IRAQ #3

My Dearest Wife,

             Words can't express at the moment what you mean to me. When I
look at all our pictures and remember the sound of your voice, your laugh,
your smell, I think of how good God was to give us the short months we had
together before my deployment. Its biblical you know. When you get married
you are supposed to have one year before being sent off to fight in wars. Oh
well. I know most people would never want to be in our situation in the
first year of their marriage, but I know that I have been learning valuable
lessons about life that will serve our family well for the years to come.
Lessons that most people in the United States would never have the
opportunity to learn due to our lifestyles. I see the year here is positive
for my spiritual growth more than anything. Hopefully I will come away a
better husband, father, and follower of Jesus. I am positive the Lord is
preparing both of us for something great. I know that even during this
separation, my love for you has grown stronger, and my desire to spend my
life with you serving the Lord together only grows stronger every day. I
love thinking about what Dr. Dorsett calls the "triple threat" to the enemy,
you, me, and the Holy Spirit. Marriage is an amazing thing. I am excited
about ministry with you. Lord willing, our children will know for sure how
much their dad loves their mom. They will never doubt how crazy I am about
you. God has blessed me so much through you. Thank you for ministering to me
through your letters and prayers. It is so encouraging to see what the Lord
has been teaching you personally and even more encouraging as you admonish
me to pursue Jesus.

The principle of appreciating that which you don't have is very strong for
the soldier here in Iraq. We live out in the dirt with the wild dogs, the
sand fleas, and the shepherd boys who herd their sheep each day. We don't
take showers, and we rarely wash our hands. (at least my theory is that if
you don't wash your hands you build up a strong immune system, big brother
David taught me this.sorry mom...) The shepherd boys are great. We buy wild
chickens and flat bread off the shepherd boys and then gut the chickens
ourselves and make stew with the flat bread. It isn't the prettiest thing or
probably the most sanitary, but hey it tastes better than MREs day after
day. The chicken is a little tough. I have some good pictures of cutting the
chicken's head off and plucking it before boiling in the pot. You would love
it I'm sure. J The interpreter told me I had to eat the chicken's head today
because as he explained it, since I am the head of the platoon I must eat
the head of the chicken. My stomach turned a knot and after much heehawing I
gave in and ate the head. It had a beak and eyes and little crest on its
head still. I remembered back to the story about Uncle Hamp telling the
cousins that to be a "real man" and real duck hunter you had to cut a raw
duck tongue out of the duck and chew on it for two minutes. I remembered the
rubbery chewy sensation of the duck tongue when I did this as a young man
for the first time and entered into the hallowed hall of "manhood" in the
duck club. Then I realized I was ready for the chicken head even though the
eyes disturbed me a little bit. Thanks Uncle Hamp! The second thing I became
thankful for was my mother. I remember when she would force me to eat things
that no other kid I knew had ever heard of. I remember choking down acorn
squash and eggplant with my nose pinched. Dad would tell me I had to keep it
down or I could eat the throwup. J I laugh now as I eat anything the Iraqis
put in front of me. My men think I am crazy! I remember the Stukenburg
family in the Dominican Republic. They told me that they always prayed over
the food and would eat it. I do the same thing, and I have never gotten sick
here. Jesus can kill the parasites. I say, "thankya Lord" as I wash the food
down with the hazy canal water. I wish you were here to experience all this
with me. J I know we would enjoy it together.

I have to mention a few other things. One thing that makes you a combat
veteran in Iraq is what I just got done with.  My guys and I just got done
burning our human poopoo. I can think of a better word that would apply,
like fecal matter, or something else, but it might be taken as
inappropriate. It is a real sensory experience full of images and smells. We
basically built our own toilets so you can have something to sit your butt
cheeks on and cut a hole in the board where a 50 gallon drum is cut in half
and sits underneath the board and catches your droppings. As the savory
contents build up you have to burn them off for sanitary purposes. We pull
the barrels out and pour diesel in with the poo and then light it on fire.
It would be nice if that was it, but unfortunately someone has to stir the
pot so that it continues to burn and burns all off. I pull rank on this one
as usually the lowest private gets to stir the pot. Ha ha! The black smoke
is wonderful as it chokes you to death and the flies swarm about.
Personally, I just think about Ranger School and realize life's not too bad.
I could be trying to make a little piece of tissue go the distance if you
know what I mean.

So yes, life here makes you appreciate home. Like I said, I continue to
learn and re-learn many lessons. I know that my trust in the Lord and his
plan for my life has increased twenty fold. The protection of my life on
numerous occasions has shown me that life is ended in an instant and that
Jesus holds my life perfectly in his hands. Just the other night I was
walking back from our company headquarters and I heard an explosion near one
of the FOB gates. It sounded like a Katusha Rocket (Russian 122mm rockets).
I was carrying some packages back to my living quarters for my platoon when
seconds later another rocket came roaring in over my head and exploded about
200 meters from me causing me to drop all the packages. A fire quickly
started blazing and me and LT Lewis, 2nd PLT leader, were the first to
arrive on the scene. The Local Nationals (mainly Indians and Pakistanis who
work in our chow hall, etc.) living quarters had been hit. We helped others
drag a severely burned man who was unconscious from the burning "Can" (what
we call our living quarters) and then pulled out a man who had some shrapnel
wounds. They along with many of the "Fobbits" (soldiers who never leave the
FOB) were extremely shaken up. Looking at the burning building I realized
how if the thing had hit my can while I was in it I would have been dead, or
if it had hit closer to me I probably would have been dismembered. Lt Lewis
aptly called the strike, "the finger of God". Things like this happening
over and over make you realize that heavenly angels surround you with a
hedge of protection. The prayers of so many are not returning void. There is
something unique about Jesus Betsy. I am finding again and again that the
more I talk about him with others, the more I am encouraged and strengthened
each day. There is so much power in His name. I become bolder as I talk of
him with others. You would love seeing the Shieks that I talk with become
amazed when I mention Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael, the scriptures, and
multiple passages they are familiar with from the Koran. They always ask me
where I have learned of these things, at which I respond that I had godly
parents who raised me to follow Jesus. I tell them of how the Bible teaches
me of these things. They usually respond with funny statements about how
cultured I am and how smart I am. I laugh at first, but then I realize that
most of the American soldiers here really do have no knowledge of the
Islamic culture or history. It goes a long way helping me interact with the
people. Many times when I quote scriptures about truth and what God expects
from us they will change their stories and give me good information about
terrorist whereabouts and real problems they struggle with. In these times I
am so grateful for my parents taking me to other countries and making me do
things I didn't want to do growing up because it has increased my ability to
make conversation with people about their cultures. I am also thankful for
God's goodness in giving me a love for history and a memory for details
which I got from my Dad's mom which has also lended itself to understanding
people and their struggles here. I am hoping that with some of these Shieks
I will be able to penetrate the dark cloak of Islam and shine the light of
Jesus upon them. I pray they will see the truth and accept him as Lord. It
would be nice if they could accept Jesus as more than a prophet. It is very
tricky to convert a Muslim through conversation alone. You need supernatural
revelation. They love Jesus, but they do not accept him as Lord. Satan was
tricky in creating Islam. So many shared characters and shared stories
twisted just a little bit to distort the truth. He is a great deceiver. My
interpreter told me last night how that if he denied Jesus he could not be a
true Muslim and follower of Allah. I keep asking the Lord for the right
questions and the right answers. It is fun to see how he consistently brings
scriptures to my mind for the right situations. So I am encouraged by the
Lord.

Second to my time with the Lord and the scripture that daily sustains me,
your letters remind me of God's goodness and his plan for our future. God's
word says, "I know the plans I have for each of you, plans to prosper you
and not to harm you." At this time of uncertainty in Iraq with violence that
rages all around us claiming civilians and Coalition Forces I have found
that Jesus is the only one that I can look to with any hope for what seems
to be a very hopeless situation. I hope not for Iraq, but for the world
which is in need of his healing and forgiveness. I had been very depressed
as of late because my unit lost more soldiers. The total is now at 7
soldiers dead. Death causes you to question what life is about. As I stood
at the soldier's memorial in silence I listened to people tell of their
leadership and humor. I listened as others told stories of their hopes and
dreams. I sat there and realized that we few would remember the ultimate
sacrifice paid by these men. They would not be celebrated by a nation or
even remembered. In fact some would even scoff at their sacrifice. A mother
somewhere would grieve for her son but would people know of her pain? A wife
would weep and wonder what the future holds. For those of us who knew them,
they will always be remembered. As the bagpipes played Amazing Grace, and
the roll call was called one last time with no response to their names, I
wept knowing that they would never again see home. The country they loved
and hoped to return to. I wept and wondered what the point of all this is.
The people of Iraq see no hope in the present government and they are not
willing to bleed for their own freedom. They are full of fear. It begs a
question. Why should we bleed for their freedom when they are unwilling to
bleed for it themselves? I don't know the answer to this. I like to think
that we stand for and believe in a higher ideal, and that even though others
won't fight for themselves, it is worth it to give others freedom from
oppression. The only problem as of late is that I am having a hard time even
convincing myself of this. What did that soldier die for? I'm afraid not for
much. This makes me angry. The Iraqis don't help; they make the problem
worse by fighting with each other or not fighting at all. At this stage of
the war, there are few examples of us killing hordes of terrorists. We have
successes here and there, but for the most part we get them one or two at a
time. This is no good because they kill us with about the same rate. To be
honest they are probably more affective than us. Why? Well roadside bombs,
and snipers kill soldiers one at a time and they ruin billions of dollars in
equipment. We kill them but they don't lose money. We are dumping money into
Iraq that we will never see again. I really don't know why. My soldiers
constantly ask me why are we here sir? I respond that I am even unsure
myself. I just know that the American government has asked us to do this and
we will serve in an exemplary manner. Pray that my men and I would continue
to fight well and that we would continue to serve faithfully. Pray for the
leaders in America to know what to do because what we are doing now is
pointless. Yes, my platoon has had great success in fighting the enemy, but
overall we are not gaining ground in this country. 3 soldiers from Charlie
Company died recently and all of them were married. One had a newborn baby 6
weeks old. Pray for them. Pray for comfort, for peace. It is very hopeless
here. I am more encouraged now, but I go back to the problem that people are
sinners and the people here can't forgive one another. We need Jesus.

Right now I am living outside of the FOB in one of our many scattered patrol
bases throughout Iraq. We call it Copper checkpoint because we occupy it
now. It used to be called objective Copper before we started occupying this
little outpost. It was the sight of a huge gun fight when the unit before us
basically was bored shooting a wild dog and when they shot the dog, the dog
"shot back". The Mahdi Militia was in their fighting positions and thought
they had been spotted and fired back. The unit rolled them up. In many
places in Iraq the US Army has decided to put these small outposts in order
to keep the peace in areas that are traditionally having issues with
sectarian tensions. They are pointless because as soon as we leave the place
they will become unsafe. They don't trust the Iraqi army or police because
in many instances they work with the militia. I am here and doing what I
can. People tell me of their problems and I do what I can, but ultimately I
can't do a whole lot. I am not allowed to go into the area where the
problems are because it is "Polish" territory. Meaning that the Poles are
responsible for the area. The Poles don't leave their FOB because they are
so scared. The one time I did go into that area with Lt Lewis, we mopped up
some guys but we got in trouble for crossing the boundary. So the people
come and tell me about the militia attacking them and I can't do anything
because of the politics of war. Frustrating!

This brings me to mention the fact that I will soon be leaving my area I
have been responsible for to go to what is considered to be one of the more
unfriendly areas in Iraq. I cannot mention the name for OPSEC reasons, but
it is known as one of the places of some of the fiercest fights in the war.
Soldiers don't die occasionally in this area, but on a fairly regular basis
due to the bombs that incinerate their vehicles. I don't say this to be over
dramatic or to scare you, but I say it with a somber realization that
soldiers will likely die when we go to this area. I need your prayers now
just as much as I ever have. I remember that though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death I will fear not, for the Lord my God is with
me. May his angels watch over me and my men. We will fight the enemy
ruthlessly and I pray we will come forth victorious.

Since I have been here in Iraq, the Lord has for the most part given me an
unusual sense of calm in the middle of fire fights and bombs exploding, pray
that He continues to give me a clear mind and a clear purpose. Pray that I
make wise decisions in the thick of things. I know that no weapon fashioned
against me will stand. This has been true thus far and I am sure will
continue to be true. I wonder at times how I will be able to survive this
fight, but I know that though a thousand fall by my side, no harm will come
to me, because it is not by my might or strength, but by the hand of the
Lord that we will not only survive but prevail. The horse is prepared for
battle but the victory belongs to the Lord. It must have been amazing to sit
back and watch the Lord Win victories for Israel back in the Old Testament.
He is a great God that we serve. He loves his children.

 I most likely won't be able to talk with you for some time once I leave
because there are no phones where we are going. I will write snail mail and
I will still receive any letters you write. I also have to take the time to
mention now that all the letters, emails, and packages from so many people,
people I don't even know have been so encouraging. To know that churches in
Mexico, Panama, Australia, America, and others along with thousands of
friends and family are praying for me and my platoon is so overwhelming. How
could anything go wrong? We are covered. I know people pray for our safety,
but let them know that they must pray for the salvation of my men. This is
what they need most. Pray for open hearts, willing to receive the gospel.
Pray that they would find that true peace does not exist outside Jesus. Many
of them are struggling with fear as they look at what is ahead of us. I pray
that I could show them a peace that only Jesus can give. It is a peace that
comes from his touch, a peace that heals the sick, the blind, the lame, and
sets the captive free. Like Elisha praying for his servants eyes to be
opened so that he could see the armies of the Lord surrounding the city
protecting them, I pray that my soldiers eyes would be opened to see the
salvation that Jesus so readily offers them if they would but take it and
give control of their lives to him. This is the problem. Accepting Jesus
really in reality is giving up control. Most of my soldiers know this and
shun him. By accepting him you admit someone else owns your life and you are
responsible to him rather than yourself. You can't call the shots anymore.
Life is so much better when he is calling the shots. Pray the men will
realize this and anyone else who hasn't figured it out yet who might read
this letter.

When you read this letter, know that there are many things that I am sure
that I am forgetting to mention to you. Hopefully those things will come out
in other letters. Do not fear for my safety, but remember I am the Lord's. I
try to remind myself that you are God's and that you have been given to me
as a gift as I have been given to you while we both live on this earth. I
praise the Lord for each day he gives me breath and realize that he sustains
each one of us. It is funny to think of how word travels fast. The 1SG of my
company told me that another 1SG friend of his with a unit all the way north
of Baghdad had heard that a Platoon Leader in his unit had been blown up 15
times and survived all of them. My 1SG laughed and said yeah that PL is in
my company, it's not quite that many times but sure close. So don't worry
love, your prayers have been continually been answered, the Lord is watching
over me.

 When you get this letter, I am sure that it could be Christmas Eve or even
Christmas Day. I hope it is a wonderful day for you. Know that I love you
and that I miss you and the family. Many things will be on my mind. I will
think of the wise men as they searched for the baby Jesus probably traveling
from this very country I am in right now. I will imagine and experience what
it must have been like when the shepherds were keeping their flocks by night
and saw the angels in the heavens proclaiming that a child was born, the
Messiah. I will think about the stockings stuffed with little trinkets and
the amazing meals shared at your parents home in Denver all the while with
the beautiful mountains in the background and the Christmas carols playing
softly in the air. I will imagine my first Christmas with you when we were
dating when I had a separated shoulder from skiing with you and how I asked
your dad if I could marry you. I was so pumped when he said yes. I will
think about the fire roaring in the den with the smells of Christmas and
imagine what it would be like to snuggle up next to you by the fire and hear
you tell me how your feet are cold. I will imagine all the stories I would
share with your grandparents and enjoy them thoroughly. As I will possibly
play cards with one of my soldiers, I will relish the fact that you and I
cannot be beaten in Euker, and your dad will have to wait around for a
rematch against his favorite son-in-law. I will imagine falling asleep in
your arms  thanking the Lord for his goodness in giving us the chance to
spend our lives together, and I will shed some tears. Some tears will come
from not being with you, and many will be shed remembering sweet memories.
Memories of Christmas at my home, and Christmas in Memphis. The expectation
of all of the family being together and having a huge breakfast with dad's
famous omelets or waffles followed by gifts for the kids and then the
awesome expectation of going to Memphis to be with all the cousins and be at
Grandmargie's and Grandchubby's. So much joy. We would start with lunch at
Aunt Patti and Uncle Whittney's place which would later become Aunt Nancy's
and Uncle Hamp's house and then migrate to Grandchubby and Grandmargie's
house for gifts, stories, and much laughter later in the evening. The whole
time the anticipation would be building between all the young boys as we
knew after all the celebrating we would be going down to Beaver Dam with
Grandchubby, the fathers, and all the cousins. The smell of the old Hunting
clothes would come out along with WD-40, outboard motors, gunpowder from
shotgun shells, and shotguns along with all the new duck calls that each
young grandson had likely gotten for Christmas and was blowing constantly
much to the chagrin of all the mothers as they aspired to be as great a
hunter as Grandchubby. We would drive down to Beaver Dam and after all the
boats and decoys were prepped and ready for the morning we would go to bed
and wait for the alarm. This is truly all it was, "going to bed" because I
definitely never went to sleep. I would look at the ceiling for hours trying
to fall asleep, but the thought of mallards and big fat ole greenheads with
wings cupped flying into the wind with boots down coming into the decoy
spread entertaining me with their aerial acrobatics before the shout of
"take em" and guns would rise in unison to send them crashing down was just
too much to think about. The anticipation was incredible. I knew too it
would be a chance to be with just my brothers, something I always longed for
since they were in college many of the years as I grew old enough to be able
to hang out with them. We would enjoy the morning go back to the clubhouse
and take pictures of the days rewards and then go eat lunch at the Blue and
White and get a Delta Cream milkshake before going home to Jackson.
Grandchubby would tell us stories of the old days and I would pray that
these times would last forever. They didn't. Grandchubby is gone and I miss
him dearly, but the memories are sweet. There will be different times, like
the "mouse house" in Arkansas with Uncle Bill and new memories at Christmas
time that we will make with friends and family. They will be just as sweet
as time goes on. They will be shared with you love. I can't wait to get back
and be with you. This Christmas will be hard for me, but I guess I will look
forward to the next one that much more. Tell my friends I love them so much
Bets. I miss my senior house. Not a day goes by when I don't think about
them and the friends from school and all the memories. It pains my heart
knowing I can't be at David and Erin's wedding. He is like a brother. Tell
him I wish him the best and I will send you the letter that is to be read at
his rehearsal dinner. I hope it makes him smile. Tell Calvin his one letter
a week has not been fulfilled and I am really disappointed with him. JK, no
let him know I am praying for him and miss him. Tell Steve I look forward to
seeing him over here in the sandbox soon and that if he has any questions to
let me know being that I have already in my short time here in Iraq been to
several different areas. Let Erickson know that he better not be getting too
fat in Law School and let me know if Josh or Fraz have ever found love. J
Tell Tim I love him and I am excited for him and Jo. Chu, well tell Chu that
they love Asians over hear. Sutton, sorry no Starbucks (that was for
Erickson) J I miss you bro, keep Calvin straight over there in Schnitzel
land. Aussie Sam, Man it has been good to hear from you, I can't wait to get
out of here and have a good chat with you about coming to visit with my
wife. All my other Bible school cronies it has been so good to hear from all
of you. I look forward to when I have time to write each of you back. To
friends and family who have written and are praying thank you, I feel well
loved! David, my brother I am praying for you; who knows if I will get to
see you now that I will be moved, but I am praying for you and your
ministry. Keep running the colors high! To both sets of my parents, I love
you!

Finally to my wife, you rock my boat! I love you till my sides hurt! I will
talk to you soon love. Cyber kisses coming your way.

Love,

Caleb