Thursday, May 29, 2008

Some people don't know what they're talking about.

Michelle Malkin is one of them.

According to Michelle, Rachel's kaffiyeh "for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.'' And she then criticizes Rachel Ray for the offense of wearing this murderous symbol around her neck.

Of course, there might be another explanation, which is thankfully provided in the story I linked to above:

Amahl Bishara, an anthropology lecturer at the University of Chicago who specializes in media matters relating to the Middle East, said "Kaffiyehs are worn every day on the street by Palestinians and other people in the Middle East - by people going to work, going to school, taking care of their families, and just trying to keep warm."

I'll have to be careful not to wear any of my three kaffiyehs around Michelle.

I like the "for the clueless" part- cheap insults are always great ways to strengthen such well-reasoned and researched opinions.

Here's my try at a parallel article written by a similarly well-reasoned person in the Arab world:

That ad for "The Hookah Shop" should be pulled! The man in the picture is wearing pants. Pants! For the clueless, pants are a type of clothing worn by murderous Americans for years and have come to symbolize all that is wrong with infidels, but have been adopted by local Arabs due to the influence of corrupt fashion designers and Western-loving liberals after being popularized by such people as Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer and the Unabomber.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

First day off of active duty.

Even though I've spent about a month growing a hideous beard, technically, I've been on active duty, using up my accrued leave. Yesterday was my last day of accrued leave.

Which leaves me a civilian, or at least a "warrior-citizen." I'm back in the ranks of regular Army Reservists- known by many as "weekend warriors" even though lately we've seemed to have picked up the pace a bit. That happens when there's plenty of war and not enough active duty types to cover it all. We're cheap labor, and most of us are uncommonly committed for a variety of reasons.

As noted in a post earlier today, I've spent my first day as a civilian ruminating a bit about three friends that I lost in the past year, with tomorrow being Memorial Day.

It is in some ways hard to conceptualize myself as a veteran, but here I am, joining the ranks of many others who have served honorably, many in more difficult and dangerous circumstances than mine were. I feel kind of sheepish in saying it, but I'm proud to number myself among them.

Books I've read

A habit I got into during the deployment was listing books I've read and providing some comments on them.

In my month home, I've gotten to work through a couple more, and so to keep the process going, here goes.

One of the canonical works of the LDS church, I read it as part of a grassroots movement to honor the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley. My goal was to finish it before I redeployed, and I finished it somewhere during the redeployment process, I forget when.

It reads very differently once one has served in the military in a combat environment. So I gained yet more appreciation for the concept of reading the scriptures frequently and repeatedly. I'm different each time I read, so what I get out of the process is different each time as well.

Pretty self-explanatory, this dummy is boning up on the whole home-buying process, as this summer our family joins the ranks of homeowners. It is about time, no? We put off the process so long (I'm a shiftless migrant worker, what can I say?), that our "starter home" needs 5 bedrooms to accommodate 7 people!

Pretty exciting anyway, though. It will be nice to have our own place.

The MBA program I just graduated from may have had some good home-buying stuff in it- but I missed the whole second year with military stuff, so I missed it. So I'm learning just how much I have to pay to have someone give me money so I can buy a house. Not exciting stuff, but it goes with the home-buying territory. At least the VA benefits are great for home-buying.

Memorial Day 2008

A year ago I was still trying to figure out what was going on as I worked through my first month in Iraq. I knew that Memorial Day was a holiday that was changed for me from that date on.

And it is different this year as well. I spent most of the meetings at church today thinking about folks who died in Iraq during my time. Folks who "worked for me." J.J. Hurstie. Umran. As I listened to those around me talk about the stresses inflicted on them by rising gas prices and increases in food costs, I didn't get upset. It is the world they know. They are blessed to be in that world and I'm happy for them. I'm honored to have participated in the services which are intended to provide them the security to operate in that world full of concern about financial pressures.

I wasn't on the convoy that killed JJ and Hurstie. But I think about it often. And I can't even picture Umran's home- a place that should be a sanctuary, but where he was murdered.

These three don't count in the totals I see and hear in the U.S. media- two Australian contractors and an Iraqi local national don't merit the attention. But they merit mine. They worked for the U.S., and I supervised that effort. So they count to me.

And they count to their families. I can't replace the voids left in their families, but I do pray for them. That their families may remember the good of these men. That they may be proud of them. That they will overcome the challenges that face them and they can move on, and flourish, even. That my conduct and that of my family may in some small way honor the sacrifices these three made for us, and for the people of Iraq.

Hurstie, J.J., Umran: thank you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008, it has been 4 weeks home!

First, on the military front.

Reading on Petraeus hearings in Congress today off of CNN's website:
"The security situation is much improved, with overall attacks, civilian deaths, and ethno-sectarian violence all down substantially," said Petraeus, who oversaw the "surge" strategy that unfolded last year. Petraeus noted that the week ending on May 16 had the lowest level of security incidents in over four years.

Best week in 4 years as far as security incidents! That is awesome. I'm happy for the troops and for the people of Iraq. Of course, this gets little play in the States. Steve and company out there, keep up the good work, and hang in there- you think it is hot now? The summer is still coming! ;-)

I admit I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours hosting the General during his visit to An Numaniyah back on 21 January. He keeps plugging along, and the hearings were for his assignment to command CENTCOM. I'm happily out of the uniform preparing for my civilian job as a talent management consultant with Lowe's.

Second, on the home front.

After 3 weeks, my basketball isn't getting any better and the wear and tear from the deployment seems to be holding me back a bit. I'm moderately enjoying internet home searches and talking mortgages with folks as we prepare for a move to NC to start my Lowe's job. Just got a small feature box in the BYU Marriott School alumni magazine profiling my time in the sandbox, which was nice. As usual, I have a fat face in the photo- which is accurate. I'm still fat. Oh, well.

I've really enjoyed much of being home though- various activities with the kids- walks, time in the parks, rock-climbing, restaurants, etc. Visiting with old friends is also a real blessing. I'm even excited about the rain we've had over the past couple of days- the tips of the mountains are again white, and even though I've always found Utah to be rather dry, in hues of brown and grey, relative to the part of Iraq where I worked, Provo is a verdant cornucopia of life.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Late Happy Mother's Day

Got to call home this Mother's Day- couldn't do that last year while I "played in the sandbox."

Someone forwarded me this video.  I could easily see this being my kids in 10 years.  They fight like that already- but lack the sophistication to put it all on video.

Happy Mother's Day, Moms!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

One week home

I've been home a week, and am thoroughly enjoying life without a pistol belt.

It is colder here.
It has snowed twice since I've been home, a contrast to the 100 degree weather of my recent home.

MBA Graduation.
I got to see my wife walk in graduation on my behalf for my MBA. I wasn't expected home in time, and rather than change things up, it was good for her to get some recognition. And we got a nice hand from the crowd when it was announced she was walking for her husband serving in Iraq. And a nice point was that my former Scoutmaster, Chris Lansing, was the keynote speaker for the Marriott school ceremony we attended. I loved my MBA experience, and the only regret that I had about it was that my second year was interrupted by my call to service. I am proud to have served, but regret that I could not enjoy that second year of the MBA as I did my first.

Telling stories.
Folks want to talk about my experiences. I have mixed feelings about this. I write alot about it, which meets my need to express. Further, like church mission experiences, it is easier to share these things with others with similar experiences, and there is no one around me like that. It is alien to them. Additionally, I don't feel like I was in anything particularly newsworthy, I was just doing my job- I wasn't a trigger puller, and didn't have any powerful combat-type experiences, just trying to make a difference with the limited responsibilities I was given.

Life without a job.
We've eaten out a lot. Nathan's celebrated a birthday and becoming a teenager. It has been good to have time to spend with the children. But I'm a bit stir-crazy. I've enjoyed the 3 xs a week early morning basketball. I have much room for improvement in the basketball arena. I enjoy not shaving. I have lots of mail to sort through, and there are other various tasks that have accumulated during my extended absence.

MVP award goes to my wife for all her work during my deployment. My children have greeted me without any of the hesitancy or distancing we'd been warned about by those trying to help us with redeployment.

It is good to be home.