Reflections of 2013, A Great Year

As I reflect on 2013, a lot of things come to mind. This year has been fun, exciting, unique, challenging, and seems to have gone by faster than past years. Time is speeding up. Even with each day lately seeming like it lasts forever, this year is gone, to me, in a flash. So much has happened this year it’s hard to believe it all fit inside of twelve months. There were a few ‘firsts’ in 2013. Maybe a couple of ‘lasts’ as well. We’ll see. But in any event, this was one hell of a year. I would count it as one of my better years and there isn’t much at all I’d change.

In 2013 I started my blog. It’s not that great, but a few of the stories were pretty cool and got some great feedback. I didn’t keep up with it as much as I had planned when I started it, but it’s still there, like now, getting an update once in a while. Perhaps in 2014 I’ll update it more often.

I got my first tattoo in 2013. It wasn’t planned and I’m sure it’s my last. I like it, but since I can check that off my list of crazy things I’ve done, there’s no need to get another one. Maybe. We’ll see. It happened on a date night with my wife that started out at T.G.I. Friday’s. From there, we were going to shoot some pool, but that place was closed. We walked to another bar that wasn’t my wife’s style, so left there and ended up in a tattoo parlor. I’m still not sure how it all happened.

All of my kids did some spectacular things in 2013. I will highlight two things, one by each of my ‘big kids.’ My oldest son was accepted to Collegiate High School, so instead of going to traditional high school his junior and senior years, he will go to the local college and graduate with a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree at the same time. That’s pretty amazing to me. My oldest daughter graduated from high school. What makes this so incredible is that she did it in between her freshman and sophomore years at college. She skipped her senior year at high school, went off to college, did what she needed to do, came back and walked with her class. Awesome.

I spent a lot of time traveling in 2013. Mostly back and forth from Ft Walton Beach to Orlando, two trips to Texas, then off to Afghanistan where I’ve been traveling all over for the last four and a half months. I could write for days about all the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, and people I’ve met since getting to Afghanistan. I’ve got stories of helicopter flights, riding on a British C-130, IDF’s at Bagram, rocket attacks at Kandahar, buildings shaking harder as each ‘boom’ gets closer. I’ve got stories of seeing people in Afghanistan that I’ve served with before that I just happen to run into here, stories of friendships and bonds with people who mean the world to me, but would have never met otherwise if not being here.

I ran my first marathon in 2013, the Marine Corps Marathon. I wrote some new poetry. I read more books than I normally would. I quit smoking cigarettes. I got promoted. I added two new countries to the list of places I’ve been to. I had lunch at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which was pretty cool. There are so many things that make 2013 one of the best years ever: adventures, excitement, new friendships, new places, and once in a life time opportunities.

But my best reflections of 2013 are of my family. While I’m off being a tourist at war, my wife is home taking care of the house, the kids, the bills, the dog, the lawn, the things that break, the things that need to be replaced, and everything else. Without her love and support I would never to be able to do the things I do and have the experiences I have. Like those of us serving in Afghanistan, my wife doesn’t get a day off back home. I have always said, and will say again, she has the harder job when I’m deployed- I get to shoot if necessary. For all my adventures and experiences, as fun as they are, I can’t wait to get back home to Diana the kids. My thoughts are with them and my heart is with them. And before long, I’ll be back with them.

To everyone that was part of my life in 2013, thank you. Especially to my wife and kids, you have made me what I am and who I am. Looking forward to wonderful 2014. Happy New Year to you all!!!

Good day and God bless.

Dave

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My Hardest Job

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted to my blog. I’ve been busy. Plus, there’s only so much we are allowed to talk about from here. I have tons of inspiration and great stories to tell, just can’t really tell them all right now. I guess some of my stories will have to be told to the grandkids one day. But what I can tell you is that unless something catastrophic happens, 2013 in Afghanistan will have the fewest number of U.S. casualties in six years. I’m using numbers from icasualties.org for my source. Their last entry for a U.S. casualty is December 17, when a helicopter crash killed 6 U.S. Soldiers. On that same day I took a helicopter flight from Bagram to Kabul. It wasn’t long after I landed that I learned of the crash.

I didn’t personally know any of our recently fallen here in Afghanistan. But I still feel a loss and my heart goes out to the families. In the past I’ve been in a unit that lost a member. And as the chaplain assistant I had to help coordinate the memorial ceremony. That’s very emotional for all involved. I could see the pain and reflection in the attendees as they cope with the loss. My job has also given me a front row seat to passing on bad news. I’ll never forget being in Iraq and being present when a chaplain informed a Service Member that her husband’s plane had gone down in Afghanistan and that there were no survivors. I can still see in my mind her reaction. I can still feel the pain she was tormented with as she cried uncontrollably for what seemed like forever. Time seems to crawl during moments like that. I think it gives us time for the images to be forever etched in our minds. I have a number of those images in my mind.

My job isn’t terribly hard, but it is emotionally draining at times. Earlier this year when offering comfort to a Soldier during his loss of a family member, I put it all to words in a poem entitled “My Hardest Job”. I will share that with you here. Enjoy. Good day, God bless.

Dave

My Hardest Job

We’re built to be tough- hard and strong,
Trained to keep going when the days get long.
We learn to fight, to shoot and kill,
Our soul is busy- never still.

We fight the battles when called upon,
Without distraction we soldier on.
I’ve gone to war- seen the dead,
Images of that, etched in my head.

I’ve done all the jobs I’ve been given to do,
For the love of the army, and my country, too.
But when Taps is played and we say goodbye,
My hardest job ever is watching a Soldier cry.