Iraq #2 22 NOV 2006


Disclaimer: Love I am sorry about the poor grammar, when I sit to write I just write like I am rambling and generally I check for coherent thoughts not spelling etc. :) Love you


To my dearest, my best friend, and my beautiful wife……

            How are you sweetheart? It has been far too long since I last wrote and I am hoping to start writing more consistently in the future. My schedule prevents me from having long periods of time to focus long enough to put together a good letter. So you are likely to be the recipient of jumbled thoughts, random snippets of information and a storyboard that doesn’t necessarily follow along chronologically with the events of my life. Hope you don’t mind. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had to be able to talk with you on the phone. That is a definite gift the Lord has provided while being here. Just imagine what it was like during WW2 when people didn’t hear from their loved ones for months and months. Technology has definitely eased the pain of separation a little bit. To just hear your voice on the phone gives me hope for a brighter tomorrow and great anticipation for our reunion. I love you! You are definitely the greatest wife ever and the most supportive, encouraging person I know. Every time we finish talking I feel like a new man! J  Your last letter you sent with the packages was amazing! J I think I have reread it a dozen times. It has been so encouraging to see what the Lord has been teaching you and to hear your stories about how you have been able to share the love of Jesus with those who are hurting. This is truly what it is all about you know! Life here in Iraq would not be half bad if you were here with me, but unfortunately that is not the case. Besides facing the chance of death daily, I don’t think that Iraq is that bad of a place for Coalition Forces. It is the poor Iraqis that you feel for. There are so many innocent people that are caught in the wake of violent, evil men’s desires. My Area of Operations is safer than most, but the sectarian violence rages on all around Iraq, even in my area. Thugs just roaming about paid off killing innocent people. I can’t tell you how many people that I have talked to that tell me they know who is terrorizing them, but they refuse to tell me who they are because they are so scared. They have been told that if they cooperate with Coalition Forces they will be killed. This is definitely no bluff; they will kill women, children, young and old. Lets just say that a bullet to the head doesn’t suffice for these folks, cutting the head off, torture, etc. these are the things they love to do. We saw a body floating down a canal the other day with the hands tied behind the back and the head gone, it left you with a complete feeling of frustration wondering what it is that drives people to do such things. I let people know that if they would only let us know who is doing these horrible things then we would kill them and they wouldn’t have to worry anymore. Unfortunately, for the few that do cooperate, our promises of protection are empty, not because we don’t try, but just because we can’t be everywhere at once. An old man, a sheik, was beaten so badly by thugs that he was bedridden and his back was shredded to pieces from the whipping they had done on him with electrical wire. This was all because he had contracted with Coalition Forces to do a project like cash for canals. We pay them to clean their own canals to help provide jobs for them. He politely told us that he would no longer be working with us do to his fear for his family. Can you blame him? I don’t know. I would like to think that more people would stand up for themselves and the cause of freedom, but family comes first in this culture. That’s another interesting thing that really drives me crazy. We, the US government, want to emplace a freely elected government in power in Iraq. Well, in our area as in most places in Iraq, the sheik is the main man. People send their requests up through their sheik. It is a lot like a tribal system. This is not the case in Baghdad which is more modernized, but where I am at, the different tribes live in different locations and the CFs interact with the sheik to secure areas and get projects done. Unfortunately, when you work with the sheiks, in a way you are circumnavigating the government or undermining the new government. The problem though is most the sheiks don’t like the government and would rather work with the CF themselves. This presents a definite problem. If you work with the sheiks, coalition forces are generally safe in that area. If you don’t sometimes you get plenty of trouble. For example, one of the biggest sheiks in my area is a confessed former anti-coalition fighter. Not any more. He said he realized that it was better to work with us. He is one of our biggest supporters. His region is also one of our safest areas. All of this is due to his “don mafia” status. Lets just say that coalition forces are safe in his area, but his lynch men will take out people who oppose him. He has told us that he will kill any who oppose us if need be. You can likely see the dilemma, you want your soldiers to be safe, and to get anything done you have to use the sheiks, but none of it is helping the government succeed. Which brings me to another point…. Anyone who has taken a basic Sociology 101 class would know that trying to put in a democratic system in a country that has really truly worked for thousands of years through a tribal type system or monarchy with sheiks as the power brokers would know that it just is not going to have a good chance at success, much less survival. We need to get the sheiks into the political process, but the problem is what do you tell the sheik who is the top dog. Ah yes, excuse me sir, but you have to run for election. He will probably laugh and say why should I run for election, I am the top dog. Definitely a problem.

 Another interesting problem that I see in Iraq is their view of the nation state. There is not a strong sense of nationalism. Yes they are Iraqis, but when I regularly ask the old men and people around my AO what they see as big issues that must be dealt with for the country of Iraq to succeed, they respond with issues dealing with their own little town or region. The concept of Iraq as a whole succeeding is not strong in my area. Everyone only cares about their little region. This is the polar opposite of America where we are quite zealous for our country. Sure, I love the South, and Tennessee, and know that it is truly God’s Country,J but above all that I am concerned with the country, not my little community. This is definitely something unique to America and the “West” in particular. The concept of the nation state is so strong. So, yes it seems a little hopeless, but the big question you are probably asking as are so many in the States is……Should we still be over there? American boys are dying for no reason. Well, my answer is a resounding YES! While the killing does continue, if American forces pulled out right now it would probably be one of the greatest civil wars you have ever seen. The bloodletting would be intense and it could send the Middle East into complete chaos. Plus there is a fighting chance that this might work out Lord willing. Nothing good has ever come without hard work and some sweat. Too many Americans are fair weather friends. Most good things come with much sacrifice. There are too many innocent people here that have touched my heart for me to say, “forget em” when I can go home to peace and quiet. I pray each day that the Lord steadies my hands and gives me wisdom for the day as I lead my men. I also pray that he gives me great success in closing with and destroying the enemy. I don’t do my job with glee or a sick sense of pleasure, but I do my job to the best of my ability each day with a serious sense that lives depend on the decisions I make on the battlefield. The majority of people that I have talked to are innocent in my opinion. Even when I question people about Islam, they say there is no difference between Shia and Sunni, they are brothers. They will then tell me they don’t know why they are killing each other in other areas but that in their region they get along. This is true in my area. Most of the people I have talked to don’t seem to hate Christians or Jews either. Most the people I have talked to are like the masses of nominal Christians in America. They are not on fire for Allah or Mohammed, they claim Islam but they just want to make a living and live in peace without fear of getting kidnapped each new day. The same is true in the States. Many claim Christianity or Jesus as God while they have little passion for the things of the Lord, and they don’t really care about it that much. They just want to live their lives and be left alone. Unfortunately it really is the extremists and the crazy folks that ruin it for everybody. In all honesty it doesn’t take that many crazy folks to ruin it for a large group of people. In my region the Sunnis are causing most the trouble, but the Shia militias are lurking in the shadows conducting operations and seemingly biding their time. Also interesting is that most Iraqis I have talked to definitely hated Sadaam and they definitely believe he had weapons of mass destruction. Everyone says that they moved them into Syria before the war started. How you like them apples? I find that pretty interesting. I really feel like a detective. I am constantly talking and probing and piecing together information from different sources and different areas in order to try and capture or kill the people we are looking for. It can really be an exhausting job. My mind races at night as bits of information seem to coordinate or a name pops into your head that you remembered someone say the day before. Each day after the mission I write detailed debriefs with what I learned or saw in order for our intelligence guys to try and develop an enemy pattern analysis. I have been here for about two months and I feel like I have been here for a year. While the time is flying I know that it is going to be a long year. I hope you understand what I mean. Time is fast, but exhausting. This is due in a large part to the great success my platoon has had in fighting the enemy. I will get into that a little later. But first I want to tell you about some things I enjoy about Iraq.

You know this, but I really have found that I just love people anywhere I go. American, Iraqi, whatever, I love the people. Just thinking about it now makes me smile when I think about the sights and smells of people. I thrive off the conversation and enjoy observing the toothless smiles, the worn wrinkles on the old men’s faces when they laugh, the little children wildly coming up to you saying, “mista mista please give me give me,” as they point to everything on your person. It was hilarious the other day when one asked my SFC Miller for some dip (tobacco) and even after SFC Miller told him you won’t like it, he gave a pinch and the kid put in his mouth and turned green. We all had a good laugh as he was spitting it out as fast as possible. Even cuter was the older brother trying to trade us his little sister for some possible candy. I told him he would much rather have his sister than candy, he assured me this was not the case and that he would gladly turn her over for a sucker. I had to laugh. Yeah, I love the children. I really love the kids Bets. I like playing with them, whistling with them, dancing to the disco music they hum for me. You would probably laugh if you saw your goofball husband dancing around with all his equipment on with a bunch of kids clapping and laughing as the crazy American dances to the disco. I would also have you know that I am by far the best whistler in the whole area and I have challenged more than one Iraqi kid to a whistling competition which usually results in my utter domination and a flock of kids coming to laugh and listen as I entertain them by whistling popular American songs. J Tell brother John Reid thank you for paving the way on that one. I owe that skill to him. He was the most talented whistler role model one could have. I think he still has the touch, but who knows maybe I have surpassed his skill level. JOn more than one occasion I have been pick pocketed of my pens. Just the other day I think I signed my name on probably 500 kids’ arms while we were patrolling the Soviet Apartment Complex in my AO and my medic treated several men with gunshot wounds and shrapnel wounds from random mortar attacks in the area. They are so grateful when we come because the care is not great at the hospitals. Especially for the poor. The receiving room in the hospital is also the operating room, much like Africa. Speaking of hospitals I am so grateful for conversation pieces like my father and brothers. I also know many of the medicines they are talking about that they say they need due to listening to medical talk growing up. Bets, could you ask my dad and brothers if they would be willing to get a package together of 15-20 stethoscopes for the doctors here at the hospital in my area. Maybe they could get doctors they know to donate. I told the doctors here that I would see what I could do for them due to my connections and American abundance. Make sure that they are the American made stethoscopes.  They have the Chinese ones and they say they are no good compared to the American ones. I like the doctors. They are educated and many of them speak good English. They also don’t ask for much. I suggested that I could get them the stethoscopes. When I told them that I thought my father and brothers would find no problem in trying to help in this area, they responded in amazement and asked, “Why would your father do this? He must be a great man.”   At this I was overjoyed to be able to tell them that yes he is a great man, but he loves Jesus and this is why he loves to help. They then told me we are so thankful, you know “like father like son.”  I loved this. Growing up my prayer was that I could be half the man my father is as a father, husband, and spiritual leader. I thought this was a little encouragement from the Lord, that maybe I am getting there little bit by little bit. Tell my dad that I love him. He is the greatest father that a son could ever ask for. One of my favorite pictures with dad is the one next to his bathroom sink when I was a boy with his arm around me out at Deepwood before we ever built our house out there. I think of it often and how I love that I am the child of his old age. J I feel so blessed to have had the personal time with both my mom and dad growing up that many of my brothers and sisters didn’t get. I am so thankful Betsy, how could I not be, Jesus is Lord and Savior of all, I have an amazing wife like you, and an amazing family, and heck a hedge of protection around me here that is unbelievable! I really am convinced that while I am here in Iraq love that I am to give testimony of Jesus everywhere I go. Every conversation with an Iraqi is an opportunity to show them the love of Jesus and to tell them about it. My interpreter love is awesome. His name is Mohammed, but he goes by the alias “Moe” for protection. Many of our interpreters are the bravest people I know. They can’t carry weapons. Moe’s father was killed by terrorists, and just last week his brother was shot several times by insurgents. He has moved his wife and child twice already and he is trying to get a passport to Jordan to move his brother there for treatment and have his family safe. Getting the passport he says is nearly impossible. He is a university trained engineer and can’t get a job. I speak to him often of Jesus and his saving power. He is very interested and has been coming to church with me and my medic. I think he finds it interesting when I talk to him about Abraham and other biblical characters that he is familiar with from the Koran. I told him about Isaac being the son of promise and Ishmael the son of Hagaar. He always says, "how do you know these things man?" I smile and say brother, the Bible. (also thankful for the good education and upbringing that allows me to talk with some knowledge about these things) I think the Lord is going to save him. We have struck up a real friendship and I personally would trust him with my life. I ask Moe about his hopes, his fears, and his dreams. Its amazing how people respond when you treat them like real people. Love, I look at every opportunity to give glory to the Lord and praise him when with Moe or the Iraqis. Pray that I can do this with the people here. Tell everyone to pray for Moe. I really think the Lord is pulling at his heart. He asks many questions. Today I had a great conversation with some of my soldiers about Christianity. They still can’t get over the whole concept of how God could damn others in the world to hell who don’t acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior. It was a great talk and a convicting time. You might ask, “why convicting love?” I’ll tell you why! They obviously have never met any Christians that have caused them to say WOW I want that! I am convicted by this. In a country like ours that claims Christianity as our main predominant religion they have met no one that causes them to say I want that, I want Jesus. They see Christianity as messed up like so many religions. I was amazed as scripture after scripture came to my mind. The Lord gave me verses I haven’t thought about in a while. I tried to explain that Jesus said, “no man comes to father except by me.” Then I was able to tell them about the woman at the well, and how Jesus loves each of them. That he did not condemn her for her adulterous behavior but he forgave her and called her out of her life of sin into a life of freedom and a life of joy in him. In a sense I told them what Jesus told John the Baptists’ disciples when they came to ask him if he was the Messiah. Jesus said, tell John the blind see, the lame walk, and the prisoners are set free. That’s what I said. “Guys, I know you are skeptical, but when you have seen the real thing it will change you.” Keep praying for open hearts amongst my men. I love you Betsy. Thanks for listening to all this. I know you have wondered what is going on in my heart and mind since I have been here. A whole whole lot. So…. I love the people, I love the kids, I love my guys, I love catching the bad guys, and I love talking about my Lord and Savior, and you know the truth is as I listen to worship music as I write its all about Jesus, its all about Jesus. I can’t wait to stand in church with you after all this is over and sing praises to our Lord, our King of kings. I will raise my hands and give testimony to his goodness, his faithfulness to you and me. This is what I want to write about know. Give testimony to God’s goodness and protection.  This is also for all the people that are praying for me. They should give great praise to the Lord as their prayers are working miracles.

It seems like a year ago that the vehicle I was riding in was destroyed by an IED (improvised explosive device). In reality it was only 3 and half weeks ago. By now I feel like a combat veteran and my heart rate doesn’t rise too much from these things. Since that time my patrols that I have been leading have been hit 4 times with IEDs and some small arms fire. What is unusual is that this is unusual for our AO. You might think at first that oh my, our prayers are not being answered but don’t be too quick. There is great glory to be given to the Lord when he protects someone from great harm. The peace of the Lord is upon me Betsy. I feel no fear when I leave the gate each mission. I feel that the calling of “Caleb” is upon me. It is almost crazy how at peace I feel. It must have been the peace David felt when he slew Goliath, and the peace Joshua and Caleb had when they told the Israelites they could take the land filled with giants. I love this sweet peace. I am convinced the Lord would not have us fear, but like Caleb we should boldly claim the mountain and believe the Lord is going to give us the land with the giants. I feel this courage every time we leave the FOB (forward operating base). When I leave the FOB I always feel like the Lord is leading me as we try and destroy the evil men. 3 weeks ago I was on my last day of left seat, right seat rides. This is where the outgoing unit basically gives you a familiarization with the whole area you are taking over. Basically their soldiers take you, the PL/ PSG and a few of your guys around. I met many key figures the first few days and that day was no different… until we got a call that another one of the platoons in the company we replaced got hit with a big IED in the “Kilometer” region (a bad area with many Sunni insurgents) and a soldier from 2/8 IN DIV was hurt bad and a soldier from 3-509th-my unit, was also hurt but not as bad. We could tell that it was not good as we dropped our meet and greet and jumped into our HUMMVs and it seemed the medic on the ground was losing his composure a little bit. We were trying to come to them from a different route to secure their out route and bring my medic to the scene who was hot off the press. I just knew that if my medic could get there we could maybe save the guy who was hurt so bad. We raced down the back road by an IA (Iraqi army) checkpoint and came to a stop at concertina wire we cut to get through. (the Iraqi army answer to bad areas is to just block the road, not hunt the enemy down) We raced forward until we came to a suspected IED in the middle of the road. It looked like a power source. We decided to bypass it for time which at the time I remember saying, hey guys they might be channeling us to another spot with this thing. We found an opening to get back on the road, and once we had all gotten back on the road we said got everybody and we accelerated and BOOOOOMM! I was riding in the back left seat behind the driver while the PL from the other unit was in the front right. The IED literally blew up right under my rumpus and lifted the truck up off the ground and threw me into the far side of the cab. It literally felt like someone hit me as hard as they could with a baseball bat as the cab filled with dust and smoke. It was like a movie scene when everything goes into slow motion and you can’t here anyone. It blew my left ear drum in half right at the explosion and my head was ringing as I just knew the realization of one my arms or legs missing would soon hit me. I slowly began to feel all my limbs as the other PL got a status up on everyone in the vehicle and we floored it through the kill zone. The truck died 60 meters later as the rear axle was blown in half and all the tires where blown out and my door was blown in partially were I couldn’t open it. Shrapnel had ripped through the back of the humvee that wasn’t armored. We immediately exited the vehicle and began to clear the house we had come to a stop near. We began to search the house and no men were around. Very unusual. We moved to clear another house and woman actually confessed that men in a blue van are constantly putting in IEDs on the road. I almost killed a dog that was like old yeller reincarnate. He kept charging me till I roared at him and ran after him. J We cordoned off the area and ended up finding the command wire. A TTP the enemy likes to use. The wire is attached to a blasting cap and they run the wire sometimes up to 1000 meters back to a hide site or place they can observe us and then just attach two ends of the wire to the end of a 9 volt battery to charge it and blow us. We found a man who we detained and we actually detained a woman at that house as well who tested positive for TNT on her hands. This has actually set off a furor amongst the sheiks because we detained a female. They all lie to you and never tell you the truth. Bad people come in the night, yeah right. They are all family and they just won’t tell. You know something isn’t right in an area when no children are out playing. The people know where the IED is because the kids know not to be out.  I can’t wait to go back into that area to do a clean sweep. Anyhow it was sad, the young man from the other unit died from his injuries, he was to go home the next day. The unit that we replaced said the IED that blew up underneath me was the largest they had hit in the year of being here. They said if the IED had hit at a slightly different angle I would have been killed from the shrapnel, but in my case the door took most of the blast. They said it was a game of inches. I begged to differ. Right after it happened, I was praising Jesus for his protection. I told my medic that no steel doors are thicker than the hands of Jesus. My terp said, "you are crazy man do you like this stuff." I said no brother but that was awesome, look how God protected me. Jesus is awesome! So yes, I could have died but what a great opportunity to thank the Lord for his protection. The vehicle was dumped because it was a catastrophic kill. (unrecoverable) On the way home we almost hit another IED that had been laid out on the main road with what we call pressure plate IEDs. A common tactic the insurgents like to use here is “Christmas tree” lights. They make little miniature connectors with Christmas lights and then connect a battery source to it and drag it across the road and when the vehicle rolls across the wire it causes the little connectors to touch, like two pieces of medal and that completes the circuit causing the explosive to ignite. They are easy to miss if you are not staying sharp because we always roll at night without light. Luckily the driver spotted it right before we rolled over it and jammed to a stop. EOD came and blew up the ordinance. Again I was thankful for the Lord’s mighty protection. A few days later I took my platoon out for our first ambush. After a lot of talk and analysis I had decided on a spot that I thought would provide good positions for my men and a likely place for insurgents to place an IED. The unit we replaced had no luck over the entire year doing counter IED missions, but I thought we might be different. They liked to stay in their trucks. We are paratroopers; we like to dismount light infantry style. We infiltrated at night and moved to our ambush positions. I had requested snipers from the battalion and had them take up an overlook position from an abandoned building. With their weapon capabilities it allowed us to cover a larger piece of terrain. My second squad and I waded across a canal and moved into our positions as the snipers overlooked. I couldn’t help but think that Ranger School was so much worse than all this as I was stuck in the mud in the sewage. It brought a smile to my face. After setting in our positions we waited observing from our positions the road. Curfew was ten o’clock. At about 1045 we began to observe 3-5 personnel moving on the western side of the road back and forth from a berm to the road. They were looking around smoking a cigarette or two. After about and hour or so near midnight a bag came out and was set next to the road. Weapons soon followed slung on the backs. Then a weapon with bipods came out. This is not necessarily a problem. Every home in Iraq is allowed an Ak 47 with one magazine, but not an RPK machine gun. I was talking back in forth with the snipers on the radio and once the individuals began to dig near the road with the bag I told the snipers to go ahead and engage when possible. A shot rang out and they missed. Second shot took the guy out. At this point gunfire erupted from the western side of the road as we engaged the other enemy personnel from our positions. It was really wild. Gunfire came from several locations including several rooftops towards our location once they pinpointed our tracer rounds. As I was firing and talking on the radio reporting contact, a couple of volleys of enemy gunfire ripped into the berm I was laying behind causing me to get my head down a little further. It was crazy seeing tracer rounds zinging right at your face and fly over your head. At this point my guys did great. We laid a whooping on them that they won’t forget. My HUMMVS were staged back at another location and I called them forward so that we could use them for cover as we bounded across the road to clear the houses we were receiving fire from. At the same time Apache longbows (helicopters with lots of firepower) were being kicked down to my radio net so I could direct them in to possibly take out enemy personnel. When the vehicles rolled up the enemy did something they shouldn’t have done. They let loose a volley at our vehicles. Every one of my trucks opened up with a symphony of 50 cals and 240B machine guns rocking the rooftop where they had received fire. If you don’t know what a 50 cal sounds like when firing, it is pretty amazing. It will put fear into the heart of any man. It sounds like a helicopter when firing with massive rhythmic whump, whump, whump sound going on. You can cut small trees in half with it. Needless to say, all firing ceased when that volley was over and at that point as we moved across the road and began to clear the buildings. The Apache pilots observed “squirters” to the west but I didn’t want to engage them due to the fact that I didn’t have positive identification on them. The rules of engagement are very strict in Iraq as they should be, but those were likely insurgents as they got away with possible weapons among other things. We killed two enemy insurgents, both of which tested positive for TNT. This is where the adrenaline starts to ware off and as you begin to start collecting your information it sinks in. The questions start coming. I am responsible for this. Did I do the right thing? Wow! What just happened? You realize yes I was doing my job and doing it to the best of my ability. You realize how much responsibility you have as a platoon leader for your men and their safety. You realize how your decisions affect lives. The scene is hard for you to imagine. Women screaming, wailing, children crying, having to tell them they have to move away from the bodies and get out. I will never forget it. This is why they say War is hell, and for the Christian or humans in general, I don’t think it is normal to want to take life. Many soldiers talk big how they just want to kill somebody. Most of it I think is big talk. I want to get the bad guys, but I still feel for their families. At first I struggled with the decision to take them out, but then I realized that these bad men chose their path, but in the midst of them trying to take my life, I felt no animosity towards them. It was strange. I felt more for the wives, the children who had lost a father, a brother and so on. Their shrieks I won’t forget for a long time. They will suffer for the decisions of their husbands. They bare the burden after they are gone. Anyhow, the night was long as we gathered intelligence, took pictures, etc. and then moved back to the FOB. The next day was just as busy for me as I had to debrief the commander and others several times about what happened and as we filled out sworn statements describing the events. Every time something like this happens in Iraq, there is an investigation and you have to fill out tons of paperwork. It really is exhausting. The U.S. goes to great pains to ensure that things are done right. Too much pain. This all leads me to say that it was a great starting note for our battalion and no more IEDs have been found on that stretch of road since that time. This is due to the fact that they know we are out, watching, willing to pull the trigger if they try to implant IEDs. We later found a cache of weapons and explosives in the area behind the house which further confirmed the past events. You can see the Lord has had his hand on me since being here. He has not only protected me, but blessed me. My blown up vehicle was the first attack against the 3-509th parachute regiment. My contact and killing of the two enemy insurgents was the first of that kind for the unit. About a week after that engagement we hit another IED and my unit detained 4 men who tested positive for explosives. We had to release them after questioning, but my platoon was the first to take in detainees for our unit. Then just recently we got hit again by an IED and due our violence of action, we quickly cordoned off the area and found the wire and found the triggerman hiding in a greenhouse with a loaded AK. He is gone for further questioning and prison. I briefed this event to my commander, and then to his commander and so on and it went all the way up the chain to the two star general. Apparently the general loved it so much he said stop, tell me that story again from start to finish. He said give that PL this coin. So when our battalion commander honored our platoon he gave me the two star coin which is pretty cool. The thing is like a manhole cover. It might be gold too, not real sure. It is just really large. Also recently out on patrol, after some conversations with some locals, we got all kinds of intel and these dudes led us to some IEDs so we could blow them up. That was good, and finally we found a camera taping the attack against my patrol which supposedly was a huge find with intel value. That sent ripples up the chain of command. Jesus has protected me each time in and out and in a strange way I hope to get hit, but not bad so I have the opportunity to catch the bad guys. We are getting better and better every time and starting to learn the enemies TTPs and tactics. All this contact has earned my platoon a lot of respect. The joke now on the FOB and amongst the commander and CSM is that I am the “Magnet”. That’s what they call me when they see me. Here comes the “Magnet”. J I here people on the FOB saying, “have you heard about Baker 3rd PLT, they make contact every time they are outside the wire.” Or attachments to my patrol will say, “I will ride in the rear vehicle, but not in LT Curlin’s vehicle, he always gets hit.” I laugh and say my vehicle is the safest one due to the good Lord’s protection. Kind of fun! Again, it is a great opportunity to give great praise and honor to the Lord Jesus for his goodness. There is nothing special about me. In a nutshell, that sums up a lot of what I have been doing the last few weeks. I long to see you and be with you.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I have much to be thankful for, I give great thanks to the Lord for saving me from my wretched existence, for providing me with a wonderful family and extended family, for allowing me to live in the most blessed country in the world, for the blue skies, the green grass, the sounds of the birds, the laughter of people, for a grandfather who taught me the joys of times spent a field and the importance of people, for a grandmother that always had Lucky Charms for breakfast when I’d come to visit and take me to the zoo, for a mother who prayed me into existence and taught me the importance of treating people the right way, for a father who taught me discipline and what it means to know Jesus and pursue him, for brothers and sisters who set examples worthy for their little brother to follow, for the most amazing friends in the world (they know who they all are), friends that pushed me to be better, to love Jesus more, for aunts and uncles that loved me like their own, for cousins who are like brothers, for professors who taught me that there is more to learn and more to experience, for each and every experience that makes us who we are, for the tradition of the bench and the memories, the late nights spent at the French House talking with the boys as we stuffed our faces with ice cream (or maybe just me stuffing my face with ice cream), the early morning training for ROTC with runs out and around the Marsh off the prairie path, for praying together with friends, pillow talk with Calvin senior year about you bets late into the night as I always fell asleep listening to him just as with youJ, for so many things I have to be thankful. Being here in Iraq really allows you to be grateful for so many of the little things. Most importantly I am thankful for you my love. A beautiful bride you were love and a beautiful wife you are. You make me want to be a better husband, a better man. You encourage me to follow Jesus and lead our family as I should. YOU ARE AN AMAZING ENCOURAGER. The Lord knew what I needed when he provided me with you. My love tank is always full with you. I never lack for encouragement with you around, and of course I also never lack for a kick in the pants when needed when you are around. Yes, you have both unique qualities. J I love you so much Betsy! Don’t forget that when I am so far away. I think of you daily, while on patrol, and I meet you in my dreams at night. I look forward to the family we will have together the years ahead of so much joy and happiness. My hope is that each day our prayers are prayers of thanksgiving. Prayers of praise, while I long for each day with you, there is great anticipation that we are part of something bigger, something more grand as we look forward to the Lord’s return, when he makes all things right, when he makes the crooked things straight and brings all his people unto himself. What a time of rejoicing! I can’t wait to talk to you again and I will write when I can. Please, Please let the people know that I love their prayers, and all the emails are so encouraging. Even though I don’t have the time to respond, I can read them and they encourage me so much. Tell my parents I love them and if you ever worry love, remind yourself like I do that He is greater than he who is in the world. No weapon fashioned against us will stand. Even bombs and bullets. J I love you so much!

Only yours babe,