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Letters from the Troops

January 14, 2004, Letter from Todd while still State-side
 

Hello! Sorry for the long delay since my last email. Needless to say, the company has been very busy. Many of us have learned to write in pencil instead of pen since things are constantly changing here at Fort McCoy. Nevertheless, morale is good and training is excellent. After almost two weeks of training without pause, we had a day off today to recover, take care of personal items, and simply sleep in. This next week begins in earnest the shipment of our equipment. We’ll ship everything by rail to the port; this includes vehicles and loading shipping containers with all our misc. equipment.
 

January 27, 2004, Letter from Todd’s mother while still State-side
 

Todd and the other soldiers are still busy training state-side in Wisconsin. It has been bitter cold – with the ice that’s on everything being more treacherous than the snow, but they have heavy winter gear and are managing okay. But it hard to stay warm when you’re working in -8 degree weather (-40 deg. wind chill), no matter how many clothes you have on! :o )
 

Last Sunday (1/25) they had a day off to rest, catch up on personal things, take the shuttle bus into LaCrosse, eat in a “real” restaurant, shop, or whatever. Todd said it was really nice to have a break.
 

February 3, 2004, Letter from Todd’s commander while still State-side
 

Good morning! There is no new significant information at this time. No specific flight date yet, but we’ve now started counting weeks instead of months left in country. Training has been excellent! We’ve completed training several critical areas – Demolitions, Operations in an Urban Environment, and Convoy Operations (react to contact and react to Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s)). On Superbowl Sunday we start Checkpoint Operations and immediately after that we go into our last major training event – Defensive Live Fire Exercise.
 

All in all, things are going well. We’ve even gotten use to the weather – this morning it was -6 degrees (-25 degrees with windchill). Anything above single digits now seems warm.
 

February 14, 2004, Letter from Todd’s commander while still State-side
 

Charlie Company has come a long ways in three months. We are well prepared for the mission upon which we are about to embark. There is a sense of Loyalty and Duty within each soldier that I cannot begin to describe. Rest assured, we have each other’s back. We will take care of one another and look forward to our safe return one year from now.
 

February 18, 2004, Letter from Todd prior to deployment while still State-side
 

This Letter/E-mail is late in coming, but it is a note of THANKS to all who have kept in their thoughts and prayers through the tough changes I have experienced since October 2003.
 

… I thank all for your thoughts and prayers for my upcoming deployment. I leave for overseas this week. I pray for a easy flight… 15 hours. I will be in Kuwait for several weeks, and then convoy into Iraq.
 

February 19, 2004, Letter from Todd in Kuwait
 

Well, I made it. I’m in Kuwait…This is my first stop, and I’ll be here for a few weeks. We will train, and get our equipment ready to head north.
 

The flight wasn’t bad, I slept most of the way, and a good thing, because we didn’t get settled into “home” until about 0400 local time. We are staying in a large tent, but we do have hot showers nearby. (Porta-Johns for latrines though.) Food is OK so far, but they do have Pizza Inn, Subway, and Hardees stands in the PX area. (But, the lines are long!) The phone center is closed for now because of a problem w/ the tent frame being broken. I hope it opens soon.
 

Today I ran into another soldier from my home company, and my squad. He is assigned to another unit. I ran into him in the PX common area…
 

I hope the training here will be good, and that the leadership we have doesn’t make life too rough. They have a way of doing that from time to time… So far today is our recovery day. A day to get over jet lag, and to get to know the camp.
 

Well, I better go for now.. I only had 30 mins on this card. (You buy a membership card to have access @ $.10 / min..) Not too bad. I’m going to ask if I can hook up my laptop later.
 

Take Care & Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers!
 

February 20, 2004, Letter from Todd’s commander, Camp Victory, Kuwait
 

Hello from Camp Victory, Kuwait. Today is Friday, 20 FEB 04. We’ve been in country for 1.5 days and are still in the process of acclimatized and adjusted to the time difference. The temperature here is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and drops down to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit at night. We are 8 hours ahead of East Coast time (8:00 AM in Pittsburgh is 4:00 PM in Kuwait).
 

Camp Victory is one of the main staging camps in Kuwait for deploying and re-deploying units. Hence, it is fairly large and does have several amenities. There’s a “village square” with an internet café, phone center, chapel, gym, mobile restaurants (Pizza Place, Subway, Hardies), photo/gift store, and a PX. There are about 30 computers at the internet café, and it costs 10 cents a minute. There are 17 phones in the phone center, and soldiers sign up for ½ hour time periods. Phone usage is fairly expensive (in the US a 180 unit phone card gives you 180 minutes, here it gives you 18 minutes; a 1:10 ratio). The phone center is often busy in the evenings, so the best time to call is generally after 11:00 PM or before 5:00 AM (3:00 PM and 9:00 PM, respectively, east coast time). Concerning regular postal mail, we will depart this camp before any mail from the US can reach us. Since the mail does not get forwarded, it is best to wait to send mail until we have an APO address at our final destination.
 

Our equipment is scheduled to arrive by ship in approximately 5 days. In the mean time, we continue to acclimatize, conduct individual soldier and weapons training, and perform physical training (PT). When our ship arrives, we will download the equipment and stage vehicles at Camp Victory in preparation for our movement north. I cannot give you an exact timeframe, but we will be in Camp Victory for at least two weeks.
 

March 4, 2004, Letter from Todd’s commander, Camp Victory, Kuwait
 

…last Sunday they had a “Power Regeneration Day.” As Todd said, that’s just a fancy way of saying a day off. He didn’t care what they called it- it was just nice to be able to relax a bit. He went to chapel in the morning and they had a very nice service. He said the chapel was packed- which was a nice sight to see! In the afternoon he took a short trip to the main Base Camp in Kuwait – just to get away for a while. The nice surprise was that he ran into a couple of guys from his Reserve Unit in Marion, VA, and it was great to catch up on what was happening with them and others that he knows who are there. It is amazing that you can run in to a friend so far from home!
 

For the past few days the showers haven’t worked properly – often there is either no water, just a trickle of water, or lukewarm water. He said that you certainly learn to appreciate the simple things in life!
 

This week is busy. Their equipment came in at the beginning of the week, and they have to get it ready for more training, etc. They will probably be spending some overnight time off site, and will therefore be out of touch. He’s guessing that they’ll be in Kuwait for at least a couple more weeks. They’re still waiting for the APO address..! Weather is in the upper 70′s and low 80′s.
 

March 9, 2004, Letter from Todd’s commander, Camp Victory, Kuwait
 

Another week has passed and Charlie Company is doing well. The living conditions vary daily, but the soldiers continue to remain flexible and up-beat. Camp Victory, Kuwait has been congested with incoming and outgoing soldiers, marines, airmen, Hand sailors, which has put a strain on the camp resources. However, several Marine units recently departed, so the lines have been a little bit shorter for chow, the PX, the multiple AAFES food shops, laundry, phones, and the internet. Showers, on the other hand, still remain a challenge. At Fort McCoy, the issue was finding a hot shower; here the issue is getting a shower before the water runs out. The temperature continues to rise daily, although it is still a bit chilly at night. Today’s temperature is 88H/59L. We’ve experienced a few sand storms, but they appeared to be mild. These were rough enough – we’re not looking forward to the full-blown, nasty ones.
 

Our daily activities consist of preparing for the big move north – training on first-aid, basic rifle marksmanship, Iraqi culture, and convoy operations. The arrival of our vehicles and equipment on March 2, 2004 brought new inspiration. Soldiers are excited to have their vehicles and equipment back (see attached pictures). From March 4 through March 6, 2004, we conducted live fire weapons and convoy training. The training was exceptional and proved just how prepared we are! Rehearsing convoy operations and seeing the firepower of an M-60 and M2 machine gun while traveling at 40 mph helped to ease a lot of the pre-combat jitters. Charlie Company is extremely well trained and well prepared for our mission in Iraq.
 

The training over the past few days also allowed soldiers to get out of the camp and see some of the country – although it’s nothing but desert. Part of the route to the range took us by a junkyard for all of the destroyed vehicles from Desert Storm, a bleak reminder of the seriousness that brings us here. The drive also took us through multiple camel herds which slowed our convoy (see attached pictures). Accommodations over the past couple of days were minimal – sleeping under the stars on top of our vehicles with only each other and a full moon for company. Living in the desert leaves something to be desired, and most are glad we’ll be living with more modern amenities. We expect to move north within the next couple of weeks and will let you know as soon as we arrive at Camp Victory North, Iraq.
 

As we count our days to our return home, we continue to bond as a company. There are currently 130 soldiers in Charlie Company, and we all got each other’s back. We look forward to completing our mission and returning home safely.
 

March 17, 2004, Letter from Todd’s commander, Camp Victory North, Iraq
 

We’ve arrived in Baghdad! Charlie Company, 458th EN BN is now located at Camp Victory North,Iraq. Camp Victory is in the north eastern corner of the Baghdad International Airport, referred to as BIAP. As mentioned in a previous email, it is a new camp built to reduce the military presence within the airport itself and transition control back to civilians.
 

It was a long ride north (2 days), but soldiers are thrilled to finally be here. We’re finally able to unpack our bags with the knowledge that this place will be our home for the next year. The trailers are nice – it’s kind of like living in a college dorm room without indoor plumbing. The dining facility (mess hall) is brand new as well – nice, clean, well lit, good food. It was nice to see soldiers laughing and enjoying themselves at dinner. Some of the tension has been eased now that Baghdad is no longer a big unknown and we’ve overcome the pre-combat gitters.
 

The MWR facilities on Camp Victory North have not yet been built. So phone and internet communication are limited. Be patient with you loved ones if you don’t hear from them in the near term. It will take a few weeks to get these items installed, and regular mail takes several weeks to get delivered. I will keep you posted as best I’m able. When listening to the news, you’ll likely hear about the 1st Cavalry Division – that is our area of operations and the division whom we support.
 

March 17, 2004, Letter from Todd’s commander, Camp Victory North, Iraq
 

Just a brief update. The 458th Engineer Battalion safely arrived in >Baghdad yesterday (16 March). We made history by completing a tactical road march over roughly 800 km with over 240 pieces of equipment and 406 personnel in 1.5 days. An additional 64 soldiers flew into BIAP via intra-theater airlift. Twenty-six deployed in advance as our ADVON element…
 

Our total strength will be 496 in theater with 5 RDOs in >CONUS for a Battalion strength of 501. Our movement was the largest
>movement of troops and equipment in the history of this battalion and we >made it look easy! Other than a few in stride repairs along the route the trip was uneventful. My soldiers are excited about being attached to the 1st Cavalry Division. COL Kendall Cox, Cdr of the 1CD Engineer Brigade, has been very receptive to us and clearly >understands the benefits of having a Corps Wheeled Battalion directly aligned under his command in support of SASO. They are taking very good care of us.
 

Our living conditions at Victory North exceeded all expections. Morale is extremely high!
 

April 4, 2004, Letter from Todd’s mother
 

We finally have some news from Todd!!! I had received no email or phone call from him since March 14, the night they left Kuwait (though I didn’t know they were leaving that night when I spoke with him at midnight – his time)! I had heard indirectly that they had arrived safely and that he was okay, but it’s not like hearing it directly from him. :o ) On March 31 (his birthday) I received 8 (!!!) messages that he had written over the span of 2½ weeks, but had not had the opportunity to send. You can imagine my excitement! On Saturday he was able to get to a computer center again for a short time. I happened to be online when he was, so we were able to send several messages back and forth. That was great! And then he called about 7:30 this morning!!! He sounds great, says he is doing fine, is staying very busy, says the food and accommodations are better than expected, is frustrated that he has so little opportunity to email or call, is ever so appreciative for the many cards, letters, and packages from “home”, . . . Oh, well, the best way is to let him tell you in his own words!!!
 

March 15, 2004, Letter from Todd, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Greetings from Iraq: 3/15/04
 

Today is my 1st day in Iraq. We left Kuwait at “0-dark thirty,” or so, this morning from a point close to the border. Now we are staying overnight about 90 miles or so from Baghdad, and our destination. Our home for the next year will be Camp Victory North. . .
 

The trip was long, with a lot of waiting at stops: waiting to fuel, waiting at checkpoints, and waiting to get into camps. Last night we got in late and up early. People either slept outside their trucks “under the stars,” or in them. Last night I slept in the back of the 5T dump truck I was riding in, because it had a cover on it. (It was a good night’s sleep, but it was too short! – Up at 0330.) We also got in too late for hot chow. Tonight I hope to get hot chow; if my relief ever gets back… I’m guarding the truck and the gear so the others could go eat. Originally it was just myself and a driver. Then they added a medic to ride in the back the night before we left. Now, since a vehicle broke down we have 2 other passengers from that vehicle while it is towed. (Boy did they have a dusty & bumpy ride! – Part of the trip was on dirt roads.)
 

Well, tonight sleeping is about the same. I just hope to get a little more. I am really tired. On this kind of trip you can’t take a nap while someone else drives!
 

I don’t know what to expect tomorrow… Tents, Trailers, I don’t know..?
 

So far all we have seen is open land w/ a few huts, and adobe style homes. Poverty mostly! I guess tomorrow we will see the palaces and the city…
 

… Aside from being tired and dirty I’m doing well. I hope all of you are well, also! Thank you so very much for your continued thoughts & Prayers! I know w/o them I would not be doing as well as I am. I will continue to send pictures and news home from time to time, and I also welcome pictures! They kind of help bridge the miles between. Thank you also for your many emails and letters. . . . any mail (even late mail) is nice. . . .But, keep them coming please.
 

….. It doesn’t look like I’m going to get hot chow tonight, so I
 
better eat an MRE before my 2030 mtg.

. . . Chow is good, but the PX, phones, and internet are far away right now. They will be moving closer in the next couple of months.
 

March 17, 2004, Letter from Todd, Baghdad, Iraq
 

I guess as of tomorrow we have about 11 months left!…
 

. . .I had to get a broom to clean the mounting collection of dirt in my room. Everything I had was covered in dust from the convoy up. (I feel sorry for the guys in the back of the trucks, or the gunners who had no cover. We went thru some dust! Sometimes you couldn’t see the truck in front of you, or the ones coming at you from the other direction!…)
 

We are getting settled in. I am unpacking, and trying to get organized. I will have to try to make some shelves or something to put stuff on. My room came w/ a twin bed of sorts. (Better than a cot!!!) It also has a wall locker, and two small night stands, each w/ two drawers. Before long it will feel like “home.” It is a far cry from the open bay barracks at Ft. McCoy, or the big open tent we had in Kuwait!!! I still can’t believe it.
 

Tomorrow I think we are going over to the unit we are replacing. . . .Hopefully they will be a wealth of information! Nothing like experience to help make our stay here easier and SAFER.
 

March 21, 2004, Letter from Todd, Baghdad, Iraq
 

So far we have been going w/the unit we are replacing to run different missions. We went to an Air Base to deliver some large cement barriers. (to be used on the flight line.) I thought we were going to have to stay overnight, because we ran so late. We ran late because half of our convoy got lost, and ended up in downtown Baghdad. We had to wait on them while someone went to get them. (Not quite the place to stop and ask directions either… lol! ) Then when we got back we loaded up our trucks w/ the other unit’s equipment to help them take it back to Kuwait. They left this morning… They will be gone for several days. They will pick up some of our equipment that is still in Kuwait on the way back.
 

Today I helped run the road grader to grade the large open area between our trailers and the motor pool. Some of that area will be for maintenance tents to work on vehicles, and some of it will be for our rec area… (?) It was nice to operate equipment again. Usually it is just supervising. Tomorrow will be more of the same… It is a big area to grade.
 

. . . Today I got my first mail since I’ve been here.
 

March 26, 2004, Letter from Todd, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Well, I received more mail the past few days… One day I got 21 cards or letters. Tell everyone thank you! It is really nice to get stuff from home… makes it seem not so far away.
 

Well, I’m still trying to settle in….I will get to it eventually. If I’m not working, then I’m in a meeting, or at chow, sleeping… I do have some time in the evenings, but lately I’m really tired, and just want to sit down and relax. Others have had some time to themselves, but we have stayed pretty busy. For about a week, my section only had 5 personnel here. 5 equipment operators can stay pretty busy trying to support the work going on. Fortunately we were limited by what they could request, because we only had 3 pieces of equipment. Now most of the equipment is here from Kuwait. They arrived yesterday in the mid afternoon w/o incident.
 

Tomorrow we have a Transfer of Authority Ceremony to go to. This is where the Engineer Battalion we are replacing transfers the authority, and work, to our battalion.
 

March 28, 2004, Letter from Todd, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Well, I’ve received many cards, letters, and a few packages even… THANK YOU to everyone!!!
 

. . . . I’ve gotten over 50 cards and letters since arriving here at Camp Victory North, Iraq. It is really nice to get mail again . . .(Please thank everyone for me.)
 

Tomorrow we start our PT schedule of M/W/F. We have a 0600 formation for PT. . . . it’s not like we haven’t been working hard during the day – most days… The other day when we unloaded shipping containers w/ the crane I was so worn out. Climbing up and down, and moving chains around. Exercise in itself! And, not to mention the walking we do. I wish I had a bike!
 

March 31, 2004, Letter from Todd, Baghdad, Iraq (Todd’s Birthday!)
 

Well, I finally made it to the computer center! A ride became avail. at the last min. I took it for sure!..
 

Oh, and I did have some cake and ice cream today….
 

… in the back of the HUMMV on the way here.. (I had saved a piece of cake yesterday from the chow hall, and then I got some ice cream to go w/ it today… So, that and the fact that I got to come to the Internet Cafe – made it a good close to my birthday!)
 

April 3, 2004, Letter from Todd, Baghdad, Iraq
 

[Note from Todd re the Customs Declaration label required on packages):
One suggestion, don't list valuable items on the customs form... these
pkgs may be opened and never make it to me. - Just list "Misc. personal
items" - or nothing....]

Today was a long day… We went up to that air base again to deliver some generators, and like everything, it just takes a long time. Looking forward to a day off, and some rest. . . .Tomorrow we are supposed to be off. I hope so, for the whole day. I’m going to try to go to chapel in the AM. [And he did get to Chapel and said it was a very nice service.]
 

In your next email, please let everyone know I’m doing fine, and I appreciate their emails and cards and letter and packages!!!
 

April 6, 2004, Letter from Todd’s commander, Camp Victory North, Iraq
 

We have been in Iraq for over three weeks now and are settling into a routine. As of March 27th the 458th EN BN has taken over from the 1457th EN BN, who is now on their way home after a year in country and a job well done. The process of taking over for the 1457th included recon of Baghdad, past and present missions. This recon gave us our first glimpse of several famous places, such as Hussein’s parade field with the infamous Gates of Hell. We also visited the heart of Iraq’s new government district, labeled the Green Zone, and a nearby Bizarre where we saw first hand Iraqis engaging in capitalism and earning a living.
 

The temperatures here are still moderate, peaking into the high 70s during the afternoon, and sometimes a brisk 40 degrees at night and into the morning. Our camp here at Camp Victory North is brand new and, in fact, still under construction. We currently eat at a temporary dining facility hoping that the larger, permanent facility will be complete soon. The temporary facility was nice when we were the first ones here on this side of the camp, but now many more units have rolled in and the dining hall has gotten crowded.
 

We are now engaged in several missions, including improving our own camp to make it livable for the next year and the units that follow us when it is time for us to come home. Within the first few nights here, the horseshoes were flying as soldiers relaxed after a day’s work.
 

While the news that you are seeing at home may seem bad, rest assured that the Charlie Rock soldiers are conducting important work, much of it entirely inside the safety of our secured area. The officers and NCO’s take every precaution to ensure the safety of our soldiers, whether we leave “the wire” or remain inside. Know that we are here to “Finish the Fight” so that we can live in peace and so that our children and grandchildren will not have to come back to this place to pay the sacrifice that we make today.
 

May 16, 2004, Letter from Todd, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Greetings everyone. I just want to take a moment to bring you all up to date on what’s going on in my world here in sunny Iraq… Well it is still hot, and sunny most days. We do get an overcast day from time to time, but not too often. I’m writing you from my new “home.” (I hope it is temporary.) We have moved from Camp Victory to Camp Ferrin-Huggins until the end of June/first of July sometime. It is not too far from Camp Victory, and someone goes back every few days to get supplies and mail.
 

My new home fortunately is a room in a barracks, and not a tent. These barracks are new; so there is nothing in the rooms. We sleep on cots, and make do by improvising as engineers do best… lol.
 

The camp here is nice in what it has to offer the soldier. The camps are like oasises in the desert. This camp has a PX, coffee shop, snack bar, gift/misc goods shop, laundry svc, photo development, phone center, alterations, chapel, and a Soldier Center (rec ctr) that opens up today at noon. I hope to find the internet today… (If you get this you know I’ve found it…lol.) There is also a gym, post office, finance, medical and dental svc. It even has 2 Smoothie Bars… lol. (Something to do in the little time we do have off.) So, you can see this camp has everything, and even some of the regulations are not as restrictive as Camp Victory. (Rules like you have to be in proper uniform to go to the latrine/shower – DCU (desert camo uniform) or PT (physical training uniform) to include boots or shoes. I can’t even wear shower shoes (flip flops), and the latrine is only 25 yds from my trailer at most. If I’m wearing PTs then I have to have on the shorts, shirt (tucked in), PT shoes and socks. All this just to run to the john… lol.)
 

June 28, 2004, Letter from Todd’s mother
 

It’s been a while since I’ve sent news from Todd, so I wanted to take time to bring you up-to-date on what’s happening with him. They have very long and very busy days, so most emails from him are very brief, and the “news” is rather sketchy. We usually get to talk on the phone about once a week.
 

On May, 10 Charlie Co. temporarily relocated to FOB (Forward Operating Base) Falcon in the southern part of Baghdad (about 20-30 miles from Camp Victory). Up until the move they were mostly working on base camp improvements, with an occasional mission “outside the wire.” At FOB Falcon, Todd’s Squad was working on road projects for the expansion of that base. Lots of work; lots of dirt! In the beginning, they were working on a 2000 meter gravel road just outside “the wire” which would connect with a road on the base. They were dropped off at the job site at 6:30 AM and picked up at 6:30 PM! The only relief from the sun was to sit in the shadow of the equipment when they took a 30 min. lunch break to eat an MRE – not a tree around. And they work in full uniform with all the 50+lbs of gear (body armor, etc)! Sunburn hasn’t been a problem because the only place exposed to the sun is his nose, cheeks, and lips! (He did say he keeps sunscreen on his face…) Some nights he said he was too hot and too tired to go to the chow hall and just ate stuff from the “care packages”. I believe he said they had worked on four different roads. As time passed, they changed the schedule a bit – PT at 0600, work from 0830 to 1700. And then they had meetings to attend in the evenings – usually two, sometimes three. If he has any time to relax, he’ll usually put a DVD in his laptop and watch a bit of a movie – says it usually takes 3-4 nights to watch the whole thing. But, as Todd says, each day there brings him one day closer to getting home! He been there a little over 4 months now……
 

The temperatures now are ranging between 110 and 115 degrees, with a “real feel” temperature of 3-4 degrees higher. He said they have to wear gloves to work because the equipment is too hot to handle! Nights drop to the mid-70’s, with a “real feel” in the mid-80’s. His living quarters are air conditioned, but it seems that on most days the power is off for a few hours – often when they’re just getting in from work! Hopefully, they’ll get this corrected! Todd did manage to get a small refrigerator, so he can keep water and Gatorade cold – if the power will stay on!
 

I want to mention a couple of incidents which occurred on Wednesday, June 9. Early in the morning, as the soldiers were on their way to PT formation, a mortar round impacted between their barracks and motorpool. Two soldiers from Charlie Company sustained minor injuries, but they received treatment at the medical clinic and returned to duty. Todd was still in the barracks when the incident occurred.
 

The second incident was an attack against an element of another company within the battalion as they were carrying out their mission. They were attacked with small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. One vehicle sustained significant damage, with one soldier killed and four others wounded (two very seriously). They were conducting a mission which Charlie Company is taking over. This really brings home how serious this business is, and how easily this could have happened to any of our soldiers! Please remember these families in your prayers.
 

Assorted excerpts from letters received by Todd’s mother
 

6/30/04

Tonight I cut my hair. (I guess it’s easy enough to give yourself a buzz with the electric clippers! LOL) I was needing it, and it should be cooler now — hopefully! We have had to wear our full gear anywhere outside of our trailers due to the Transfer of Power that has recently happened. I can’t wait until we don’t have to wear it inside the wire again! I get off work, and I’m drenched under my vest!… (Imagine having to put on your armored vest, helmet, etc. just to go to the shower or latrine!)
 

7/1/04

Things here are about the same. Long HOT days, and we still have to wear all of our gear anywhere we go outside. It is precautionary due to the heightened alert status brought about by the handover two days ago. It just makes it hotter!
 

7/6/04

Well, it is still hot here. At lunch I saw a thermometer that read 115 degrees. Today I’m working inside answering the radio and phone at the Company Operations Center. I don’t mind the A/C & the a chair to sit in … lol. It is from 0700 until 1900. Someone sat in for me while I went to get something to eat… [I believe this is the first day that he hasn't worked outside all day since he's been there....]
 

Later 7/6/04

Well, it is 1448, and it is still HOT. The thermometer out front reads 124 degrees. (Hard to imagine……and with all those clothes on!)

It is nice to work inside for a change, but it makes it harder when you do have to go outside and do anything… I don’t know what I will be doing for the next few days.

Sitting here got kind of boring, and tiring right after lunch, so I got some of those coffee packets, and put them to use. Decaf so I don’t dehydrate, but just the coffee taste and smell helps …
 

7/8/04

The 1st Armored Division is finally getting to go home! Good for them. I can’t wait until it is our turn to go home. I hope and pray that we get to go home on time, and not get extended as they were.

I also will try to email you a web address for the 1st Cav’s web site. Their newspaper is online — “CAV COUNTRY.” I get the printed copy here sometimes. You can read about what is going on here a little more directly. Here it is: http://pao.hood.army.mil/1stcavdiv/ . Just select “Cav Country.” Hopefully it won’t take too long to load the pages. I think the April 30th issue was 12 pages long. You have to have Adobe Acrobat (document reader program) to read them. If you don’t have it I think you can get the latest version free online. If they load, but are slow to read through, you may try saving it to your computer, and reading it that way… I was going to try, but it was real slow downloading for me! (The 458th Engineering Battalion is attached to the 1st Cavalry Division.)
 

7/11/04

A little good news I didn’t get around to mentioning:
 

Friday a week ago, 7/2/04:
- I received a Certificate of Achievement from the 1st Cavalry Division/ 5th Brigade Combat Team, for work done down at Camp Ferrin-Huggins.
- I also received an Army Achievement Medal for work done during MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) Training back at Fort McCoy, WI.
- After that formation I found out that I made the list for promotion too! I should get promotion orders by the end of the month…
 

It was a good day (7/2/04) that didn’t start out too great … lol. First we didn’t have PT that morning (a good surprise), but instead we had room (Health & Welfare) inspections. My room was still a wreck from moving back, and the Commander had to be the one coming into my room. I think his words were “Holy Cow…,” or something like that … lol. Then I couldn’t get a ride to get X-rays, which I thought was going to cause problems. (I just went the next day…) All of this was before the formation and all the good news… Bad days have a way of turning out to be much better! God has a way of doing that!!!
 

Anyway, I will let you know when my promotion orders come in, and I actually get promoted.
 

We have also recently been “awarded” our Combat Patches. The 1st Cav Engineer Brigade had a formation for this occasion. A Combat Patch is the patch worn on the right shoulder w/ the flag below it showing you have served in combat w/ that division. The 1st Cav Combat Patch is special because it is different from the patch worn on the left shoulder, because when worn both horses face forward. I have the combat patch on only one uniform so far. I will get to alterations as time permits…
 

7/12/04

Greetings from Iraq.
 

Sorry I didn’t get to call you last night. I went to a “Town Hall Meeting” w/ the Commanding General of the Army Reserve. He flew in, and the mtg. was held in the palace over at South Victory. [Todd is on the other side of this base at Camp Victory North.] It was interesting, and the palace was amazing! When I got back I had to get ready to go to bed to get a little sleep before guard duty. I have guard duty a few times this week, and last night it was from 0200 – 0600.
 

I came back from guard duty and went to sleep. I slept until just after 1200, w/ one interruption. Now I’m ready if they need me, but otherwise I’m just available in my room. I mixed up some tuna for my lunch, and ate it w/ Ritz crackers, and I had some fruit cocktail. (Thanks to great care packages!)
 

I just caught a friend as he was going to the laundry, so I got him to drop off mine too. He’s a HOKIE too, but he is a few credits shy of graduating. I’m still going to have to do some hand washing to get through the next few days. After I get my uniforms laundered I can get another one to alterations to get another combat patch sewn on…
 

7/20/04, Email from Todd to me! From Baghdad, Iraq
 

I hope this finds you doing well! I’m glad the truck is treating you well, and meeting your needs. I agree w/ you about not going back to a car… except maybe a convertable to go w/ it… lol! I hope to get one just like it when I get back. I hope I can get a good deal on financing again.
 

Thank you for your support of the troops over here. Your web site is great! Thank you for including the “Support our Troops” link! I will try to send you more pics, and news when I can.
 

Tell Russell “HELLO” for me as well. I hope to hear from him. I can’t remember if I’ve emailed him, but I will try… I think I have his email address. Glad he and his wife are doing well.
 

Well, here’s a bit of the good “news” that is probably not reported by CNN: work is being done by the US Army to assist a local college to get back on it’s feet after the war, and after neglect. Work is being done by the military, and planning is being done to help the college receive grant money for work that needs to be done.
 

Also several months ago we went out and cleared some rubble to make an area usable again. We also helped re-grade a soccer field used by the local youth.
 

I better run. I want to get to the internet café before it gets too late. It’s almost 2100.
 

Hope you have a wonderful week.
Take Care & Be Safe!
 

Your Friend
- Todd
 

7/25/04, Email from Todd to his mom, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Hope this finds you doing well! Things here are going OK. I’m just trying to catch up on some emails. I’m going to try out another Internet cafe tonight that I found, and it has a laptop hookup. I hope it works out. It’s $2 / hour, but as I’ve said before it is worth it a few times a week. I need to pick up my laundry sometime, and clean my room up too. I hope I can get a lot done this afternoon. I’m going to try to call, but the lines have gotten really long at the phone center. We have recently had new troops move in, and everything is getting crowded again.
 

Things are still HOT, but we are dealing w/ it. I’ve heard that the weather charts say it will start cooling down in about a month… I can’t believe it is almost August.
 

I received another pkg from Carol Ann [last name withheld] the same day I rcvd your pkg # 18. I’m hopefully sending out thank you emails for her latest pkgs today when I send this… I still haven’t seen the pkg from LabCorp. I don’t know how Airborne express works over here, or how long it will take. The Army Post Office (APO) works just like the US Post Office, and uses the same equipment… That is probably the best way to send anything. Hopefully it doesn’t get lost! I will keep my eye out for it.
 

Laundry: I do use the clothes pins, but I just put two on a hanger, and hang what I need on it. I then hang the hanger outside my door on the A/C. I can hang a dripping wet uniform out when I go to bed, and it will be dry by morning. (Using the heat to my advantage.) At Ferrin-Huggins I ran a clothes line on the roof. I probably don’t need any more laundry detergent… I have plenty, and I just use dish soap, hand soap, or shampoo when I hand wash. We don’t have any washing machines now, and I don’t see us getting any. (I wish we did!)
 

Well, let me run… Tell everyone “HELLO” for me when you get a chance. I hope Brian & Colton are doing well! How are Gary & Victoria doing? Well, I hope! Tell Sue & Cordell – and their family “HELLO” when you see them.
 

7/21/04, Email from Todd to his mom, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Hope you are doing well! Things here are about the same. HOT! My platoon sergeant’s thermometer read 140 today. I had to go out and do some work at “the wire,” and it was pretty hot w/ full gear. I’m still soaked, and it’s 2142… I was soaked to the skin. (I got back just before 2000.)
 

I went to take a shower and wash my uniform out for tomorrow. I have to work a mission just outside the wire… Not far outside of one of our gates. It’s not a bad area — there are a few shade trees! I just have a few things to do to get ready in the morning before I link up w/ our escort/security.
 

I’m pretty tired so I better go to bed…. I will try to write more tomorrow. I hope you have a wonderful day!
 

IM chat logs with me(!) and Todd, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Session Start: Wed Aug 18 12:38:22 2004
[12:38] Me: Todd? This is [me]…. you there?
[12:38] Todd: hey there [me].

[12:38] Me: Wow! How are you?
[12:39] Me: I won’t keep you long as I know your time is probably limited, but wanted to say hello and all that since I happened to see you online.
[12:43] Me: I hope you’re doing well, and that all is safe. =0
[12:45] Todd: Hey, sorry.. I’m trying to talk to (argue w/) a couple people a the same time..

[12:45] Todd: I have a connection in my room now..

[12:45] Me: I understand. Connection in your room? Hey, that’s neat! Now you need a web-cam! haha!
[12:46] Me: Congrats again on the promotion… has that gone all of the way through yet?
[12:48] Me: Oh yeah, is there anything you need? Anything? We’re sending you that box, and would LOVE to put stuff in it that you really want/need!
[12:48] Todd: yes it is official..

[12:49] Todd: thx.

[12:50] Todd: I can’t get Yahoo msgr to work .. It keeps trying to get me to upgrade to the New and improved..

[12:51] Me: I am using “trillian” which can connect to AOL, Yahoo, MSN and ICQ messengers.
[12:52] Me: I told [my wife] you said “hello” and she tells me that the Bun (our term for the baby since we don’t know the sex yet) started kicking around! Must be the excitement in hearing from you. =)
[12:54] Todd: lol

[12:55] Me: lemme know if you want/need us to send you something special or specific… anything. It’s our honor to do that for you since you’re over there for us! Really, I mean it. =)
[12:56] Todd: I can’t think of anything… thank you very much for thinking of me.

[12:57] Me: We do daily… we keep you and all of our troops over there in our prayers.
[12:59] Me: Well, I’ll let you go now so that you can get other stuff done with the limited time you have. Take care of yourself and keep in touch! God Speed!
[12:59] Me: Let me know if you need anything.
[13:02] Todd: Your PRAYERS make every new day possible — Thank you.

[13:02] Todd: take care & God bless.

[13:02] Todd: TTYL

Session Close: Wed Aug 18 13:16:20 2004
 

Session Start: Fri Aug 20 14:51:21 2004

[14:51] Me: Hey, I was AFK when you said hello. So, Hello back to ya!

[14:54] Todd: thanks.

[14:54] Todd: I hope you are having a good day.

[14:54] Me: Hey, any Friday is a good day! =) How about you?

[14:55] Todd: you just caught me..

[14:55] Todd: I’m probably not off until Mon this week.

[14:55] Todd: my one day off.

[14:55] Me: Ugh. What a bummer. I’ll have a beer for ya this weekend, then.

[14:56] Me: Any big plans for your day off? What do you do on those days off? Do you get into town at all?

[14:56] Me: Or is it not safe enough?

[14:57] Todd: not hardly.. I try not to leave the base..

[14:58] Me: Is there enough to do on the base? How about DVDs… need some new ones?

[14:58] Todd: to leave the base you have to have a min of 3 vehicles, w/ 2 persons min in each, and machine gunners in the front and rear vehicles..

[14:58] Todd: No, we have everything we need here on the camp.

[14:58] Todd: It is pretty nice..

[14:59] Me: I can see how leaving the base can be an ordeal. I’m glad that the base is “all-inclusive”. About how large of an area is the base?

[14:59] Me: if that’s not “classified” ?

[15:00] Todd: I’m not really sure…

[15:00] Me: ok, is it a matter of miles or yards…? Maybe you can say that?

[15:00] Todd: miles …

[15:00] Todd: it’s pretty large area…

[15:01] Me: ok, that’s cool. I imagined it would have to be pretty big. I was thinking like the size of Andrews AFB or something like that.

[15:01] Me: Or bigger. That’s a good deal of real estate!

[15:02] Todd: It’s still pretty hostile at times out there, so if I don’t have to go out, it doesn’t hurt my feelings…

[15:02] Me: Yeah, playing it safe when you can is wise. You guys are already heros for what you’re doing for the Iraqi people– you don’t need to by martyrs.

[15:03] Todd: We should all pray for the guys who patrol the city, and the roadways daily. They have a tough job.

[15:03] Me: be not by… can’t type today.

[15:03] Todd: We support them from time to time

[15:03] Me: Believe me, we do, although not as specifically since we don’t “know” them.

[15:03] Todd: right..

[15:03] Todd: me neither..

[15:03] Me: support how? Assisting in patrols?

[15:05] Todd: Well one of our platoons patrols a sector in the city, and two others patrol the roads looking for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) – bombs on the road..

[15:05] Todd: anyway.. not to bore you..

[15:05] Me: IEDs…. looking for them with a really long stick I hope!

[15:05] Me: No, not boring to me, since we don’t know more than what the liberal news media wants to tell us.

[15:06] Todd: I better run.. I’m beat , and I finally got my bed cleared from a care pkg I rcvd.

[15:06] Todd: almost..

[15:06] Todd: The vehicle has a really long hydraulic arm w/ a claw

[15:06] Me: Ah, ok, well get some rest, soldier! =) Have a safe weekend!

[15:06] Todd: they call the mission IRON CLAW

[15:06] Me: send me a picture of it if you can, and I’ll put it on the website.

[15:06] Todd: THX.

[15:06] Me: that’d be cool.

[15:09] Todd: take care and tell [my wife] hello…

[15:09] Me: I will! Thanks. Good night!

Session Close: Fri Aug 20 15:13:18 2004
 

Session Start (Excerpt): Tue Sep 07 08:45:35 2004

[08:45] Me: Just saw you pop on! Howdy! =)

[08:46] Todd: fine, I just got back in from work..

[08:46] Todd: how are you?

[08:46] Me: I’m not usually looking; just happened to open the screen to see who was on.

[08:46] Me: We’re doing very well here. How are things there?

[08:46] Todd: fine inside the wire… still “iffy” outside the wire though…

[08:47] Me: yeah, been reading that in the press here. Keep alert!

[08:47] Me: You are all still doing a wonderful job over there, though!

[08:49] Me: I know I keep saying that a lot, but I can’t help it. I’m proud of our troops overseas, and when I talk to people about it, I’m especially proud because you’re there! Gives me an extra boost that I actually know someone there. ;)

[08:49] Me: Of course, we’d MUCH rather have you back home!

[08:50] Todd: likewise… I’d rather be home, but it is my duty to do my tour!

[08:50] Todd: To give another soldier a break.

[08:51] Me: I’ve heard a lot of guys/gals who have been there or are en route express that same thing… that’s what makes our troops so awesome!

[08:51] Todd: as much as I say I don’t like it, I hope we are making a difference!

[08:51] Me: I think that you are, although the mainstream press back here won’t admit it. It’s really bad here (my opinion) what the press is doing just because it is a political season and they want Kerry to beat Bush.

[08:52] Me: so they use the war as a means to attack bush on record

[08:52] Me: so we don’t really get to hear all of the good things you are all doing over there. That’s why it is so cool to actually “talk” to someone there.


[09:09] Todd: I just spent last week down there w/ a group working on various projects.

[09:10] Me: Anything fun? Projects, like what (if it’s not confidential)? Just curious… more stuff to put on the site!

[09:16] Todd: We were doing engineering missions — grading various areas and putting gravel down to improve them

[09:17] Me: Oh, sounds like a real party. haha!

[09:17] Todd: grade, compact, gravel, grade, & compact again… we do a lot of that for many different purposes…

[09:18] Me: one would think that the ground would be hard enough already

[09:18] Todd: gravel can be hard to walk in, but it will be nice when the rains come during the “rainy season”.

[09:19] Me: ah, true. Didn’t think about that. See? You guys are doing great things for them over there!

[09:19] Todd: no, the dirt turns to dust — refered to here as “moon dust” — and is a mess.

[09:19] Me: very fine, eh?

[09:19] Todd: There will be many improvements made

[09:20] Todd: yes like walking in light cocoa powder

[09:20] Me: hopefully improvements in their way of life, too, not just infrastructure.

[09:20] Todd: I hope so too.

[09:21] Todd: Schools, power…

[09:21] Me: I only imagine that things can only improve from what they were, especially with the old regime gone.

[09:21] Todd: yes…

[09:21] Todd: got to run to a mtg…

[09:21] Me: Thanks for chatting! Hope to catch you later! Keep the faith!!!! Go Troops!

Session Close: Tue Sep 07 09:21:35 2004
 

8/22/04, Email from Todd to his mom, Baghdad, Iraq
 

I hope this finds you doing well, and all things going well at home. Things here are going OK considering the circumstances.
 

Yesterday I had to go out on a mission to block off a road where a bridge had been damaged by a bomb. We redirected traffic w/ Jersey barriers. I felt like I was back at work… It went well, and we were back inside by dark. It was still 2200 by the time I got back to my room.
 

I had to work today. I had CQ duty again monitoring the radio / phone, and issuing keys and gear for the various happenings of the day. It hasn’t been too bad, but sitting around sometimes makes me drowsy. We have had the Olympics on for most of the day, and that has been nice. I haven’t been able to keep up w/ it much otherwise. I did, however get to go to chapel this morning. One of the guys sat in for me while I went.
 

I hope to have another day off to make up for today. Maybe even tomorrow.
 

9/23/04, Email from Todd to his mom, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Hope this finds you doing well! Things here are going ok. Still kind of hot. My internet is down, and I’m not sure when it will be fixed… Hopefully before too long!!
 

The past two days I have been working w/ an Iraqi crane operator. It has been interesting and kind of a refreshing break. It is nice to hear how an Iraqi citizen feels about the changing Iraq. He is positive about the change, and hopes it improves and the insurgents will eventually leave. My hummv is in the shop, so I’ve just been riding w/ him after I pick him up at the gate in the morning. I will probably work w/ him for a couple more days before he goes back to work w/ one of our other companies.
 

Well, let me run. I don’t want to tie up this computer here in the operations center. I will call this weekend. Hopefully we will have all Sunday off!
 

9/25/04, Email from Todd to me(!), Baghdad, Iraq
 

I finally got to download the speeches you sent, and I thank you! I just started reading Bush’s speech first, and I wish I could have heard him give it. I will print these out, and make them avail. to the guys in my platoon to read. I think some would enjoy reading them. Many of us haven’t gotten our ballots yet, so I hope we do soon — AND OUR VOTES ARE COUNTED!!!!
 

How is the truck doing? My Mom tried to tell me I should think about buying a more gas efficient vehicle when I get home … lol… I’m still planning on getting another Dakota 4 door 4×4. That was the best vehicle I ever owned, and I hope it is treating you as well!

  
[Yes, Todd, the truck is working out just fine!]
 

Well, let me run… I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
 

10/10/2004, Email from Todd to his mom, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Greetings Everyone,
 

I hope this finds you all doing well! Things here have cooled down a bit, with daytime temps in the mid 90′s. We actually had rain yesterday for the first time since late April. It wasn’t anything like what you have been getting though. It rained several times throughout the evenings, but only for about 5 mins at a time…
 

Well, I’m gearing up to take a break and go on R&R in Qatar (pronounced Cutter). I’m looking forward to a break from the War; even if only for a few days. It’s scheduled for 5 days — 1 travel day down, 3 days R&R, and 1 day back I think… If they hold me down there an extra day it wouldn’t hurt my feelings! I won’t be coming home for a “mid-tour” break/leave, but I probably wouldn’t have make the cut anyway. (Not everyone is able to get “mid-tour” leave.) I felt like “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.” I do look forward to seeing all of you after I get home!
 

No other news though. Things here are moving along… We just finished our Guard cycle week, and so our missions slowed down some, so the guys could do their guard shifts, and sleep too… It was a nice break for them, and me too!
 

We got power back in our MWR tent, and it will probably be fully functional about the time we leave. But, really I did get the A/C’s working again, but no luck w/ the fridge… The “new” one we got didn’t work either. They are supposed to try to get yet another … lol.
 

Well, let me close this email… I thought I had great things to say, but they escape me. Maybe the next time I write it will be from Qatar on R&R, and I will have a clearer head from the relaxation. Then maybe I’ll think of all the great things I wanted to say … lol. Then again, maybe not…lol. Until then…
 

Take Care & God Bless!

Thank you for your continued thoughts and PRAYERS.
 

10/12/04, Email from Todd to Everyone, Qatar
 

Greetings Everyone from Qatar,
 

This is the 1st full day of my R&R, and it has been very relaxing! I guess I was in the right place at the right time this morning when a “Cultural Tour” was about to depart w/ a seat open. The trip was paid for, and no one else in the room wanted to go, so I took it. It was a good break…
 

The trip… We first went to a vegetable market where I got a banana to supplement my cereal bar and coffee breakfast. Then we went to the gold market district, and then to the spice market. It was nice seeing the many shops and markets. We then took a short stop to take some photos near the water before going to lunch. We had lunch at a traditional Arabic Family Restaurant. Our last stop was at an Equestrian Ctr where the Royal Family keeps their horses.
 

It was surely nice to go out, and be like a “real person” again. I haven’t had civilian clothes on in 8 months. What a nice change!
 

Well, let me run… I hope all of you are doing as well!
 

Take Care & God Bless!
Thank you for your continuing thoughts & PRAYERS!
 

10/15/04, Email from Todd to Everyone, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Greetings Everyone,
 

Well, I’m back “home” safely in Baghdad again. The Lord blessed us w/ a very good flight back. We flew back again on a C-130 Cargo plane, but it was a smooth ride, and I felt much better on this flight than I did going down.
 

It was a nice break from the combat zone, and it only makes me long for home! Before I know it I hope… Time has flown by thus far, so hopefully it will continue.
 

Well, I am off to a mtg to close out the evening, and then I will get some dinner and catch up on a few things before getting some rest. My day today started at 0300, and I didn’t get much sleep during the trip back.
 

I will write more later… Thank you for your continued thoughts and PRAYERS!
 

IM chat logs with me(!) and Todd, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Session Start: Wed Sep 29 13:17:36 2004
Todd: Tim, how are you doing?

Me: Hi, I have about 10 minutes between meetings. How are ya!?

Me: i got your email the other day; was going to reply today but got really busy. Will try tonight.

[13:23] Todd: fine & you.

[13:23] Me: Glad to hear it… all’s well here.

[13:24] Todd: good deal.

[13:25] Todd: hope they aren’t working you too hard.

[13:25] Me: always too hard, but at least inside in the a/c… unlike you. =( Wish i could send you some!

[13:26] Todd: thank you for the thought.

[13:26] Todd: cooler weather is coming, but w/ it will come the rain (which leads to mud), and the bugs again.

[13:26] Todd: it was even too hot for some of the bugs… lol.

[13:27] Me: always thinking of ya! I was going to update the website this past weekend, but got caught up in other stuff… will get to that, too

[13:27] Me: LOL

[13:27] Todd: ok, cool.

[13:28] Me: i’ll email you and let you know

[13:29] Todd: ok, thanks… i won’t keep you, i know you are busy. I have to run out myself.

[13:29] Me: gotta run… stay safe! May the force be with you!

[13:29] Todd: hope to chat w/ you again soon.

[13:29] Me: me too! cya

[13:29] Todd: and you my young jedi.

[13:29] Todd: “younger”…

[13:30] Me: Hey! LOL

[13:30] Todd: lol … only by a day right!… lol

[13:30] Todd: cya bye.

Session Close: Wed Sep 29 13:30:46 2004

 

IM chat logs with me(!) and Todd, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Session Start: Mon Oct 25 14:01:07 2004

Todd: geetings from Baghdad..

Me: Howdy, soldier!

Me: how are things there? Sounded like you had a nice R&R trip.

*** Error while sending IM: This user is currently not logged on

Session Close: Mon Oct 25 14:06:52 2004
 

Session Start: Mon Oct 25 14:09:08 2004

Todd: our connection must be bad… I’ve had some trouble w/ it on my end..

Todd: i better go though..

Todd: I have to finish reading some info on the Ranges that we have coming up.

Todd: I have to prepare a Range Safety Briefing for tomorrow..

Me: sorry this is so short then. =(

Todd: Talk to you later..

Me: stay safe!!

Session Close: Mon Oct 25 14:13:50 2004
 

Session Start: Mon Oct 25 14:15:05 2004

[14:15] Todd: yes, I will try to get back in touch w/ you soon!

[14:15] Todd: hope you have a wonderful day!

[14:15] * Me salutes you!

[14:15] *** Error while sending IM: This user is currently not logged on

Session Close (Todd): Mon Oct 25 14:15:23 2004
 

Session Start: Fri Oct 29 14:22:04 2004

[14:22] Todd: hey there tim

[14:22] Me: Hi partner!

[14:22] Todd: how are you

[14:22] Me: doing well, here. How are things over there?

[14:22] Todd: ?

[14:22] Todd: thank you for putting the newsletter on your web site

[14:23] Me: no problem! I told your mom that I am glad to do it!

[14:23] Todd: things are fine… under the circumstances..

[14:23] Todd: things though over here change like the wind.

[14:23] Me: keeping you busy?

[14:24] Todd: steady.

[14:24] Me: well, hopefully it’ll keep your mind off of not being home. Any word on that?

[14:24] Todd: and getting ready to get busier

[14:25] Me: rainy season coming?

[14:26] Todd: they say the rainy season is coming, but i’m not sure what that is going to mean this year…

[14:26] Todd: no word on when we are leaving.

[14:27] Me: I’m sure rainy season will mean a lot of yucky mud. =( Sorry to hear there’s been no word. Are you all doing anything for Halloween? Dressing up like soldiers to go trick-or-treating? hehe

[14:30] Todd: dressing up like soldiers.. and maybe even full gear for a change…

[14:31] Me: dress up like a humvee hehe

[14:31] Todd: that would be good.

[14:32] Todd: maybe just a palm tree..

[14:32] Me: lol that’s funny

[14:32] Me: or a MRE ?

[14:32] Todd: there are bushes, so I could go as bush!

[14:32] Me: a pile of sand

[14:32] Me: a sleeping bag… that’d be easy

[14:33] Me: good to see you haven’t lost your humor



[14:35] Todd: i just don’t unpack it very often (my humor that is..)

[14:35] Me: I would figure that laughing would be a good way to deal with it all

[14:37] Todd: yes, we cut up from time to time..

[14:37] Todd: “laughter is the best medicine.”

[14:43] Me: keep it up, if you can! We’re thinking of you every day back here. I’d like to start counting down the days, but since we don’t know…. it’d be moot. =( Hurry up, darnit!

[14:43] Todd: lol… right.

[14:43] Todd: thanks for the thoughts and prayers.

[14:44] Me: it’s the least I can do for what all of you are doing for us over there

[14:46] Todd: thank you for your support, and for making it a public “campaign” for support.

[14:47] Me: You’re very welcome. I hope that by putting the newsletter up, and having your mom tell everyone about it, we can garner even more attention and support (and prayers!) for everyone over there.

[14:48] Todd: HOPE SO.

[14:48] Me: They have made car magnets here that look like ribbons that say “Support Our Troops” or “We Love Our Troops” things like that….

[14:48] Todd: cool.

[14:48] Me: I bought one for “our” truck… it’s camoflage in color (as opposed to yellow)

[14:49] Me: These “ribbons” are on a lot of cars… a lot of people have them.

[14:49] Todd: i saw a short newspaper pic of a group holding up a sign apologizing to the Iraqis for us “messing up” their lives.

[14:49] Todd: these people have no idea!!!!

[14:50] Me: Contrary to the press, there is a lot of support here.

[14:50] Me: I hadn’t seen that picture. Idiots.

[14:50] Todd: i think it was in the stars & stripes…

[14:51] Me: I don’t think a lot of Americans are fooled by things like that. They may have differing opinions, but they support you guys (and gals!)

[14:52] Todd: thanks, i hope so… because “some gave all!”

[14:53] Me: We stopped at a yard sale a couple of weeks ago, and the guy there complimented the truck. I told him it was yours, and that I bought it when you went over there, and he (an older veteran) perked up, and sent his blessings. I meant to tell you earlier.



[14:58] Me: I cannot express the amount of pride I have for you and your fellow soldiers. Every time I can tell someone that my best friend is in Iraq, I do… it’s awesome!

[14:59] Me: Who’d have thunk it way back in 9th grade, eh?

[15:00] Todd: I know… i never would have imagined being where i am now, from playing army, and cops & robbers, to living it!

[15:01] Me: well, I can’t say that I am totally surprised , but still, I would’ve never imagined that we’d be in a “war”, and that I’d know someone actively participating in it. Makes me long for the innocent childhood days.

[15:06] Todd: if we could only go back …

[15:06] Todd: had some really good times.

[15:06] Todd: and some good laughs!

[15:09] Me: yeah, no kidding. All those snow days out of school playing DND Band trips. Scouts.



[15:22] Todd: well, i better go get a few things done before hitting the sack.

[15:22] Todd: i hope you have a good day.

[15:23] Me: ok, sleep well! Take care, and stay safe!

Session Close (Todd): Fri Oct 29 15:26:19 2004
 

11/5/2004, Email from Todd to his mom, Ballad, Iraq
 

Hello Everyone,
 

Greetings from Ballad, Iraq. I’m up here at Logistical Support Area (LSA) Anaconda for a few days to start the work that will eventually get us home… Whenever that is??? We flew up this morning on a Blackhawk Helicopter. It was a nice uneventful flight up. We flew over Baghdad, and stopped in the Green Zone prior to heading north to Ballad.
 

I hope this finds everyone doing well! Things here are going OK. The temperatures are lower and more comfortable. We finally had some significant rain this week. It really made a muddy mess!!! Things are drying up now – just waiting for the next rainy day…
 

It is nice to be away from the company area for a little while; even for work. It is generally less stressful then.
 

This is where my cousin Hollie was assigned when she first got to Iraq before moving to Mosul. It would be nice if she were still here! We have had the afternoon to kind of find our way around, and get something to eat… I had Burger King, and others had Pizza Hut. (At Camp Victory North we only have a BK — I’m usually content w/ the chow hall, but on rare occasions…)
 

This base seems to be nice. The airport is right here for one (maybe I could get a flight home??)… and they have a swimming pool, movie theater, and a decent PX. The group I came up here w/ made a few connections and got up hooked up w/ a HUMMV, and some decent housing. We are staying in a wooden building w/ bunks and a locker instead of tents. NICE!! And the internet and phones are right next door!
 

Well, I better run see what the others are doing… It will soon be time to go eat dinner.
 

Just a quick note to let you all know I’m doing OK. I will try to write more soon.
 

Take care & God Bless!
 

11/6/2004, Email from Todd to his mom, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Greetings everyone,
 

Well, I’m back from LSA Anaconda, and back in my room at Camp Victory North (which has been renamed, Camp Liberty – FYI). It was a nice flight back in a Blackhawk again. A direct flight this time. Flying is the way to go!!!
 

I’m hoping to have tomorrow off, but only time will tell… I don’t know what next week holds, but I’m sure it will be busy.
 

I will close this short note, by saying I’m doing OK here, and I hope y’all are doing fine at home!
 

Take Care & God Bless!
 


11/11/04, Email from Todd to everyone, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Greetings Everyone on this Veteran’s Day 2004,
 

I hope this find everyone doing well!
 

This Veteran’s Day has special meaning to me as I write you this letter from the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq. The assault on Fallujah goes on in the distance to the West, and the continued unrest can be heard in the, not so distant, distance… I am fortunate to be here inside the wire writing you this letter, but there are soldiers and marines out there outside the wire in harms way trying to secure some sort of stability.
 

Please remember them in your PRAYERS, and PRAY for their families. Ask God to watch over them, and comfort their families back home. Please ask God to lay his healing hand upon those who have been wounded, and a comforting hand on the families of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
 

Continue to PRAY for all service members deployed around the world!
 

Thank you, from me personally, for your continued thought and PRAYERS, emails, letters, and care packages!!!
 

Hope to see you all soon!
Take Care & God Bless!
- Todd
 

“LAND OF THE FREE, BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE!”


 

12/15/04, Email from Todd to everyone, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Greetings Everyone,
 

I hope this finds all doing well! Well, this will probably be my last group email from my personal Internet connection here in Iraq. I was truly fortunate to have had it. It gave me a connection to the world back home, and all of you that made this experience so much easier to deal with. Thank you all for your many emails to me during this deployment. Please continue to send emails, because I will check my “mail box” every chance I get at the Internet Cafe, or at our office. Since they are also “suspending” mail service early I’ll be dependent on email to keep me in touch w/ all of you. As I’ve always said, Mail Call was one of my favorite times of the day, and a key to survival away from home. Now it will have to be “Email Call!”
 

Thank you all for your continued thoughts and PRAYERS! This all would not be possible without your support!
 

You still may see me on AIM instant messenger. I just won’t be on quite as often… This lack of communication that I have enjoyed will make things tougher, but it only marks the fact that the end of our tour of duty is hopefully getting closer.
 

Please pray that our remaining time here passes quickly and safely, and we are soon reunited with our family and friends back in the United States!
 

Take Care & God Bless!
 

Hope you all have a Very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!!


 

12/19/04, Email from Todd to everyone, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Greetings Everyone,
 

Well, yesterday marked 10 months here in the desert! I can’t believe how time has flown by. “How time flies when you are having…”- well, anyway… I’m just taking it one day at a time. I thank God for every new day, which is one day closer to coming home!
 

I can’t believe it is almost Christmas. Last night we had a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The tree is in a “courtyard” near our Dining Facility, Rec. Center, Gym and Chapel. It was nice that they had the ceremony, but I couldn’t hear much of what was said… lol.
 

Things here are still colder. Today it is overcast, but not raining like last Sunday. Yesterday I saw frost on some equipment, and found where some standing water had frozen over night. Not what I expected. I surely hope the tents we will be moving into have good heaters!
 

I’m headed off to the Post Office to mail some stuff home that I don’t need any longer. I hope it will make room for me to straighten up even further… Moving is no fun, but when it means coming home soon, it takes on a whole new light… LOL!!
 

I better run… Take care, and God Bless!
 

Thank you for your continued thoughts and PRAYERS!
 

Merry Christmas


 

12/25/04, Email from Todd to everyone, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Merry Christmas Everyone from Iraq –
 

As I sit here in Iraq, far from family and friends, I think of how close I am to where it all began. Closer than I’ve ever been to where Jesus Christ, the “Reason for the Season,” was born. It is only approximately 540 miles from here to Bethlehem. (I could drive that distance in a day back home.) I try to think of all the good things that have happened in this part of the world while surrounded by all the bad. As I try not to think about being away from my family and friends I think of Christ and the gift he gave to us… He came to earth born a child, and grew up to die a man for the forgiveness of our sins. I thank God for watching over us all at this time, and at all times!
 

Christmas Eve recap:
 

After lunch yesterday Charlie Company gathered at the Operations Center (office), and grounded our gear for some Christmas festivities. (We have been in “full battle rattle” for a few days now.) We gathered outside around our Christmas tree for a few holiday words, and the sharing of the many care packages that had been sent to our company for Christmas. We then had the rest of the afternoon off. It was a nice break, and it almost felt like Christmas… Later that evening, after the ever present evening meeting, there was a Christmas Eve Chapel service. It was a nice service in our new chapel which has been open for a few weeks. It was a candle light service, with a little help from chem. lights (or glow sticks). The service was rounded out by lighting individual candles from the Advent Candles. This provided light for the final message, and carol…
 

For a short while I could feel the holiday spirit, and forget about where I was. However, after walking back to my room I was very poignantly reminded of where I was and what was going on. It was about 2130, and the sky was lit up not by a shining star in the west as it was some 2000 years ago, but by an orange glow in the east. This orange glow then turned into a fireball bigger than I’ve ever seen, as a fuel tanker used as a vehicle born improvised explosive device (VBIEB) exploded somewhere between Camp Liberty (aka Camp North Victory) and the Green Zone. Now that will get your attention!
 

Christmas Day…:
 

Today I awoke day feeling somewhat better from the “too many cookies” feeling I had last night. We didn’t have a white Christmas, but it is turning out to be a wet Christmas. It is raining here this morning, and we are back to work… Well, sort of. I’ll go to work after chapel and lunch. We are working short shifts today, and hope to have tomorrow off as usual! Even with the rain and the work you will still hear an occasional “Merry Christmas.” So most spirits are still high…
 

I’m used to working Christmas, and have long since not thought of Christmas as a day, but a feeling or a time. It is a feeling that you get when you are together with family and friends. It is a feeling you get when you can give something to the ones you care about. It is at the time whenever the opportunity allows. I’ve had Christmas early or late for many years… For me my True Christmas will be when I can be home again safely with my family and friends at whatever time that is…! That is my Christmas Gift!
 

You all have given me so much during my time away, and for this I’m truly thankful. Thank you for your support, your many cards, letters, emails, and care packages. I’ll no longer be receiving mail, but please keep writing me via email. I’ll check this as much as possible. I can still have my own “E-mail Call.”
 

I better close this for now, and I’m off to the Christmas Day Chapel service.
 

Merry Christmas to all, and may God Bless you!!!
 

Thank you for your continued thoughts and PRAYERS!


 

1/15/05, Email from Todd to everyone, Baghdad, Iraq
 

Greetings Everyone,
 

I hope this finds you all doing well!
 

As I sit here on my cot in my new home, which some may call a tent, I reflect back on were I was ten months ago. Ten months ago tonight I was sleeping in the back of a truck about 2 hours south of here anxiously awaiting the trip the next day to get this “show on the road.” Now I sit here anxiously awaiting our turn to leave! Let’s get this “show on the road!”
 

Ironically the tents we are living in now are in the same area where the unit we replaced once lived. The “landscape” is different, but the land is the same. As they rolled out of here last April, we too hope to roll out of here sometime soon. We are just a short distance from the gate where we first entered the BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) area ten months ago tomorrow, and hopefully the same gate we will be leaving from soon!
 

I “commute” back to Camp Liberty everyday now to work. We still operate out of our operations center there, and we will hand it over to our replacements when the time comes. Work continues trying to get ready to eventually “head south for the winter” to Kuwait. We are trying to prepare as much as we can here, so it will be easier when we get to Kuwait.
 

I’m sorry that I have been out of touch. I really miss my internet connection! I haven’t been to the internet café much lately, and my access at the operations center is limited and short. One computer for internet access, and it is always in demand! I try to get on and get off to make time for the next person.
 

The days lately have been long. Before we moved I would usually work late on paperwork for our redeployment to the States. Then I would go back to my room and relax a bit before trying to pack for the move… I finally got my room cleaned out, turned in, and eventually got settled into my spot in the tent. The tents have good heat, electricity, and my coffee pot. For now, home is where the coffee is…lol!
 

The tents we are living in now are about the same size as the ones we lived in while in Kuwait, but we have less than ½ the people each of them. These also have better heat, and a concrete floor instead of a plywood one. It will be interesting to see how things have changed down in Kuwait, but by then it won’t matter… guys would sleep outside on their trucks just to go home!
 

Well, I better close this for now… I will try to keep you updated on how I’m doing a little more often. It may be by sending group emails to you or thru updates from my mother who has done a wonderful job of passing on information! Thanks Mom!!!
 

Take care everyone, and God Bless!
 

Sincerely,

Todd


 

2/3/05, Email from Todd to everyone, Baghdad, Iraq
 

[Here's a recent picture!]
 


Greetings Everyone-
 

Good Morning from Iraq. It is almost 0300 here, and it is a clear star filled sky. I woke up at 0200, and figure I better take advantage of the time to get a hot shower. This camp is so full now that hot showers at normal times are out of the question… Even after 0200 there were other people up and taking showers. I guess I didn’t have such a unique idea after all – lol! Anyway, I feel much better after a hot shower!
 

I made it back just in time! It sounds like it is beginning to rain. Maybe it wasn’t so clear after all. It was clear when I went to bed. I hope this rain is short. Things are still muddy from the rain we had over 2 weeks ago. Yes, it is definitely raining.
 

We continue to load things and pack our gear to get it ready to head south to Kuwait. As we loaded a truck last night the other sergeant said it didn’t even feel like a year, and he is right. Another sergeant I was working with earlier in the day said he couldn’t believe we were loading up, and it almost seemed like a dream. He said he was waiting to wake up…
 

A lot has happened over the past year! In about 2 weeks we will mark our 12 months over here. Hopefully we won’t be here too much longer than a year! It does seem like a dream, but it is truly a dream coming true. I hope things continue to move forward toward departure, and that they continue to move forward safely! Please continue to remember us, and all the troops, in your PRAYERS!
 

I will close this now, because I am again tired, and need to go back to sleep. A hot shower can only wake you up so much at 0300… lol!
 

Take care & God Bless!


 

2/7/05, Email from Todd to everyone, Camp Victory, Kuwait
 

Greetings Everyone…
 

It has been a tiring past few days, but time is still moving forward to the one year mark … actually about 10 days.
 

This past Sunday was a long day! I was up over 24 hours as we completed hopefully our last mission in Iraq! I got up at 0200, and got my gear ready to leave at 0400. One more day of “full battle rattle.” One last mission… This mission was the climax to our deployment; I guess you save the best until last.. It was a long day, and at times very tiring, but overall the mission went well! No one got hurt, and we only broke a trailer or two, and had minor mechanical problems otherwise.
 

The best part of this particular mission on Sunday was the feeling you got when you crossed the border. You see our mission was to convoy our remaining equipment out of Iraq, and into Kuwait! GREETINGS FROM KUWAIT!!!!
 

We are back where we started from almost one year ago. We are staying in Camp Victory, Kuwait. Things here have changed a bit in a year, but still it is familiar. It is a little chilly in the mornings and evenings, but it is a better cold… I’d rather be cold in Kuwait than in Iraq.. lol!
 

Well, I better run…. I hope all of you are well, and I will try to keep you updated on our progress as we keep moving toward home. We are not there yet, but this is surely a step in the right direction!!!
 

Take Care & God Bless!
Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and PRAYERS! (We still have some of our soldiers in Iraq waiting to fly down later….)


 

2/21/05, Email from Todd to everyone, Camp Victory, Kuwait
 


Greetings Everyone,
 

Things here in Kuwait are moving along… We successfully moved all of our equipment to the port on Saturday. It was a long day, but worth it. Now we just have to worry about getting our individual gear packed and Customs inspected. I still have to mail a few things home before I leave, but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel!
 

I’m still hearing that our time at Ft McCoy, WI will be short. I’m hoping they get us through the out processing quickly, and I will be flying home to Richmond before I know it! I’m looking forward to getting back to VA!
 

I will continue to keep you updated along the way…
 

Thank you for your continued thoughts and PRAYERS!
 

Take Care & God Bless!


 

2/25/05, Email from Todd to everyone, Germany
 


Greetings Everyone from Germany,
 

We are stopped here to refuel and will be on our way to the United States!
 

The flight has gone well so far, and I hope it will continue to go smooth! I hope to get some additional sleep on this next leg… The said it could take 7-9 hours to get to our next stop in Maine, and then onto Wisconsin.
 

I will call when I get back to US soil.
 

Take Care & God Bless!!!
 

As always, thank you for your continued thoughts and PRAYERS!


 

2/25/05, Email from Todd’s mom to everyone
 

Hi to All,
 

Todd called at 1:30 P.M. today to say that they had just landed in Maine – - – back on American soil to STAY!!! After a 2 hr. layover, they were to leave for Wisconsin.
 

At 6:45 P.M. he called again – this time from the bus as they were traveling from the airport to Ft. McCoy, WI. They were due at the base in about 15 minutes. It’s been 12 months and 8 days since they left this base as they started their year in Iraq. Based on the noise in the background, this was one group of tired Soldiers excited about being almost home!!!
 

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day, but he hopes to get a little more information about when he’ll actually arrive back at the airport in Richmond, etc. As I receive more information, I’ll pass it along…….
 

Again, I want to thank each of you for your prayers and concerns during this past 15 months. Family and friends like you are ones in millions!!! Your interest and support have meant sooooo much to Todd – and to me, too! THANKS! – again and again!


 

2/27/05, Email from Todd to everyone, Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin
 


Greetings Everyone,
 

From the sands of Kuwait to the snow of Wisconsin, warm greetings to you!
 

Well, I’m finally back, and well on my way to coming back to VA. I’m about 1/2 thru w/ my outprocessing paperwork, and hope to be almost thru by the end of the day on Mon. I have all the gear turned in that I needed to turn in at Ft McCoy.
 

I hope to be home in VA soon, but it is great to be back in the USA!!!
 

Take care & God Bless!


 

3/1/05, Email from Todd’s mom to everyone
 


Hi to All,
 

Finally…..Todd got his travel itinerary late this afternoon. He leaves LaCrosse, WI … on Wednesday, 2/3/05, flies to Chicago, and from there to Richmond. … It would be absolutely TERRIFIC if a group could be there to welcome him home!!! I’ll look forward to seeing some of you there……
 

Also, Tommy and Bonnie [edited for privacy] have so graciously asked to host a Welcome Home Reception for Todd on Sunday, March 6. … Todd is really excited about the chance to see everyone again, so hope you will be able to attend! Please pass the word to other friends who may not receive this email….
 

Thanks again for your interest and concerns regarding Todd. He is certainly fortunate to have friends and family like each of you!!!
 

Looking forward to seeing you soon,


 

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