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.

HOPE IS NOT A METHOD |

January 25, 2008

HOPE IS NOT A METHOD
Name: 1SG Troy Steward
Posting date: 1/25/08
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog url: bouhammer.com

HATE….ANGER….PRIDE….SADNESS….PRIDE…..SORROW…..FEAR…..PRIDE… These are the emotions that have been swirling through me like a f***ing tornado as my family took my oldest son to the airport and put him on a plane to start the journey that will take him into war. With every bad feeling came pride. How could I not be proud of this awesome young man? I watched him grow up, from playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to GI-Joes, to now being a GI Joe himself. I am the rock for my family, just as I am the rock for my soldiers that work for me. Being the “rock” is an honorable thing, but it also means not being able to waiver or always show the emotion that I have inside.

I have been on multiple sides of the deployment fence. I have been on the one where I am deploying, of course. I have watched my soldiers deploy without me. And now I am bidding my son goodbye as he gets ready to deploy into the horrors of war. It would be different if he was just deploying to a war that I had no knowledge of, and I could only relate the common things that are seen in all wars, but instead I am seeing him walk into the very place I just left. I know the good, bad and ugly of that place. Not just from when I was there, but from very recent experiences of a few weeks ago, as I am in constant communication with guys that are there fighting right now.

Being able to come back from Afghanistan and tell him the most recent lessons learned has been an invaluable asset for him as he gets ready, but it is hell on earth for me because there is nobody that can blow smoke up my butt and tell me things like “It isn’t that bad there,” or “He will be safe,” or any of that other bullshit. I have seen the laziness of the ANA soldiers, I have seen the gross corruption of the ANA and ANP leadership, and I have seen the ineptitude of many American service-members in leadership positions. I will go day in and day out knowing what he is seeing and dealing with, and let me just say that is true torture. Being blind as most Americans are to the true facts is not such a bad thing.

It is an honorable thing he is doing, and that is another reason why I am so proud. However it still hurts when you ship your children off to face the horrors of war. I have said before in blog entries that I am going to hate it that he will lose any innocence that he has left, but such is the sacrifice of serving. However I am sure he will do great things, maintain his head and perform with professionalism and excellence.

I am sure the Army sees those traits in him also, as they felt strong enough to promote him yesterday. This was just the start of the up and down roller coaster our family has been on. Yesterday they held a formation for him at the armory so his one wish could be honored; that if he were to be promoted to (E5) Sergeant, it would happen before he left, so I could pin it on him. So yesterday I had the great honor as a Senior First Sergeant and a father -- to be able to pin Sergeant stripes on my son. I am sure it was something my own father wished he could have done when I had my Sergeant stripes pinned on me in Korea back in 1990.

Now 18 years after making Sergeant, I had the chance to put the same rank on my own son, welcoming him into the NCO corps. And so lives on the great NCO tradition of our family, three generations worth now.

Many friends and family have said they will keep him in their prayers just like they said that for me. I truly hope with all of my heart that they are being honest and not just paying me lip service, because I don’t have time for lip service. I know there were lots of prayers said for me when I was over there, and I am convinced that it was because of those that I am still alive today with all my parts and pieces. It is worse now than it ever was when I was there. Yes, hopefully the ANA are a little better trained and hopefully the American leadership is a little more tactically smart and accountable. But as an old battalion commander and friend of mine used to say, “Hope is not a method."

Comments

I am not your family, but truthfully when I say prayers are sent each night for the strength, and safety of our troops in harms way, the prayers are sent. I will specifically name your oldest son in my prayers. God Speed. ~from an anysoldier.com support junkie

Though retired from the USAF after 20 years (79-99) I never served in a combat zone. However, that didn't make sending my own son off to this war any less painfull. I too am so proud of him for his service and courage to enlist while our country is at war. This is not just lip service when I say that I will pray for your son, my son and all of the sons and daughters who are in harms way where ever they are serving. Also thank you for your service and welcome home!

I went to Saudi in 1990, son went to Iraq a couple of years ago, Dad was in WWII, grandfather in The Great War. It doesn't end and you have done your best to get him ready, but hope is what he needs to hang on to until he finds faith. He will be alright, you are his father and it will show. Pray is our only weapon now, weild it well. Amen.

Speaking as an ex-Army officer, I am both proud and ashamed of the fact that membership in the NCO ranks is becoming a family tradition. Proud, because it's a wonderful thing that this "top" is pinning stripes on his son. Ashamed, because it's a measure of the degree to which natonal service in this country has become such a small part of our culture. Many of those serving serve as part of family tradition. Others, who have no such family history, fail to recognize an obligation to return service to the society which as benefited them so much.

At the same time, with two teenage sons, I hesitate to encourage their service in such misguided, poorly justified, badly executed missions like Iraq.

Our mission in Afghanistan has better justification, though still, questionable execution.

But the ultimate responsibilty for the execution of any mission is not in the hands of those on the ground, but in the hands of those who sent them into harms way. Poor planning, poor support, poor understanding of what counterinsurgency consists of, rests with folks who way outrank our heroic NCO's.

Pride and fear for your young adult going off to serve in dangerous sitiations is NOT limited to males. We sent our two DAUGHTERS off to serve in Desert Storm. Both medical, one served in a burn center and one served aboard the hospital ship Mercy. My husband served 42 yrs (MC) and I served 22 yrs (SC).

I guess the sadest change in our culture is the fact that our young adults are NOT required to give at least 2 years back to their country, as so many countries do. The draft had both good and bad facets. Although my husband, two daughters, two grandsons, and I all served in themilitary, I am NOT advocating all serve in the military, all COULD serve thier country in SOME compacity!

On Jan. 1.2008, I saw my 19 year old grandon off as he , too, left for Afghanistan so I know the heartache you are feeling. I WILL include your son in my prayers. Thank you and your son for serving our country. A grateful Grandparent in Wis.

I know I'm not your family and that I don't personally know you, but know that you are in all of my prayers. haha i promise, this isn't just "lip service," you and your son and fellow soldiers will always be in my thoughts. Much love

As a Vietnam veteran, I would like to thank you and your son for your service to our country. Members of the military, first responders, and emergency personnel are in my prayers daily.

Thank you to all who have committed to putting my son in your prayers. He will need every one of them he can get. You will never know how much love and caring from perfect strangers means to soldiers.

1SG Troy Steward

May God Bless you and your son and keep you both safe. (I was in Korea in 1990. 2nd MP Company.)

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