, but I told myself back then I would come back again someday as a normal person to enjoy the scenery under less stressful conditions.  We rented a cabin in Helen, Georgia for 4 days and realized quickly we had chosen the perfect getaway for the two of us.  This place was fully furnished and even had a hot tub, HUGE screen tv, and BBQ grill to go along with the privacy and scenery of the mountains and forest.  We decided right then and there we would do something almost exactly like that for our honeymoon after we get married in October '08.  It was really that great.  We hiked all kinds of trails, went horseback riding through the hills, and got to go home to just each other at night.  It was perfect.  On the 2nd to last day we were there we took a drive to Camp Merrill where I spent 10 "glorious" weeks as a Ranger Student.  We even snuck into one of the planning bays to snap a picture.  Sorry, Braden, but "they" painted over our names on the wall of the C2 planning bay.  The "Recycle Creed" is still up there, but all the other walls have been painted over.  Disappointing, to say the least, but that's how it goes.  Later that day we found our way to Mount Yonah and climbed to the top.  This was my 4th time up that hill, but this time I didn't have a rucksack, BDUs, and a rifle with me.  The former RI on this distro and all my other buddies that went through Ranger School know exactly what I'm talking about.


Horseback Riding


The top of Mt. Yonah- again


Camp Merrill.  Ah, the memories.


The last day up in the mountains came sooner than we would have liked and we packed up for the drive back to Savannah.  We just acted like normal people up until the last minute when I had to leave, but that's the way we wanted it.  Our final night we ordered pizza instead of going out to a fancy dinner.  No need to make a big deal out of something you don't want to think about in the first place, right?  The next day we drove to the airport, said our goodbyes, and that was it.

When I got back to my unit here in theatre I had about 3 days relatively "off" but soon enough I was right back into the swing of things, but with temperatures skyrocketing out of the 40s and 50s I was used to and into the 90s and 100s they're at now.  Not the best "welcome back" present, but summertime means we're getting closer to wintertime and that means we're on our way home for good.  Patrols were going pretty well until late May when we lost another guy, our 2nd thus far, to an IED.  SGT Robert Montgomery Jr. was walking point for his platoon when he stepped on a very well concealed pressure plate IED and was killed instantly by the blast.  We had his Memorial Ceremony the day after Memorial Day and along with the friends from WP I've lost over here that holiday will forever hold personal meaning to me. 

Since then we've been at it just like normal patrolling our area and doing what we can to "rid the world of evil".  We did have another rather serious incident about 2 weeks ago when a large number of insurgents attacked our patrol base.  The platoon on PB security at the time had a small patrol out checking on something not quite right just outside the walls of the PB when they came under attack.  The attack quickly turned into an all-out assault on the house we stay in and the guys on the roof said they estimated between 30 and 50 people all around the house shooting AKs, RPKs, and RPGs.  About 5 minutes into the fight a dumptruck SVBIED (suicide vehicle borne IED) packed with explosives came rolling up the road near our house and, despite 2 machine guns firing as many rounds as possible into the drivers cab, managed to get within 30 meters of the outer wall before it detonated.  The EOD personnel conducting the post-blast analysis estimated it was full of 4,000 pounds of HME (home made explosive) which is more explosive than TNT.  Miraculously, no one was killed, but it made a crater 50 feet wide and 10 feet deep.


Standing in the crater


 The Southern wall

I researched other big explosions like that from history and this was just slightly more powerful than the Oklahoma City bombing, to put it into perspective for you all.  The only thing that saved everyone in and on top of the house was the design and construction.  All the walls were made of thick concrete and rebar laced throughout and every beam, doorway, and half the walls were arches.  It's still structurally sound so we can still live there, but the last two weeks have been spent replacing every single door, window, and fighting position in the entire house.  Not an easy task in 110 degree heat, but we got it done. 


Back together... in Iraq.  Erika deployed a few weeks after I came back and managed a quick visit to my FOB.

How many of y'all get to hang out with your girl in a warzone?  That's what I thought. 


Overall life is going well and we're getting closer and closer to our redeployment date.  Thanks to everyone for your letters, packages, cards, thoughts, and prayers.  I try to write back to each and every one of you, but things get rather hectic once in awhile when you least expect it.  Hope everyone is doing well and that you're all enjoying your summer.  Drop a line if you get a chance because it would be great to hear stories from the real world.  Until then, take care, do good things, and stay in touch.



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