The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


December 18, 2006

Name: SGT Sack
Posting date: 12/18/06
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Omaha, NE
Milblog url:

The weather here in Iraq has been phenomenal of late. Back home I'm sure you are familiar with the term Top 10 day. I would say that we have had roughly 40 Nebraska Top 10 days in a row at lovely LSA Anaconda. The high has been around 65 or 70, with very little breeze, and sunny. It really doesn't get much better in my book. The low has been between 35 and 40, but by the time it cools off I'm tucked away in my cozy twin bed in my 10x12 slice of heaven with the heater set on 70 degrees, dreaming sweet dreams of ribeyes, blue n' chromes, and my wife and son.

That's how it was until Saturday afternoon when, for some unknown reason, we lost power to the whole base. This has happened before, and usually it comes back on within a few hours. The office has its own generator, so work of course doesn't stop, but our hootches were out of power and therefore without heat and lights. By 10 o'clock we were a little worried. The blanket that I use is really thin (to minimize packing space) so I was seriously doubting its ability to keep me warm. I actually dug out my Army-issued sleeping bag, which turned out to be a smart move that some of my lazier co-workers later regretted not making, though I fully anticipated that in the middle of the night the power would kick back on and all would be well. I drifted off to sleep without my usual TV shows to keep me company, cursing the horror of it all. Don't let anyone tell you different, life in this man's Army isn't always easy.

The worst part was waking up in the morning. I was actually pretty warm, snuggled up in my cold-weather sleeping bag, but at 0600 the temp in my trailer was about 40 degrees. I think I could even see my breath. Getting dressed was painful, as my clothes were also about 40 degrees. I hightailed it to the office so I could bring my core temp back to 98.6. I even broke out the black fleece coat, which is affectionately referred to as "the bear suit". Of course my buddies all made fun of me for wearing a coat, but that was to be expected, and I would have done the same thing had someone else showed up dressed like I was.

I headed down to church at 0845. While SSG Johnson was on leave we had to rearrange our schedule to cover the office, and I hadn't been to Sunday service in around a month, so it was good to get back. Of course there was no power at the chapel either, which means no lights and no heat. Framed_sack_atrium_229I should back up a minute and describe the chapel. Many of the buildings that we are "borrowing" from the Iraqis here on Anaconda are hardstand buildings that were already here. The original design usually has three wings, with an outdoor atrium in between each wing. Imagine a capital E on its side. We are always short on space, so many of the buildings have had the atriums converted into rooms to allow for more office space. If there is one word you could use to describe soldiers in Iraq, it would be "industrious". A tic tac, a toothbrush, and some bailing wire and you have yourself an office. Or a bomb, depending on the joe that is in charge.

Our Squadron chapel is in one of these converted atriums, so it is essentially a plywood room. There are other chapels on the base that are actual buildings, but we inherited this one, and we are the Cav, so we don't like to have nice things anyway. The accommodations could best be described as Spartan, really just a few chairs and a pulpit. Normally the lyrics to the worship are shown on a laptop, as the projector that we have is famous for shutting down in the middle of a song and then taking 10 minutes to warm back up.

We normally keep it pretty basic, but adding in the lack of heat, lights, and words, this past Sunday was especially bare bones. The door was left propped upon, so in addition to no heat we had a nice breeze as well. At this point I was glad that I had endured the wrath of the mighty S1 and put on my fleece, as I would have been freezing without it.

The message for the day was from Haggai. From chapter one: Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."

The Chaplain discussed how the temple had been destroyed, and rather than rebuilding it, the people instead worried about rebuilding their homes first. Wrong answer, said God through Haggai. The people were so busy about taking care of themselves, they had neglected the one who could provide for all their needs. I know this has been true in my life multiple times. Once I graduate from college, then I'll be happy. Or once I buy a new car or house. Or get married. Or have a kid. Or insert whatever here. But those things come and go, and guess what? The car gets a dent and loses that new car smell. The house isn't quite big enough for your family. Marriage and parenthood are rewarding but an awful lot of work. Same with the new job and the new salary.

Apart from God, these things are for the most part meaningless. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with having a nice home or a good career, in fact we are told to work hard and be good at what we do. But sitting in Iraq in a plywood chapel with a handful of soldiers, a guitar, a Bible, and no heat or light, I was struck by how fulfilled and how happy I am with my life. I miss my family so much that I can't stand it some days, but my wife and I have the strength of the Lord to get us through it. I know that God has a plan for my life, and for a reason that only He knows it currently involves me being half a world away. And that is okay with me. Romans 8:28 says: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Think about that. Are you working on rebuilding your house while God's house is still broken?

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. After four days of no power, they've got everything fixed and we once again have lights, heat, cable, and PS2. And I got a great reminder on God's love for us, and his faithfulness to see us through any situation.


Your faith is intact... Thanks for the post...

God bless you SGT Sack for your courage to post about your faith and love of the Lord. Great message :-)

Don't the insurgents believe also that God has a plan for them. I guess we can't know what God's plan is as you say.

Thank you for posting this blog. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and time of remembrance of Jesus' birth. God bless you in all of your efforts. Always remember that he is there, that you and your wife share the Lord and that you will always be under his wing. He is with you always.
God Bless and Merry Christmas!

old camping trick: put the next day's clothes in your sleeping bag before you go to bed. Get dressed in warm clothes inside the bag in the morning.

Emcss James H. Merk retired It is very exciting. to hear of your adventures, and misadventures. I thank G0D that you did NOT freeze to death. I believe that he watches over ALL of us, especially the young, faithful ones, that find themselves in harms way.At least you were smart enough, and lucky enough, to avoid mine fields.HahHah. Have a blessed Christmas,X0X0, I pray for our soldiers without ceaseing.

I AM SO glad that you didn't freeze to death. At least you know to avoid landmines. I have 3 daughters, 18, 23, and 25. A quite place where you can think, and feel close to God,the great I am, is all you need. My thoughts and prayers go with you. my thoughts and prayers go with you.X0X0, HUGS, and Kisses,One young granny, I am probabley older than your Mother................

Being a chaplain I enjoyed your comments about the message. Being from Colorado, I don't feel that bad about the rest. God Bless

Your words deeply moved me. There is no doubt that God does lead us and has a Plan for our lives. I loved your description of your Sunday last: "But sitting in Iraq in a plywood chapel with a handful of soldiers, a guitar, a Bible, and no heat or light, I was struck by how fulfilled and how happy I am with my life". There is no doubt that God is in your heart - things do not make us happy and fulfilled, He does. Many blessings to you Sgt. You are a truly wealthy man.

It is great that God gave you your happy ending--you got electricity back so that you could play your PS2. God willing, the Iraqis themselves will be so lucky to get more than 4 hours of juice a day to do things like refrigerate food for their kids and light their homes.

Don't let anyone tell you different, life in this man's Army isn't always easy.

This has happened before, and usually it comes back on within a few hours.

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