Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ali, The Birdman of Baghdad

I recently made a trip to the International Zone (IZ) in downtown Baghdad. While I was there, SGM Troy Falardeau, a fellow public affairs puke like me, took me on the nickel tour of Camp Prosperity there.

As we walked, talked and toured the joint we happened upon a carpet salesman there who was holding a little fledgling sparrow in his hand. I couldn't pass it up, I just had to meet the little Iraqi with a little bird. Turns out he had more than just one bird, he has several. He kept a number of pigeons in a little cage across the street from his rug shop and apparently he kept his little bird in his pocket, when he wasn't perched on his finger. 

Oh, and one more thing. He said the little bird in his pocket wasn't actually a bird, but his son. It must be an Iraqi thing. At any rate, I nicknamed him Ali, The Birdman of Baghdad. Here's a clip of the Birdman.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What Do You Need? What Can I Send You?

I've been deployed a couple of times and I am always amazed at how this question is asked by so many people who know you are down range or going down range. They ask because they want to help. They want to support you on your mission; serving the country, defending freedom, living in semi-primitive conditions, being away from home, etc.

For many people, sending a care box filled with a few American goodies, American magazines, and anything American, is a simple way to show their support and concern - and you know what? We all appreciate it and look forward to those packages.

But, there are other care packages you can send, just in case you are wondering how you can show your support, that are just as effective and needed.

Today, I got an email from a former Sergeant Major of mine. It surprised me to find myself smiling, almost beaming as I read her message. It wasn't that the message was the most incredible and enlightening message I had ever received, that made me feel so good. It was that someone took the time to say hello, to offer words of encouragement and let me know that somewhere, someone was thinking of me.

This is the kind of care package I'm talking about - emails, letters, comments on a blog, writing on someone's facebook wall. Don't get me wrong, goodies are great, snail mail care packages are awesome, nobody will deny a delivery of that caliber but, sending a few heartfelt words in a letter or electronic message can really make a dull day brighter. 

Each time I put an entry in this blog, the text is automatically emailed to a select group of friends who I think will be interested to know what my unit is doing out here. Inevitably, a couple days after I publish a post I get an email or two from someone in that group who comments about the entry.

One of these folks usually pokes fun at my entries, sarcastically telling me how "touched he is" by my somewhat softy style of writing but, at the same time he offers a few words of encouragement to keep up the good work too. Another one often says how much he appreciates the work we are doing here and to tell my soldiers to hang in there. My wife makes comments too, telling me to stay tough and not to worry about things at home, that my Soldiers are doing a great job.

Each blog comment, email or letter from these folks, and others who have taken an interest in our lives out here, is just as good as opening a boxed care package from home. They are unexpected, personal and quite honestly they don't add to our calorie intake like all those goodies we get (not that they aren't wanted, you can always send those too).

So, if you're one of those people wondering what you can send and trying to figure out just what we need out here, I tell you this. A boxed care package will work just fine, but a quick note in the mail, a comment on one of our blogs or an unexpected email just might be what we need the most and it doesn't cost anything but a few minutes of your time.

Thanks to all our friends and family for your support, keep it coming. We look forward to hearing from you soon.