I write this from Baltimore / Washington International at the USO office here. Things have changed for the USO. The entire facility is Wi-Fi enabled, so the troops and family members can log-in (case in point this blog) from anywhere in the suite. Nice.
Yesterday we finally departed Camp Shelby. The training completed, we started a long 20 hour bus ride from Hattiesburg to Baltimore. Swell. But we got here a few hours ago, have had all of our equipment and personel manifested and now, we await our fligt time. That is promising to know. And I got an Exit row aisle seat. Should be a decent flight.
Yesterday, as I was sending a final package home, this tall senior NCO comes walking in throught the door of the Post Office. "Bill Finnsson?" "Hey, Sir!" Bill is now a Master Sergeant preparing to go to Iraq as a Brigade Operations NCO. When I last saw him, he was on CNN on the television screen in a French Officer's quarters in Berlin. "Arnold, were you not in the National Guard in Los Angeles?" then-Captain Eric Brintet mentioned to me after dinner with his wife, Margaret and I had finished. "Your city is on fire!" Eric said. "That's one of my squad leaders!" I said, as I saw Bill Finnsson leading a team across what I believe was La Brea Blvd.
Finnsson was the best of four excellent squad leaders I had as a (very) young 2nd Lieutenant in the California Army National Guard. That he is still serving is great to know. Soldiers need expereinced leaders like him. He will be a great force of calm in the operational storm that comes with running a brigade in combat.
I just spoke with Margaret and the boys. They are halfway home from their travels in Southern California. Ian is now eight. Wow! One of the photos I carry with me is of the day he was born. This tiny guy with little socks on his hands to keep him from scratching his face, sits in his Mom's lap with his uber-proud big broter smiling behind him. Now the tiny guy is Mister Big. Missing his Pop and talking to his Mom about how unfair it is that none of his friends has to deal with a father that goes away to a war zone.
It's like I mentioned to him before I left Oregon, I don't know what it is like to be a boy whose father is away in a war zone, nor what it is like to grow up while our nation is at war. It has to be confusing, with so many mixed messages coming through so many different points of media, people, school, et cetera. But, by the same token, it seems he is growing up confident that he is loved and has a place in this world.
When I called him on his borthday earlier this week, I told him "Happy Day of celebrating your birthday (t was actually a few days before)." He responded immediately "And happy day to you for having ME for eight years!" That is confidence.