Friday, July 25, 2003
Finally a day free from the wind. We have endured a long week of constant sand storms, hampering our breathing, blocking our vision, and constantly aggravating our lives. It is so bizarre that I have become accustomed to its constant torment. Just the other day while walking through a serious storm, barely able to see in any direction, I paused to say to myself, "Hard to believe I have come to a point where these storms don't bother me anymore." "I have totally adapted to this environment." Wow that blew me away, the memory of the original storms I endured still fresh on my mind.
I have always endured it well, our conditions here. I have toughed it out, sucked it up, put up with all that this place could dish out and now reached the point of total adaptation. I can handle the heat, the storms, the sand, the wind, the flies, the totally dry dehydrated air and more. I have never been one to complain and now even more so I have no reason to. I feel to some degree that I have arrived, so it is probably time for me to leave so embrace some other test of endurance.
Today has been a great day. Since one of our Majors went home to attend her mother's wedding, I have been in charge of family visits for the generals. Visitations are from 10 am to 2 pm, from Thursday to Saturday.
As I have stated before the crowd of people starts forming up early in the morning, much earlier than is required. I am not sure why they feel they have to get there early. It is not like one family is going to get ahead of another or get to see their loved one longer than another. Maybe there is a sale going on of used prisoner wear, or prisoner tent furniture. You would think that a huge flea market was in town.
The crowd is somewhat unruly, one family trying to get in front of another, jockeying for position to see who is going to get on the bus first. The funny thing is that they all get on the bus at the same time. Although this week was different in that the bus wasn't running. The crowd had gathered early, naturally forming up into common interest groups, based on the nature of their visit. Some had come to find a loved one, others had their loved ones number and had scheduled an appointment for a visit, and there are those that just seem to always be hanging around out front not quite sure what they are up to. The women were all complaining about being forced to wait in the sun so long. The children were crying from lack of sleep and water. The older men were all jawing back and forth as if to establish the value of their visit over another.
I always go out to meet the families of the generals to insure they get on the bus without any glitches and to pick up any bags of food or supplies they might have brought out. The general's numbers in hand, I go through the crowd trying to identify those families with appointments in hopes that I might make first contact with them. I try to put their mind at ease, assuring them their loved one is doing well, he is waiting for them, asking them if they have any food items to deliver, and so on.
By the time I am finished with all the generals' families, my hummer is full of assorted bags, food, small suitcases, watermelons, and dates. Every body brings dates, of which there are over 100 varieties. One of the families brought me a huge bag of dates to consume. Ok dates, I love dates but not 10 pounds of them. I get a whole array of items: bed sheets, pajamas, cakes, huge containers of rice, all for the prisoners. I am sure the guards are wondering if I am opening a small store or kiosk some where in the prison camp.
Sometimes outside of my duties to the generals, I get hooked up with another family or individual who has a very compelling story. Today a father had traveled with his last cent to reach this area in hopes of finding his son. He told us his son's story, which was a great story too bad it wasn't true. The father stated the boy had just been trying to buy some gasoline when he was picked up by the coalitions forces and thrown into prison. Well that wasn't 100 percent true. The son actually was stealing the gas with his friends when he was arrested. But the father was so insistent we help him find his son that I just couldn't say no. I took the son's name in hopes of finding him and providing the father with sufficient information to put his mind at ease.
The regular tents for family visitation were moved to a new location not yet supported by the MP's in the area. So all that was available were a couple of tent awnings, with no sides, causing us all kinds of grief during yesterdays sand storm. We crammed the families under the cover of the tent top like at some summer bazaar.
The generals were quick to try to be a catalyst to improve the tent situation but there were just no viable solutions. They were just going to have to put up with the cover from the sun but no shelter from the wind. It is not the best solution, but it is the only one. The MP's aren't happy about this either, so I hope the generals will be a little tolerant of our situation. They do tend to be a little demanding at times, not sure if they always remember where they are and who is in charge.
When I went out to the front gate I saw the family of one of the generals, whom I had met before. She wasn't on my list of those who had appointments, but even so, I felt inclined to assist her in visiting her husband. After making a deal with the MP's, I arranged for her to get on the bus which would take her inside the camp, while I would then be able to dash out to Hoover 7 to pickup her man.
The bus arrived dropping her at the visiting location prior to my departure for Hoover 7. When she saw me she immediately demanded to know where her husband was. I was extremely taken back by her attitude, unappreciative of the big favor and no apparent awareness that I was working way outside of the box. My interpreter told her to take it easy and that we would bring her husband in just a few minutes. I was perturbed by the demanding attitude very unappreciative of the favor I was doing for them. I wasn't looking for thanks just some acknowledgement of what had transpired.
As I drove him towards his wife in the waiting tent I stopped the vehicle on the dirt road to have a couple of words with him. I told him, with love and kindness, that I hoped he knew and understood what I was doing was outside of my normal duties and way outside of our camp rules. I didn't want him to expect this every week and I wanted to make sure he appreciated the gesture of kindness. I try to live most of the time within the rules and regulations of the MP unit managing the camp, ok some of the time. Most of what I do for the generals is a long way from being in the box.
Also when I went to pick up her husband he had a huge suitcase full of items he had received from the MP's: cookies, cheese, toiletries, paper items, etc. I was concerned that he was abusing the system, continually asking for items from the guards then saving them all up for his family. I know that his intentions and concerns for his family are good and that his family could probably use the items, but there is no way we have enough stuff to supply the thousand plus prisoners we have and all their loved ones. What ever he takes for his family ends up being taken away from some other prisoner.
This specific general has been constantly whining, complaining, asking for items, crying about being here so long, being negative and on and on. He is depressed most of the time, always asking for special favors. When in all actuality he has been able to see his wife more times than anyone else, his wife living only an hour from here.
In comparison, there are those who never ask for anything, always putting others before them self. They are the same ones who never complain, never whine, and never cry about being here so long. They are the ones who make the best use of this time, finding ways to be productive in any situation. They chose to serve others through word and deed, their actions always speaking louder than their words. These quite but influential do-gooders, who actually have had a great impact on the lives of all those in camp, have been the instigator for much change. Many of the men in Hoover 7 have been impacted by the insightful words of these positive; the glass is half full, abundantly living individuals.
There is such a difference in people, experiences like these bringing out the very worst and the very best in people, whether you are a prisoner or one of our soldiers. Each one of us responds to the stress and pressures of the life we are living in very different manner.
It is the self-serving, self-centered individuals of the world that perpetuates the ill feelings amongst human beings creating strife, contention, distrust, disbelief, hatred, jealousy and feelings of being used. The self-serving people of the world projecting their attitudes into the behaviors of others, defining and assuming others are operating under the same belief system. Thus interpreting and defining other's behavior as stemming from the same self-serving, self-centered belief.
Just imagine for a moment that we could all see the pure intentions and pure motives of those who chose to serve others; sharing, donating, offering up their possessions that others might enjoy the fruits of their labors. It is the quietly donated offerings of the other-serving individuals that if recognized, might change the way so many people think, perhaps even eliminating the very origin of most of those ill feelings of one human being towards another.
Oh that we might all be able to purify our own motives while seeing the pure motives of those around us, thus dispelling the awful feelings of distrust and disbelief. Why is it that if we are going to assume something that we cannot assume in the positive, rather choosing to assume in the negative, giving no one any benefit of the doubt. Why can't we assume the actions of others to be stemming from a belief of abundance, rather than a belief of scarcity? Or is it really all about getting all you can get for yourself?
I have spent an enormous amount of time trying to purify my motives behind my actions, constantly asking self-analyzing questions to determine the true origin of an act or behavior. "Why did I just do that?" "What is the true motive behind what I just did?" Why did I say that?" "Am I just looking for praise and recognition?" "Am I longing for more attention?" "Do I expect to receive more than someone else?" "Do I wish to keep rather than give?" and on and on. These are great questions to ask one self if we truly wish to act from a belief system based on abundance and sharing.
The change that this motive purifying process might initiate could perhaps ignite a feeling of true love for all our brothers and sisters in the world.
Later that same day, during my nightly visit with the generals, the same individual took me aside to offer up his prayer beads and a ring, as a token of appreciation for the many things I had done for him. He said he felt bad about the money I had given his wife the week before so she could return home from visiting him and for the acts of kindness performed. I wanted no gifts for my deeds, just hopefully a change of heart, for him to start thinking of others first, leaving his self-serving ways behind.
I reluctantly accepted his gift, only after much prodding and after he expressed his brotherhood with me both tied together in the bond of love. Perhaps the acts of kindness, the words spoken earlier, or the accumulated deeds over the last few months, have had an affect on his motives, causing him to evaluate the meaning or intent of his actions. At least to a point of thankfulness.
This has been a very interesting week of constant change or upheaval. Earlier on in the week we received word that our counter intelligence teams were being moved north. With two days notice they packed their stuff and said their goodbyes. I am really going to miss those eight guys whom I am lived and interacted with for the past three months. We have been like family, me being the dad of course. All of them are just young men under the age of thirty, whom I have a great respect for. They are some of the finest young men I have ever met, honored to call each and every one of them my son.
They are moving further north to begin a new mission, one they are very ready for. Their time here has been time well spent, preparing them for what lies ahead. Boy, it was very difficult to see them leave. We said a group prayer, gave each of them a big manly hug and sent them on their way. I will miss the volleyball games, the cook outs with them, the talks, the church meetings, the jokes and all the good times.
Our numbers have been decreasing gradually, now left with only 15 people from the original group of 25. They will be dearly missed.
A couple of days later another message came requesting another 7 bodies to move out the next day on a mobile interrogation team going further north. So within 12 hours they were packed and on their way to their next assignment. This was an equally tough group to let go of, taking our LT, our first sergeant, our best screeners and interrogators, and my closest friends. We all took it in stride, accepting the orders but that does not decrease the sadness in seeing them leave.
It is amazing how close a bunch of men can become when you are with them 24-7, and I mean all day every day, in this kind of a situation, under these circumstances. My buddies, my pals, who took the brunt of my jokes, ate my cooking, danced at our dance parties, pushed me to do better and allowed me to push them, whom we have shared our thoughts and feelings with, these guys I will miss.
A group prayer, lots of big hugs, a few words expressed and they were gone. Steve, who just happens to be my son's friend, while giving me a big hug told me he loved me, which really touched my heart. That kid is really something.
It is just us now, all 8 of us with our 3 linguists. It just doesn't seem the same, so quite, so empty. The party just won't be happening like it used to. This operation is winding down at this location forcing all of us at some point in the next couple of weeks to be looking for our new assignments.
As army luck would have it, now that every one is leaving we did finally get the AC up and running in our work area. That means that with our few numbers all of us could probably sleep in the radio building enjoying the AC. Well I know where I will be sleeping and any one else is welcome too. We could have some big AC party every night, you know a bunch of men shoulder to shoulder in a big room all sacked out like some big slumber party.
That is all for today, more tomorrow
posted by Chief Wiggles 7:19 AM
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Some of the guys that were in the same place as the Chief donated some photos to the site. Take a quick peek.
posted by Plunge 11:22 PM
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The Chief does not keep a large blogroll, only those he reads on a regular basis. Knowing this, he has now added one more to the list, Useful Fools. A wonderful blog that covers many of the Chief's interests. Give it a gander if you have a moment.
posted by Plunge 10:28 PM
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For those here to read the words of Chief Wiggles, just scroll down a bit. The Chief, in his kindness, has let me post about my wife and her major surgery on his blog. His words are immediately below our thank-you.
My wife and I wanted to say thank you for all the well wishes, thoughts and prayers that came and continue to come our way. The doctor is amazed at how well and quickly she is recovering. While it is still a long while before we can claim complete victory, a good start has been made. Again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
A larger photo can be viewed here.
posted by Plunge 7:41 PM
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Sunday, July 20, 2003
Another week has come to a close, now already the middle of July. It is hard to imagine how much time has already passed by. The sun rises and sets in its entire splendor but still I am so unaware of the passing of time. We make a deliberate effort not to focus on the passing of seasons, holidays, and other such things that would cause us to think of the time in our life when all of that was so important and even longed for. Although, if we are still here when Christmas rolls around it might be quite difficult to stay focused on what our mission is.
I do pause at times to enjoy a beautiful sunrise or sunset, which even here in this barren land are beautiful beyond description. At that time there is color in this land. The orange, yellows and reds of the sun shine out in all their glory to bring a burst of colors which at any other time appear to be colorless. Life normally runs and hides from the penetrating rays of the desert sun, except at those times.
When running early in the morning as the sun starts to peak its head above the horizon it's colors dance across the desert floor bringing the hope of a new day to all that live here. Each passing day hopefully brings us closer to our goal, the accomplishment of our mission.
We all have hope for a newness, a rebirth of people, of this land, of all things that would bring out the potential of this country. What once was the center of civilization, is now a land lost in time, so far behind many other countries in the world. Its potential anesthetized by the evil chains of bondage of Saddam Hussein.
I believe it was his intention to suppress this land and it's people, to prevent them from obtaining knowledge about the rest of the world. Forcing them to actually reverse their direction taking them further backwards into the darkest period in this lands history.
I had a great run this morning waking up at 4:30am to begin an hour of walking and running. I felt really good today, not sluggish as usual, wanting to test the level of my endurance. I do feel my age as I trudge through the deep thick sand, slowing down as I feel my joints twinge, moving side ways with every slipping step. I do enjoy the rush of endorphins that running can bring me.
At the end of my run I even had energy to knock out a few pushups and sit ups. I am just trying to stay in shape so my body doesn't just turn to mush out here. The weather doesn't help any either, making it almost impossible to keep on a schedule.
Last night the Major and I went out to Hoover 7 to make our rounds with the generals. We had a couple of important messages to give them. Earlier in the day I had received a call from the guard at the gate, as I mentioned earlier, informing me of the arrival of a few families for the generals. They understood there were no visitations but they had some bags of food, letters and clothes for their husbands.
I dashed out to meet them to make sure they understood why we weren't allowing any visits today. Of course they were all upset, crying at times to display their sincere disappointment. They begged for permission to enter but gave up their plea once they realized I was not in a position to disobey the camp commander's order.
The long and short of this is I picked up the bags promising I would deliver them later that day. So when I arrived at Hoover 7 I found the two recipients of the bags, informing them of what had transpired earlier. I expressed my sadness for the rules, reiterating what I had told their families a few hours before.
I had also purchased a few cigarettes and decks of cards for those generals who had requested it. I handed over a few letters from one general who had not heard from his family since he was captured some 4 months ago. His face burst into the biggest smile once he saw what I was holding in my hand. He started to almost giggle as he walked away, full of excitement to read the contents of the letters. I gave him a big thumbs up as he briskly walked to his tent.
The Major had been able to bring some special items for the generals. So while they were buzzing about him like wild honeybees, I took the opportunity to walk around the camp with the Air Force general.
I just love these discussions we have. We walk side by side back and forth across the front of the pen, far out of hearing distance of other prisoners. I am always so moved by his comments and his willingness to give to others. While every one was buzzing about the major, the general declined to get any for himself, saying that he will be last if there is any left over. Him and the small group of those with him never ask for anything and are so humble about receiving things from us.
I don't know if you will know what I mean, but I can feel this man's spirit. When we begin our discussion I can feel that the Lord's spirit is with him. I mentioned that to him, commenting on the way I was feeling. He concurred stating he was feeling something different too. We share a sincere love and trust between two human beings, full of mutual respect and admiration. There is something very special about this man, whom I have such hope for. He has been blessed with such a great attitude, such optimism, and such humility, like I have not seen in most men.
We spoke of the news of the day, full of joy for the news that the coalition forces were developing many of his ideas. He was ecstatic not that they had perhaps followed his advice but that they were headed down the right course. He was full of hope for the success of the USA's endeavors.
On the other hand he was concerned that we were not moving fast enough to incorporate the local Shiite religious leaders into the newly formed governing council. There is perhaps very little room for error and we might only have one chance to bring about the peaceful development of a democratic Iraq.
His next comments totally blew me away, causing me to pause for a moment while I cast my eyes down to my feet, feeling totally unworthy of his remarks. He said that he feels so small around me as if he was the student and I the teacher. He feels he can learn so much from me, that together we might accomplish great things, even me accomplishing great things for the people of Iraq.
He reiterated his concern for me if I was to go into Baghdad, promising to be my shield protecting me from any would be Assailants.
I am the one who feels small almost insignificant in my efforts to help them. The student is I, for I am the one who has learned from him. He is the pillar of stone, immovable by the forces of men, who might try to shake his confidence or conviction. I have felt my own nothingness, falling so short from my goal.
For some reason my emotions have crept ever so close to the surface, bubbling over at the least little thing. I am feeling so many things, confusing me at times with the multiplicity of emotions. What does all this mean, what is this all about? I am trying to come to grips with my purpose and mission for being here. We have had so many spiritual experiences here, so many memorable moments. I know the Lord is in charge of our efforts and our lives.
I experience the good and the bad. I have dealt with all types of people, some of which I never hope to meet again, while others have become my dearest friends. I have witnessed the high of the Lord's spirit and the lows of the dark side.
Yesterday I went back in to interrogate the major general I have been working with for the last month and a half. I have worked every angle with him, extracting large amounts of information. He is starting to look quite hammered from the prisoner experience. He fidgets about nervously playing with a button on his clothes while tapping his foot incessantly, all the while sweat is pouring down his forehead.
His eyes are dark, empty of any inner light. I feel no spirit with this man, only selfishness and evil. He has been involved in doing many terrible things of which we are certain. There is such a contrast between him and the air force general. It only further confirms my desire to find the right good men to lead this nation, knowing that there are plenty of men from the dark side waiting to as if in sheep's clothing.
Today is Sunday, a quiet day, spent at a much slower pace than usual. I am getting ready to go to church, anticipating the special spirit that exists there. I am weak at times, knowing all too well my own imperfections. But I go on, trying to improve myself, trying to over come the temptations of life and focus on the spiritual good side. I enjoy the process of eternal progression, knowing I can receive forgiveness for my mistakes through the Savior Jesus Christ. I am grateful for his sacrifice for us, his suffering to pay the price for our sins. What a marvelous principle, the Atonement.
posted by Chief Wiggles 7:51 AM
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