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.

THE THINGS WE CARRY STILL |

May 21, 2012

Name: Charlie Sherpa
Previously embedded: with former unit in Afghanistan
Hometown: Boone, Iowa
Milblog: Red Bull Rising
Email: SherpaatRedBullRising.com

When I was in either high school or college, my kid brother and I were nosing around in a basement storage area of the Sherpa family home. In the dark, there were a few bags stuffed with Vietnam-era military gear, surplus left over from our father's time as a navigator on a U.S. Air Force cargo plane.

Usafstarsstripesreader_002
By the time of our basement explorations, Dad had left active duty, and was flying with the reserves. Unlike my brother Rain, I remember our family being in the active Air Force. I remember my shock when schoolyard playmates laughed at the way I said that just now: "My family is in the Air Force."

They laughed, didn't understand what I meant, said I couldn't possibly be in the Air Force.

I, in turn, didn't understand why they didn't get it. Didn't figure it out until I was an adult.

Now, a couple of decades and deployments later, I can better articulate the sentiment: One person wears the uniform, but the whole family serves.

Rain was born on a base in Florida, but probably was barely out of diapers when we left the Air Force. He didn't remember the flight suits and the black boots, the big cube bags and the poncho liners. Come to think of it, in the basement that day, I might've been foraging for those poncho liners. I might've already signed up with the Army by that point, to help pay for the back-half of college. Rain and I used to build tents out of the camouflage-patterned, quilted nylon blankets. When I joined the Army, I'd wanted to take them to the field.

Eventually, when I found them, Dad told me I'd have to get my own. The tactical blankets had gotten him through Vietnam, he said, and he wasn't about to give them up.

That day in the basement, we also found a couple of presentation cases containing medals and citations. Rain didn't know about these. I'd found them once before. There's a Distinguished Flying Cross (D.F.C.) in one of them—an award recognizing "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight"—and a narrative about how, as a young man, my father used his sextant to monitor the damaged tail of the C-130 Hercules in which he was a crew member. The tail had been hit by lightning.

To this day, I have yet to ask my father about that medal. Or that moment in the air, when he might not have come home.

I remember not wanting to know for certain. While the just-the-facts citation made it all sound almost routine, Dad might've been a hero. He might've also had a close call. At the time, I preferred to imagine the former possibility, and to ignore the latter. Young men are immortals, after all, and their fathers should be, too. As long as they can.

I should ask my father about that medal someday soon. I have my own footlocker now. My own war stories. My own military baggage.

*****

In keeping with director Sam Fischer's objective that the movie "Memorial Day"
become a catalyst for conversations between generations, social media efforts regarding the film's upcoming release have often posed the question: "What's in your footlocker?"

The movie centers on a conversation between a 13-year-old boy and his grandfather, about the latter's World War II experiences. In the publicity trailer, the grandfather narrates:
I kept things from the war. And then I kept them from my family. Myself, too, I guess. Some people call them 'souvenirs.' ... I don't know. To me, a souvenir is a foul ball at a baseball game. These are fragments of memory ... shrapnel.

In combat, you start to question what's real and what's not. You take things along the way. Because if those things were there, then ... you were there. And it really happened.

I didn't loot. And I didn't steal. I collected things that would help me remember. What I didn't count on was: They don't let you forget.
****

In a recent SANDBOX post Iraq war veteran and author Colby Buzzell talks of finding stacks of slides his Vietnam-veteran father had taken while on foot patrol. His father was still alive, and they walked through some of the images together:
The dusty photo projector we were ready to give to Goodwill miraculously fired right up, so we decided to take a break from packing and go through the photographs. Beaming onto our living room wall were these beautiful shots of the Vietnam countryside, and shots taken from my father’s point of view while on foot patrols. He narrated the slides for me and as he saw different guys in his platoon, a warm smile would come to his face as he recalled old friends that he hasn’t laid eyes on in decades. We came to a shot of four or so young soldiers casually smiling, proudly standing around a bunch of captured weapons that, my father said, they discovered while searching a village.

His smile slowly disappeared. He remained silent for a second or two as he just furrowed his brows and studied the photo. Then he told me that all of the guys we were looking at were killed two days later during an ambush.

After that, it was time get back to work and look at those slides some other time, which of course we never did. I’ll always wonder what else was there. I imagine my father and I are part of a tradition of soldiers who have gone to war, taken a series of photographs and returned home to file them away, never to be looked at again.
*****

Stars & Stripes has launched a campaign to collect stories of service inspired by physical objects. The newspaper plans to publish the stories to celebrate Memorial Day 2012:
After more than a decade at war, chances are someone you knew, perhaps someone you loved, has given their life in military service to this country. But they aren't gone, not entirely. You have memories to call upon to bring them back to you, and you have physical objects that are a constant reminder of your fallen service member. Maybe a set of dog tags, an old T-shirt, a pickup truck or a tattoo.

To mark Memorial Day, Stars and Stripes wants to hear about your mementos and the people and stories that will forever be linked to them.
Click here to share your stories.

*****

The Omaha World-Herald is collecting stories and pictures of Nebraskans and Western Iowans who served in the Armed Forces during the Cold War, including the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Strategic Air Command, Germany, and elsewhere. Some of the narratives will be featured in a book, similar to one published on World War II, while others will appear in the newspaper and online.

Click here to share your stories.

You can also e-mail your memory and photo to: atwar.athome@owh.com

Or mail to: Dan Sullivan; "At War, At Home" blog; Omaha World-Herald Building 1314 Douglas St., Suite 700 Omaha, NE 68102-1811

Comments

I just wanted to let you know of a great opportunity for veterans through Anago cleaning. We're holding a contest to honor our veterans, in which people can nominate a veteran they know that has impacted their life. We know and appreciate all that you do for us, and this is a way to give you some of the recognition you deserve. The person gets to nominate a veteran of their choosing, and then there will be a voting period to show support, and the person with the most votes will win a $250 Visa Gift Card. It's a fun way to be recognized and mildly rewarded for your efforts. You can find the contest here at http://www.facebook.com/AnagoCleaning/app_195405330560325. Thank you so much for your time, effort, and support. I hope you continue having a wonderful day.

Mein Bruder schlug mir vor, wie dieser Webseite. Er war absolut richtig. Dieser Beitrag wirklich made my day. Sie haben soeben cann't vorstellen, wie viel Zeit hatte, diese Informationen weitergegeben! Vielen Dank!

Hey, ich habe einen Blog gefunden, ich mochte einige der Nachrichten ist mehr, ich glaube, die Menschen ganz wie Ihr Blog und ich viel Spaß beim Lesen des Blogs von blog.Your sehr gut!

My kid is a C-130 pilot. Believe me his family serves in the Air Force. I don't know what he carries of his deployment in Iraq. I have a USA flag and a certificate that it was flown in my honor over a war zone. I am simply proud of my son. That is all.

"Eventually, when I found them, Dad told me I'd have to get my own. The tactical blankets had gotten him through Vietnam, he said, and he wasn't about to give them up."

I still have my blanket and I won't give it up to my two sons either!

Eric. Danang.... '68-'69.

Mein Bruder schlug mir vor, wie dieser Webseite. Er guerre absolut richtig. Dieser Beitrag wirklich fait ma journée. Sie haben soeben cann't vorstellen, wie viel Zeit hatte, diese Informationen weitergegeben! Vielen Dank!

This month’s issue of 1851 magazine is dedicated to veterans! In our feature story, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the top 100 Veteran friendly franchises! We understand how important it is to support the armed forces when they return home specifically providing them with opportunities for success in life outside of the service. We know our veterans have been equipped with the qualities that are essential to lead a successful business. You can check out the article here: http://bit.ly/vet100-30 on 1851project.com! We’ve currently released 70 of the franchises; make sure to check back throughout the month to view the entire list! Furthermore we have compiled an extensive array of articles, interviews, and profiles that deal directly with veterans in franchising, veterans looking to get into franchising, and franchising resources for veterans. In honor of the holiday, we wanted to show our patriotism and gratitude for those who have and are serving our country.

"Black Boy!""Black Boy!""That's not black child? Look, squatting at the water's edge."The girl and a small mason ran a man strapped to an arm and pulled him up."Small and poor, squatted doing here?" Girl hand take off the the straw grass on his head, and said, "Do notSquatted here, strange cold. '"Last night left some sweet potatoes, Cyclops baked give you."

Its all well and good having mastered taking these sort of photos, but selling them is definitely another story!

That is what the media attention had gotten everyone to do, and that is what I needed to solve.From site to site, they often looked very similar. The specifics of the content changed from one site to another, though often it was the same scans from Vogue magazine more often than not, or pictures of celebrities, and Victoria Secret models.

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