Segment Synopsis: Michelle Poole was born in Galion, Ohio in April of 1981. Since she was young she was heavily influenced by her family's military experience, in particular an uncle’s service in Desert Storm. She joins the 142nd Infantry Regiment of the Ohio National Guard to help pay for college. She is assigned as a 92-A, Automated Logistical Specialist, but reclassified her MOS to become an 88-M, driving heavy trucks. She talks about her family's military heritage, joining the Ohio National Guard, and her college plans. She discusses having her first child, her Advanced Infantry Training, and reclassifying.
Keywords: Fort Hunter Liggett (Calif.); Fort Lee (Va.); Galion (Ohio); Ohio. Army National Guard; Ohio. National Guard. Infantry Regiment, 142nd; US Army Quartermaster School; United States Army Training Center, Infantry (Fort Jackson, S.C.)
Subjects: Childhood; College; Enlisting in the Ohio National Guard; Military heritage
Map Coordinates: 37.2168507,-77.3415506
GPS: United States Army Training Center, Infantry (Fort Jackson, S.C.)
Map Coordinates: 34.0111506,-80.9440147
Segment Synopsis: Poole mobilized with the 1st platoon of the 1486th Transport Company February 18th 2004, where she was stationed at Camp Navistar. Poole talks about her wedding, mobilizing at Camp Atterbury, and her trip to Iraq. She also discusses preparing for the culture, the questions about their mission, and life at Camp Navistar.
Keywords: Ashland Armory (Ashland, Ohio); Camp Atterbury (Ind.); Camp Navistar (Kuwait); United States. Army. Transportation Company, 1486th
Subjects: Camp Navistar; Mobilization; Training
Map Coordinates: 30.0827719,47.6783245
Segment Synopsis: In April the Mahadi Army seized the Baghdad International Airport where Poole was sent. Poole's battle buddies were in the fighting and Poole was order to stay in her truck during the ambush. Poole talks about noticing something different in the air before the fighting started. She discusses the mission, coming under fire, MedEVACing the wounded, and getting to the relative safety of the airport. Poole describes her missions hauling cargo and describes a time she had to fix a hole in the gas tank with a tampon.
Keywords: Ambushes; Baghdad International Airport (Iraq); Jaysh al-Mahdī
Subjects: Mahdi Army attacks
Map Coordinates: 33.2669849,44.2311414
Segment Synopsis: Poole's deployment orders to Iraq were for 1 year but the exit dates kept changing. At 13 months in-country she finally got exit orders to head back to Camp Atterbury. Poole discusses working closely with troops from North Carolina, Marines, and Hungarians. She describes the different emotions she felt on leaving, her de-mobilization processing, and her homecoming ceremony at Ashland University.
Keywords: Ashland University; Camp Atterbury (Ind.)
Subjects: Coming home; De-mobilization
Segment Synopsis: Returning home, Poole felt disconnected and she began to push people away, but working with battle buddies from Iraq and her husband helped. She discusses her difficulty adjusting to civilian life, a fear of gas stations, and trying to juggle new roles at home. Poole describes the support network of other Guard members, her husband refusing to let her retreat from life, and how war changed her. In 2008 Poole sought help from the VA but was told her time had passed, that has changed now. She talks about how much family therapy has helped get her back on track.
Keywords: Post-traumatic stress disorder.; Support Networks; Therapy
Subjects: Finding support; Transitioning to civilian life
Segment Synopsis: Poole's husband had been deployed for 5-6 years with the Marine Corps on the seas, but not war deployments (1993-1998; post-Desert Storm). She met husband in 2003 while he worked coaching football and then joined the Ohio Army National Guard as a federal technician. She talks about his deployment in 2012 with the 1486th to Afghanistan, her moved to another unit to to avoid a simultaneous deployment, and his work as a mechanic. She discusses her difficulties on the home side of things, her communications with him, and preparing for his homecoming.
Keywords: Afghanistan; Kandahār (Afghanistan); Ohio. National Guard. Engineer Battalion, 112th; United States. Army. Transportation Company, 1486th
Map Coordinates: 31.0437433,63.894981
Segment Synopsis: Poole mobilized for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Gustave. She also helped the CDC drives to deliver vaccinations for H1N1, cleaned up after Hurricane Sandy and delivered water to Toledo with Guardian Neptune. She talks about her deployments stateside, the opportunities in the National Guard, her reflections on her service, and how the Guard has changed.
Subjects: H1N1 influenza.; Hurricane Gustav, 2008; Hurricane Katrina, 2005.; Hurricane Sandy, 2012.; Toledo (Ohio)
TP: Today is October ninth, two thousand fifteen. My name is Ty Pierce. I'm herewith Jess Holler and we're interviewing Michelle Poole about her service in the Ohio National Guard in the United States Armed Forces. For the sake of posterity will you please say and spell your full name?
MP: My name is Staff Sergeant Michelle D. Poole. It's M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E D. Poole, P-O-O-L-E.
JH: Staff Sergeant Poole, can you tell us a little bit about where and when youwere born?
MP: I was born in Galion, Ohio on April thirtieth, nineteen eighty one.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit about how you grew up, what your childhood andschool experiences were like?
MP: I had an amazing childhood. I have two older sisters, and an older brother,and my parents are amazing. We have a very close family and it's very, very big.
JH: What did your parents do for a living?
MP: They were actually both factory workers. One at General Electric and one at Timkin.
JH: Was there a tradition of military service in your family beyond yourimmediate family?
MP: Absolutely. We have a very huge military family.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit about what that was like growing up in that culture?
MP: I remember mostly Desert Storm because of our Uncle Mark that had served. Ijust remember seeing clips on TV and commercials and that really just ... It got my blood running. I just remember having the most utmost respect for the soldiers at that time.
JH: Was service something that was talked about at family gatherings?
MP: It was talked about but you also saw it a lot on TV, what was going on with00:02:00Desert Storm. You saw soldiers coming on to make special announcements to their families that were at home. Yes, and you'd seen it at school. School talked to us a lot about what was going on with Desert Storm and watching CNN and seeing what they were doing.
TP: Obviously it had a huge impact on you. What were your impressions of thatconflict and did that really start ... Is that the point when you really started thinking that you would like to serve? I'm just curious to know what, in the framing of that it obviously was very impactful, what was your perception of that conflict.
MP: I just remember thinking how strong and brave these soldiers were. I didn'treally understand, I think, at that age what the conflict was other than Iraqi was trying to invade Kuwait and take it over. I just remember just seeing the service men and women and just admiring them and, "Wow, they left their families to go take care of these people that aren't even United States citizens, like they're Kuwaitis." It just really hit home and yes, I do believe that conflict is what really made me, I believe, take the turn to go into the military years later down the road of course.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit more about what your high school experienceswere like and what you were involved in?
MP: My high school experience, I went to a Catholic school so education wise Iwas already, I feel, leaps and bounds ahead of the other students that came from the public schools. High school, not that it was a waste of my time, but I feel like I already learned everything from going to a Catholic school. My experiences were ... I was friends with everybody. You know there's always 00:04:00cliques and I never really had a clique.
I just talked to everybody and socialized with everybody. A lot of my activitieswere track, and I did volleyball one year and science club, bowling. I was apart of [Deka 00:04:21] my senior year, mostly because I just wanted to get out of school early and go to work. I just wanted to work. I also was taking college credit hours my junior and senior year of high school.
JH: Where were you doing that?
MP: That was for Marion Technical College in Marion, Ohio.
JH: It's your senior year of high school. What are you thinking in terms of the future?
MP: Just to go back to my junior year of high school, I had actually talked to arecruiter and took ABBAS and discussed to her about options of joining the military. She told me about a split option program and that's where you can go to your basic training and in between your junior and senior year of high school as long as your parents will sign because I was seventeen at that time. Then you would go to your MOS specialty AIT, advance initial training, for your military occupation specialties school my senior year after I graduated and then I could go to college that fall, so it wouldn't really breakup my college that I wanted to do ...
I'm sorry. Anyways, I did go ahead and join. My parents signed and my principlehad to sign a paper allowing me. I did go to basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina the summer of my junior year. When I came back my senior year people looked at me different. They were like, "Wow, I didn't know you could do that kind of thing. That's really cool." I feel like I had a lot of support and 00:06:00respect from my fellow soldiers and my teachers. They were very honored, I believe.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit more about, if you can remember, what yourthought process was like or emotionally what it was like to decide to do this while you were still in high school and to just think that your peers really maybe weren't doing it. It was kind of unusual and cool.
MP: I initially joined because of ... I do believe Desert Storm and seeing myUncle Mark, they were the ones that really formed me and I admired that service. That's why I believe that I did join. I didn't want my parents to have to pay for my college and I knew I wanted to go to college. My parents never attended college. It was very important to me and my older siblings and watching them and their footsteps in attending college.
I really wanted to prove that, yes, I can do this and break that mold in ourfamily cycle of people not going to college and graduating and then watching my two older sisters drop out. It was very important to me. I was a go-getter, you know? I knew kind of what I wanted to do and I wanted to prove people wrong and I was going after it. Going to basic training in between my junior and senior year ... I think it was more of I wanted to prove myself to people.
I had really admired what service men and women do and I wanted to show peoplethat. A lot of people have this opinion like, "Oh, you're gun-ho," and, "Oh my goodness, you do how many push ups and sit ups, and you run, and you can shoot a weapon, and you know hand to hand combat. Wow, you must be really tough and wow, I don't think I could do it." Yes, you can and I think I really needed to prove 00:08:00that to myself and to others.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit about what your experience at basic trainingwas like?
MP: I was scared. I was very scared. You always hear horror stories of basictraining and how it is. I have to say I actually enlisted February fifth in nineteen ninety-nine in between my junior and senior year of high school. For those couple months before I left for basic training, because I left in August, but from February to August I was drilling at my unit per say and getting paid for the monthly drills. That helped because I'm like, "I'm a high school kid and I'm making really good money just to attend one weekend a month drill."
Long story short, I was drilling with them and they had these programs thatwould help soldiers that were getting ready to go to basic on what to expect. We would do PT tests, like mock PT tests kind of, and do land nav and stuff that would help me when I go to basic training. I do believe that I was prepared to go to basic training but needless to say I was really scared.
I was from a small town where we didn't have a lot of diversity so going tobasic training and seeing people that come from not very good home lives was a little bit of a setback for me. I had to sit back and be like, "Wow, I had no idea." I feel like I was very sheltered and I had blinders. I didn't know the whole world and how people grow up. I wasn't around predominantly black people and I wasn't around Chinese. I mean, we were a white, small community.
Everybody that I knew growing up had the good home life and parents took care ofthem and paid for their college and gave them the extras that most people don't have. I didn't realize that until I was at basic. Overall I feel that my unit 00:10:00had really prepared me to expect basic training. I honestly wish that I could go back to basic training. Those were really fun days when the drill sergeants use to get in your face and yell at you and make you do push-ups for hours.
TP: You arrived at Fort Jackson. Can you tell us how you arrived and then whathappened then? Because at this point you've had almost six months of doing some programs, and fleet training, and going with your unit. I know you said you were scared but how did you get there and then what starting happening when you arrived?
MP: Like how did I arrive at basic training? Like transportation-wise?
TP: Yeah. Then also just where you're stepping off the bus or whatever. Whatstarts happening?
MP: My parents dropped me off at Columbus [inaudible 00:10:53]. They actuallydropped me off the day before I left. I was scared just being at the hotel because I've never really been away from my parents. My parents have always been there. Staying at a hotel by myself and I had a room with another girl? Like what is this? It was scary, needless to say, and I think I needed that to grow away from my parents and not rely on them and be independent. It was just scary in the beginning but the next morning we hopped on a bus and they took us to the airport.
We hopped on the airport and I flew to wherever the airport was in SouthCarolina. Then they picked us up in one of those GSA Bluebird buses. The drill sergeants are screaming at us that at reception, "Get off this bus! You have ten minutes to gather your shit and get off my bus!" I wasn't really use to that but I was expecting the worst because that's what my unit members had told me and prepped us for us soldiers that were getting ready to leave.
They really prepped us for the worst and how they were going to talk to us and00:12:00get in your face. It was kind of like your emotions were running, you're scared but this adrenaline is running because they're yelling at you and you have two seconds to get off this bus and there's like thirty people on the bus and you're pushing. Because you don't want to get yelled at.
We showed up there and then it was constant yell and we're always in a hurry toget somewhere. We're always in a hurry to get somewhere and then you spend hours in lines doing nothing but you're in such a hurry to get somewhere. The first couple hours were just filling out paperwork and doing shots. The guys had to get haircuts and that was pretty funny. But yeah, it's just a lot of yelling and in your face, and breaking you down, and in a hurry to get somewhere.
JH: Can you tell us a bit about how you received your military occupationalspecialty? Was that something that you were allowed to choose to some extent or ...
MP: It was. Originally when I first enlisted with my recruiter, and this wasalso at the Columbus [inaudible 00:13:12], they went over different occupations in the military and what I wanted to do. It's also based off your ABBAS. ABBAS tests you on your mechanical skills, math skills, reading ski ... I forget, there's like eight tests in all of it. You have to have certain line scores. You have to score so well on those areas to get certain occupations.
They went over occupations with me and her thing was like, "Do you want abonus?" I don't really care about a bonus for now. I just want to come in, I want to serve my country, I want to do what I feel is right for me, and I want the college money so I can go to college and not have my parents pay for my college. I'm the fourth child. I don't want them to feel obligated, since they did it with my other three siblings, to pay for my college. I didn't want to put 00:14:00that on them. I wanted to do it for myself.
We went over that paperwork side of it and I didn't really care about a bonus.She said I scored decent on the ABBAS that I could do about anything except some of the real detailed specialties as far as medical. Because the medical ones you have to be like a genius. I didn't score that well but I scored well enough that I could pretty much do anything other than some of the medical fields specialties. We went over the MOSs that she had available. I at that time was like, "I really don't care I could do anything." Yeah. Just somewhere closer to home.
That's why she found a unit in Mansfield which was very close to me in my homeof Rockford. I picked 88 Mike or, I'm sorry, 92 Alpha. That was my first MOS was a 92 Alpha. That's an Automated Logistical Specialist. It's basically a Tams mechanic parts clerk in the maintenance section. Then I went to AIT ... I went to basic training in between my junior and senior year, went back after I graduated at Fort Jackson, went back to my senior year at [inaudible 00:15:28] High and graduated. Then that August, actually that June I left for AIT at Fort Lee, Virginia. I was there for three months, three weeks, and three days long for 92 Alpha. Then when I graduated I just went back to drilling with the 1486 out in Mansfield my two weekends and month and one week in the summer and enrolled into college.
JH: I was going to say I wanted to back up a little bit because it's been reallyclear from talking with you going to college, being in control of your own 00:16:00career path and being responsible for that yourself is a huge part of why you did this. What were you thinking in terms of college and careers toward the end of high school. What were you looking to do along side the Guard service?
MP: I wanted to work in human resources. I saw that my brother went to OhioState and he was excelling and doing very well for himself. He went into business management with minors in human resources and economics. I was like, "Wow, I want to be a business woman." That's kind of what I saw myself maybe in the more human resources vibe. I just followed his tracks and went to Ohio state for business management.
JH: That's here in Columbus?
MP: I actually started out at the Marion campus because even though I waslearning my way and becoming a little independent I still felt like I wanted to be close to my parents. It's that part of being sheltered your whole life.
TP: What was your last year of high school like? Because normally that seemslike ... I'm assuming maybe that you might have a very different experience but you had already went through basic and you described a little bit of that changing kind of just in respect from your teachers, but what's that final year of high school look like knowing that you already had your plans post high school graduation?
MP: I was just riding through my senior year. I was doing college creditsbecause I wanted to roll those over and get credit. I was just trying to fast track the easiest way through what I wanted to do and I was just going after it. My senior year, like I said, I feel like students and the teachers looked at me different. They had a lot of respect for me. I think in that aspect too there was like three other soldiers that ended up joining the Ohio Army National Guard after that.
I honestly think maybe some of that was seeing me and then hearing my00:18:00experiences, what I told them like basic training was like and what it's like to drill with my unit and I had to drill all through my senior year. I still had to attend my one weekend a month drills and do my AT ... I got out of my AT because I went to AIT but I still had to drill throughout my senior year of high school. I just feel like people looked at me different and people asked me all the time different questions and what it's like. I just feel like people admired that and respected that.
JH: How did your family react to your enlistment?
MP: At first my mom was like, "No. Absolutely not, you're my baby girl. No."Even though we have a pretty long extensive list of family members that have either had served the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, the Army ... We have a long running list of people in our family that have served but she was still like, "No. Absolutely not, you're my baby daughter." I can understand that having kids now. You don't want to let go.
Maybe that's why maybe I had some of the, "I'm not going to go to college likeColumbus. I'll just go to the regional branch and be close to my parents and Marion." I can understand. Eventually, I don't know what had changed her mind, I was pretty adamant like, "No, mom. I don't want you paying for my college. No." Especially since there's only one year between my older sister and I. My oldest sister had actually dropped out of college so they weren't paying for hers any longer but they were still paying for my older brother who's five years older than me. Then my older sister is a year older than me and they were paying for hers too.
That would be three people your paying college ... No. I was pretty adamant andpushing her to understand where I was coming from. I think my step-dad may have 00:20:00had a lot to deal with that too from his experience with the Army and his Vietnam War time. I think he was the one that maybe talked to her behind the scenes and was like, "You know, just hear her out. If this is what she wants to do don't hold her back." She has a love hate relationship with my career. She does. She admires me, and respects me, and of course she's my mom. She loves me more than anything, it's unconditional. But seeing the deployments and leaving the kids ... Those are her grand babies. She has a love hate relationship for it.
TP: You're in college. You're going ahead with your plan. Can you describe thoseyears for us?
MP: I'm doing the one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer, and this isafter I graduate AIT. My 92 Alpha MOS school right after my senior year. I left in June and that was three months, three weeks, three days long at Fort Lee.
JH: What year are we in?
MP: This two thousand. June of two thousand is when I gra ... June. It wasSeptember two thousand when I graduated. Even though my recruiter told me that breaking up basic and AIT would not affect my college for that fall it actually kind of did and I don't blame her. It happens and I understand that. I think it's just my school for my military occupation was so long I missed the deadline to go for fall. I did enroll for winter at Ohio State in Marion. I was taking the first year of basic classes that they recommend. 00:22:00
I'm just going on about my day. I worked in the factory full time, and went toschool full time, and then I did my ... Yeah. I'm all about. I'm a worker. Yeah. I was just doing my thing going to school full time, working full time. Honestly, working in a factory, it's not like you have to think. You just show up and work and get paid. I didn't want any student loans. That wasn't what I wanted to do.
The military was paying for my education so that was a lot of stress off myshoulders paying for my tuition and then getting the GI Bill which, the GI Bill wasn't enough for me to live on. That's why I decided to work full time. But I am very thankful for what I did receive. Then going to drill one weekend a month, that was extra money. I just didn't want to take out any student loans and that was just something that I had decided to do. I saw my brother take out student loans and later have to pay for them and I was like, "Oh, no. I'm good."
It was my sophomore year going to OSU that I actually became pregnant. I stilldid what I needed to do as far as working full time and working full time. I bought my first house by myself and still doing my drill thing. It came to the year of two thousand and two. It was Thanksgiving day, they had alerted our unit ... I had my son in September of two thousand and two by the way. But it was that November on Thanksgiving that they were calling us, alerting us, telling us that we are going to do an SRP, which is basically a thing that they do for medical and getting people ready for deployments. It's financial paperwork, and 00:24:00shots, and doing all the medical testing pretty much.
They didn't know all the details but it was in support of the OIF. There was alot of stuff going on with Iraq that you heard on the news at that time. They stood us up, we went in and did a three day SRP. We were getting like the Anthrax shots, and smallpox shots, and all this other stuff, and getting our paperwork ready. I had to do a family care plan because I was a single mother of a child. I was getting all my paperwork together and then they stood us down. I'm like, "Okay, I guess I'm going to keep going on with my college, and working full time, and being a mom, and taking care of my son."
I had met my husband that year as well. We had gotten engaged and we were goingto get married February. It was actually February seventh of two thousand and four ... Let me back up, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm like all over the place ain't I? Okay, so we got alerted, we got stood down. I can't tell you exactly when we got alerted again but we got stood down again. All this time of us getting alerted our leadership kept telling us, "You know, I really feel ... Not that I can say this because we've been alerted twice in the past and we shouldn't be putting the horse before the cart" ... Yeah. "The cart before the horse, but prepare yourself because I have a feeling. Obviously we've been alerted twice. Something's going to happen."
During all this time my leadership in the maintenance office was like, "Hey,just so you know there's too many 92 Alphas," because it was me and two other people. They're like, "When we deploy and see the roster of what they needed," when we were on alert during this time, they had came to me and said, "Just so 00:26:00you know, we're not going to be able to take you. You're going to stay in the rear det and everybody else will deploy to Iraq."
I was like, "Wait a minute. I mean, I'm not okay with that. These are my family.This is is my brothers and sisters and I don't want to be sitting back still going through college, being a mom" ... All of these other people are leaving their families and being ripped out of their everyday life. I don't want that. They had talked to me about re-classing my MOS. I was like, "Okay. What are my options?" They talked to me about becoming an 88 Mike, which is Heavy Vehicle Operator. I was like, "Okay, I can drive a truck. No problem. I worked in maintenance. I'm driving the trucks anyways. I'm licensed. I got this."
They did send me in two thousand and three ... It was a month long to FortHunter Liggett, California and I can be a hundred percent positive on ... I want to say it was January, March, somewhere in that time frame. They sent me off and I re-classed. This was in two thousand and three. Like I said, it was the beginning of the quarter like January or February or March. I went and I graduated. I came back. We still didn't know what was going on because we're in limbo. We were alerted, put down, alerted, put down but we're still getting Anthrax shots because there's like nine series of Anthrax shots. Those shots really hurt just so you know.
I came back and then I got switched from maintenance to first platoon at the1486 in Mansfield and getting to know my platoon very well. They're awesome and I'm still going to school full time, working full time, being a mom; met my husband, we got engaged. We were actually going to get married February seventh 00:28:00of two thousand and four. We were planning this big Catholic wedding even though he's not Catholic, I am. My whole huge family is Catholic.
We were planning this big Catholic wedding and it was ... I don't know exactlywhen but we had gotten alerted and for sure we were going this time. We had already did pretty much our SRPs, got all these Anthrax because we had been alerted, shut down, alerted, shut down, and now for sure here's our orders, we're definitely going. Here it is. We had found out we were leaving ... We had to report to the armory on January second and we were leaving January fifth for Camp Atterbury for our mob site and this was two thousand and four is when we had to report.
At that time I had talked to my husband because we had already had everything... All these deposits, had my dresses, everything was ready for our wedding. I was like what do you want to do? Do you want to cancel everything? People were so wonderful. The people that did our invitations actually made new invitations for us at no cost. We paid for the initial invitations but the second ones they didn't make us pay. People were giving us our deposits back for the cake, and the photographer, and the venue. Everybody was just so awesome about giving our deposits back and were very understanding.
I didn't know what he wanted to do. We had already scheduled our honeymoon,leaving February eighth for a seven day cruise. We couldn't get our money back on that even though I didn't really fight to hard. My parents go cruising all the time so they were like, "You know what? We'll just pay for it. We'll go." My parents went on my honeymoon per say. My husband actually, behind my back which 00:30:00is fine because I love him more than anything, planned to just run off to Vegas on December twentieth.
We had went there, I think we reported to Vegas on December eighteenth and wegot married on the twentieth. My parents were there, my sisters were there, my son was there, his uncle was there. I mean, it was nice. They did it on the internet so all my other huge family members that couldn't be at my Catholic wedding got to see. It was a lot of last minute just ... All the emotions of, I don't even know. Here I am getting ready to deploy, leave my young baby, my newly husband, no knowing what I'm getting myself into.
That was a lot of emotion and a lot of ... But I just did it. That's what we do.We just learn to adapt and the military has taught me that being resilient is amazing and dealing with the emotions, but that was a lot of emotions. We were home for Christmas and I just remember like ... I have a huge family. When I say huge I mean my mom is from a family of eight. My step-dad is from a family of twelve. They all are married and have at least three to four kids a piece.
When we're getting together before the holidays and I'm getting ready to leavein how many days, and we're at granny's doing our Christmas, and just like the aunts and uncles, and all my cousins that are my age are looking at me like, "What are you doing? You're crazy." I had a lot of support and it was amazing, but still very emotional and very ... I had a lot of emotions running through me at that time. I reported January second to the Ashland Armory, had all my duffle 00:32:00bags because there's A bag, there's a B bag, and they gave us packing lists of what needed to be in each.
I can't pack. Thank goodness my husband was a former Marine because he couldpack everything in the smallest bags. He's good at that. I brought in all my bags, we're just doing the last minute preps of weighing in our baggage so when we are on the plane they know how much that is. We're just doing everything prepping to leave for our mob site. We had to report on the second, we reported on the third. I think the fourth they actually let us have off just to spend with our families because it was the day before we left and January fifth is actually when we reported to Ashland at some church and that was our going away event.
We had a hundred and eighty some people that ended up deploying. That number isinaccurate ... Not inaccurate number, it's an estimate. I can give you an accurate number. It's over there but there was like a hundred and eighty of us that reported. Long story short we got to spend a little bit of time with our families and they prayed. The higher ups from the state of Ohio came, and talked, and wished us well and off. We loaded up a GSA bus and we head off to camp Atterbury, Indiana. We show up there and it's freezing. Just so you know it's freezing cold. It's like negative degree weather.
We're like, "What in the world? We're getting ready to go somewhere where it'ssuper hot and it's so cold." We made the best out of it. I think looking back I wouldn't have asked for a better place to deploy out of because it was small. People were so awesome. Yes, it was cold and yes we hand tons of layers but we goofed off so much. I think we needed that. We needed that break of boom, boom, 00:34:00boom, boom, boom, this is our training preparing us to go into whatever we're planning on going into: combat, war, whatever, not knowing what we were getting ourselves into.
I think we needed a break that up and have a little bit of downtime and getconnected with each other as family. We're all leaving our loved ones and our home life from home and we're going to be together for the next year because nobody really knew. Our orders said a year. That's a long time thinking about that. I think we just need to work it out by having snowball fights, and making igloos, and just laughing. It was great. The memories of us moving even though it was so cold, just amazing. We really had that kinship and connection that I think we needed.
I know everybody was going through the same emotions. Especially when you wakeup one day and you're going to formation and people are so mad, and angry, and yelling. You're like, "Okay." Pull them off to the side and be like, "Look, I get it. I'm going through the same feelings and emotions. You're just going to have to learn to deal with it different and not be so angry and yelling at people. This isn't normally you." We needed to do that. That was our bonding and taking care of each other.
You still have a lot of emotions and feelings and learning how to process thatand deal with it ... Everybody deals with their emotions and feelings differently. I feel like we really, we were resilient and we were adapting. We had the greatest bond and connection. We did our training. Very, very cold weather but we did our training. Our higher ups didn't really know what our mission was going to be so they were just training us and teaching us the best 00:36:00of their capabilities and so was the staff at Camp Atterbury. They were amazing.
We were there and it was February. I want to say it was February eighteenth iswhen we actually hopped on our GSA bus and we headed to this small, small airport and we're in the middle of no where. We're not around civilians. I don't know ... It was just a terminal off by itself and that's where they put us because they didn't want to surround the civilians which is fine. I get it. I understand. We're waiting for our plane to come in and we're all in our ACUs, that's your Army combat uniform, that's what we wore in Iraq.
We all thought that was so cool. We had the little boomer hat, boonie hat, andwe were just taking pictures and playing cards and telling stories. It was good. Good memories. We hop on the bus and the plane comes, and we get on the plane, and it was Delta. The people on the plane were so awesome. The flight attendants were just amazing. The thankfulness of ... I can't even explain.
They were just so thankful for our service and what we were doing even thoughwe're all like ... We kind of have an idea of what we're doing but we don't really know. Until you do it you don't really know what you're getting yourself into. They were just so thankful and giving us Gatorades, and ice cream bars, and you should see the meals that they were giving all of us. I'm like, "Whoa, I'm not trying to be like four hundred pounds by the time I reach Iraq." But it was awesome. The flight attendants were amazing and the pilot ... A couple of them came out of their little, whatever that area is, the cockpit and came out and were talking to us and shaking our hands. It was just really awesome. 00:38:00
We had to stop in Italy to refuel. I remember sitting on the plane and I'm asmoker and there's some other smokers, quite a few of us actually. We're all like, "We could really use a cigarette." Because, you know, it's like an eighteen hour flight and we're dying. We're like ... Because you can't smoke on an airplane. They did not let us off the plane. We were not allowed. I don't why.
I don't know if that was the Italian, that was like their rules or if ... Idon't know what the protocol was, but we were not allowed off the plane at all. What they did do was they pulled over the steps and they let the smokers come off for two minutes to smoke their cigarette, put it out, and the Italian security Guards their like policed up our butts and went away. We weren't allowed to get off the plane at all. That's cool, I went to Italy but didn't get to see anything.
Then we show up in Arifjan which is in Kuwait. It's really hot and you can tellacross everybody's face like their a little white. I don't know if that's just the scaredness, the newness. It was really hot. It set me back a little bit like, "Whoa, this temperature is hot. They're not kidding when they say it's really hot over here." You've got to remember we just came from Camp Atterbury where it was negative minus thirteen degrees. It did take up back a little bit but they were awesome.
We went through the mandatory briefs; the sexual harassments, the sexualassaults, the protocols of prisoner of war, engagement rules. They just went over all the mandatory briefs that they had to. Went over some stuff again about the Iraqi culturals and their courtesies, and customs, and going over all this 00:40:00stuff. I thought it was weird when I first did show up there. There's like skids everywhere of just huge waters. You just go up and get whatever you want whenever. There's Gatorade too and I just thought that was weird. I've never seen anything like that before. That's good for when we did first step off and we're like, "Whoa, it's really hot." Go over and grab a big leader of water and start chugging.
I do believe ... We were all kind of not knowing what to expect, and havingdifferent emotions and feelings, and still yet eager to do whatever we're there to do; the newness, and looking around, and seeing the different things that you're not use to seeing. Long story short they had us walk over to these tents. We stayed at Camp Arifjan for a little bit, for a couple of days. All of the sudden we got our assignments and they started busing us from Camp Navistar, Kuwait ... Or, I'm sorry, Camp Arifjan to Camp Navistar which is like the border of Iraq and Kuwait.
It's on the Kuwait side, but it's right there at the border. Everybody has tostop there going into Iraq or coming out of Iraq. Camp Navistar is pretty well known during that deployment time. That's where we were going to live. We lived in tents. I tell you there was like eighteen females in one tent. You had the smallest little space for your cot, because that's what we slept on was cots. No big deal, oh well.
You went and bought these thin mattresses at the PX there. It's so funny, whenwe first got there we're all going to the PX getting these thin mattresses and you see everybody carrying them back to their cots. It tries to take off the 00:42:00hardness of the cots and being able to sleep better. We had the smallest areas just crowding in eighteen females into that tent. I was very thankful to see that we had an air conditioner though. It's very hot in Kuwait.
We sat there and we did right seat rides with a unit out of Texas. They're like,"You know, we've been here for a couple of months. We haven't really seen any engagement. Nothing's really happened. You'll be fine, don't worry about it." They drove us around Iraq and Kuwait just doing our right seat rides so they can pass over their mission, basically, to us because we had found out that we're just going to be transporting all different classes of supply wherever is needed; running with the TCNs, which are the third country nationals. They're from Pakistan, India, they're from everywhere. I don't like calling them third world country nationals but they even tell us, "Hey, I'm a TCN."
That's what we called them and referred to them as. They were awesome. I met somany different TCNs and different ethnic backgrounds and they're so funny. Long story short, we did our right seat ride, we go certified to take all their equipment because we didn't take our equipment with us. We fell in on theirs and they were getting ready to deploy back home, redeploy home is what I should probably say.
We're in Iraq and we're just doing our missions and it was really good. Theytell you all this stuff like what to watch for and look for. It's hard. It's very dirty and it smells horrible and you don't know what you're looking for. You don't know who is the bad insurgents and whose good. They did tell us ... We always had security briefs before we ever left doing anything. We always prayed too. It's not mandatory it's just something that they offered and I appreciated 00:44:00that because I grew up Catholic and prayer to me is very important.
It was awesome to have that before we left every mission. You never know what toexpect because they tell you so much in the intel reports and you don't know what to expect when you pull out of the wire. You know? You're just going back in your mind like all the training that you went through at Camp Atterbury and the training that they tell you and the intel that they tell you. You don't know what to expect on any mission. It's weird. But we would haul out an do our missions.
Normally we would go pick up stuff in Kuwait and then take it somewhere in Iraq.That was most of our missions but there were times that we would drive into Iraq and go to whatever base it was to pick up stuff and bring somewhere else in Iraq. I've been all over Iraq. I feel like I've been all over Kuwait as well because we could go to Camp Doha, we would go to Camp Arifjan, we'd go to these other camps that they had set up to drop off equipment to help all the cluster and stuff.
I've pretty much been everywhere, whole different missions, humanitarianmissions as far as taking school supplies to the Iraqi kids to taking bottles of water for the humanitarian side of Kuwaiti donating all these bottles of water to the Iraqi people. Just getting to know all of our unit, soldiers, and trying to be there for their times of needs. Because you've got to remember you have that many soldiers and this is your only family right now because you're so far away from your own family and your everyday life. You don't know if one of those soldiers are missing an anniversary, if they're missing a death in the family, if they're missing a birthday, if they're missing their kids' first.
This is stuff that's going in my head too because I'm missing things with my00:46:00son's firsts. I'm missing the whole first year of marriage with my husband. You've got to sit back and remember, you know, that everybody deals with their emotions and feelings different. You got to be understanding, and compassionate, and be there for one another because you are family. We were so tight. Did we have our arguments? You're going to. Every relationship has their ups and downs.
It's what you make out of it. Is that relationship really that important to makethe best out of it and be there for one another? I can tell you from the moment that I stepped into Iraq for deployment, not knowing really who to trust, but I loved and cared about all of them and my goodness I didn't want anybody to get hurt, to leaving our deployment to come home. I changed a lot because when I left there's not one person I wouldn't have taken a bullet for, not one.
They were my family. They were my brothers and sisters and I would do anythingfor them. I feel that we all grew that way after a while. We were who we leaned on. When you're having a bad day because you're missing something from home or you haven't heard from home in a while ... We were all that we had and we just grew such a great bond and I still talk to my battle buddies today and there's several of them. You're talking almost two hundred people. I may not talk to them every day because life is so busy but we still communicate, we still use social media, we still talk, we still have that bond and there's nothing I wouldn't do for any one of them today. I know that they feel the same way when it's with me. They would feel the same way.
We ran missions and there were times that we wouldn't see Camp Navistar ...Because that's where basically my home is even though I had just a cot and 00:48:00that's basically all I had because there's eighteen females in one tent. If that wasn't scary, all the hormones and emotion. We did have our moments in the female tent, let me tell you. We worked through it and we were all there. I have to say all the females, even though I was not the oldest female ... I don't know if it's because I had a son because there were other females that had kids, I was always the mother hen.
I don't know why because I was not the oldest and I wasn't the only one that hada child. I don't know if that's just because I always tried to take people under my wing and be like, "Okay, look. I understand you're having a disagreement but come on. Is it worth fighting. Can we just get past this? Water under the bridge, move on, let's go. We're sisters, come on." I don't know but they always referred to me as the mother hen, even all the guys. I don't know. It's crazy.
We were running missions and we were running them for a while. I did go home asmall moment in April because my husband's step-dad had died of cancer, which I had already kind of knew. He was sick before we left, that's why they didn't come to Vegas when we got married in December. I did go home for three days. I missed the funeral which, I get it, I got it. It took a while to get out of Kuwait to go home. I just wanted to make sure that my husband and his mom was okay because they were pretty important to me, of course. I did go home for three days and then back. It was okay. Looking back I probably wouldn't have went home but I felt like at that time I needed to just to make sure that he was okay and his mom was. They were. It's hard and you just deal with it.
Going back to Iraq three days after that, because that was like emergency leave.00:50:00We're just running missions anywhere and everywhere that they needed us, doing all kinds of different missions. We got to haul stuff for the [inaudible 00:50:11] and Big Red One which I thought was awesome because my step-dad, when he was in Vietnam, he was deployed with the 1st Big Red One so I'm like, "Yes! Infantry. I love them big bangs."
Just getting to meet all the different people and getting to talk to the Marinesthat were ... Because they tried to blow up the supply route so we couldn't haul stuff. When I say, "they," I will refer to them as insurgents because you didn't really know who was the bad people. Okay? I know that around that time they were given a lot of coaxing and bringing out that it's the Mahdi Army, but I can't really sit her and tell you that I know for a fact who the bad people are so I'll just refer to them as insurgents.
They tried to blow up all the bridges and all of our supply routes so wecouldn't haul stuff. I'm talking ... When we hauled stuff it was your class eight which is ammo, class five which ... I'm sorry, class five is ammo, class eight is like your medical stuff, your substance as far as food, water, we hauled it all. We hauled equipment, we hauled parts, we hauled fuel. You name it, we hauled it. Every class of supply we hauled and we hauled it all over Kuwait and Iraq.
Around this time they had blew up all these bridges and the Marines were outthere and they had to stay out there in the field for a while. They didn't know when they were going to be back and I could refer to that because we would be out on the road for missions for days on end and being like, "Hey, I'm out of underwear. What am I suppose to do? I can't go back to Camp Navistar." Because I wouldn't see Camp Navistar for days on end because we were just hauling missions. 00:52:00
You get to a point where, "Okay, yeah there's no bathrooms at this camp so Iguess I'm going to brush my teeth with a liter of water that you can find everywhere," because there's skids of water everywhere, "with my toothbrush and toothpaste. Oh, I guess I'm just going to wash my body with this liter of water." Rub a dub dub.
Anyways, there would be ... Some camps just did not have places and some placeswere awesome; they actually had the transit bathrooms and showers where you could go in and take a shower. It just depended on what base you went to and all bases had different protocols, and different standards, and different rules. Some of them would not let us transits in. We had to eat our MREs, and sleep on our truck on our cots. We always had cots in our trucks.
But going back to what I was getting at about them trying to disable all of oursupply routes. The Marines that were out there, I could understand that they weren't going back to their base to get the hot food, the showers, getting mail, being able to call home. I got that because we were doing the same thing. It was really interesting to talk to them and be able to throw them Gatorades because they may have ran out of Gatorade or throw them MREs that we traded with the Italians, or the Great Britains, because it's awesome to trade your MRE meals ... Ready to eat, I'm sorry.
MREs with them because the Italians, for example, had little wine in their MREsand the Great Britains had different food that we weren't use to seeing. It was really awesome and they loved getting ours because they're like, "What? You got chocolate M&Ms? What?" It was really awesome. We would throw them to the Marines and try to brighten their day. I guess my point to that is even the Air Force people that were over there, they were mostly on the security on the post in the 00:54:00Guard towers and at the gates checking people in and out. My point to that is they weren't in my unit, they weren't even in the same branch as me but we were still brothers and sisters.
We were a family and they would brighten our days by doing things and we wouldbrighten their days by giving them stuff. We were just a family overall. Everybody that was over there, we were just a family. It was great to have that bond. It was a great experience to meet even the different nationalities of the service people that were over there. We played football and basketball with the Great Britains. We talked a lot with the Italians even though they don't speak English very well. It was just really awesome and that's a lot of memories ... And the Australians, they're crazy. They like to have fun, they like to play hard.
It was really awesome, the experiences overall. Just like the third countrynationals that we had to ... They weren't allowed to have weapons, they did have flack vest. Their security was solely us and it was awesome to meet all of them. When we pulled in for the night to rest for a couple hours before we ran back out they would brew their tea and give it to you. Nobody every told me that there's grounds in that so ... You get to learn what you like and what you don't like but don't be rude. You've got to accept. You don't want to be rude.
They would dance and sing and it was really awesome to see the differentethnicities and the diversity of everything; the service people, to the different branches, to the workers that were there. It was really awesome. We made a lot of friendships and that was who you counted on at the end of the day. That was your family. You just dealt with everything. I do have to admit it was 00:56:00awesome. I was never home but when I was I didn't have to do my own laundry. I didn't have to cook. They provided all of that. That was awesome. I just had to worry about the mission at hand and do my mission and that's driving truck. How easy is that.
There was the moments. We had hit IEDs and we had small arms fires. Sometimesyou knew where it was coming from and sometimes you didn't. I know the one thing that I really struggled with was they had said if a small child, because intel said that this has been happening a lot with transportation units, that small children would try to stop your convoy. Other people in village would come out and steal your loads off your truck or they would have a bomb on them.
They would tell us, "Don't let them stop you. You run them over." I had a hardtime dealing with that like, "That's what they're telling me to do and that's our mission," but it was hard because I was like, "I have niece and nephews at home. I have a son of my own." That's hard to put yourself in that situation. Thank goodness it never happened but those are some of the things ... When you're seeing stuff and you're hearing about things and intel is telling you to do this, it's really hard to put yourself into that perspective of what you would do if it happened.
Of course, I'm not going disobey a direct order and that's what they tell you todo, but I couldn't imagine living with that conscience if I ever had to do that and thank goodness I didn't. That's some of the stuff that you are faced with when you're in this kind of situation. I know I struggled with that. Easter 00:58:00ambush, during Easter weekend there was a Mahdi Army that was taking all this credit and carrying flags and this is what they referred to themselves even though I'll refer to them as insurgents because I don't really know.
We were on a mission going to BIAP, which is Baghdad International Airport andwe had been hearing intel talking about how there's a lot of threats and stuff going on. This is the time that I think everything kind of opened our eyes because not too long ago, just a couple of months before, the Texas unit telling us ... That did our right seat drive and certifying us to haul our missions and they were leaving said they didn't really have any issues.
We're hauling missions to go to Baghdad International Airport and we're headingup north and seeing all these people carrying different colored flags: read, white, green, black. They're doing hand gestures like this against their neck. Not understanding totally what was going on but you could just tell the feeling was not safe, did not feel secure, and everybody was on their tippy toes that day. I think it was just the overall feeling, and era, and the air.
Everybody in our convoy that day was on edge. It's weird how we all just feltlike that. Something in the pits of our stomach didn't feel right. We even felt like that even before we started seeing all these people carrying those different flags. It was just weird and we were very cautious on how we handled stuff that day like, "Hey, there's a vehicle coming up on the left." Being overly cautious that day because something just didn't feel right. It's really 01:00:00weird having that.
When we went to pull into Baghdad we had had an ambush and there were people,insurgents as I'll refer to them, over the bridge because we're coming in and we're hauling ... We're coming in kind of at a slight right coming into the north gate of Baghdad International Airport because there's tons of gates into BIAP, by the way. But we're coming in and the north gate and there's like an overcast, like a bridge, and we're coming in and they're these guys out of no where in vans and you're ... In Iraq people come out of nowhere. You'll be looking and it looks like it's nothing but desert, and trash, and it smells horrible, and you're looking and all of the sudden there's fifty people that come out of nowhere. You're like, "Where did they come from?" That's normal.
When we're pulling in at first our convoy commander had called back on the radioand was telling us that there's a car that he's going to have to get out and see what they can do to push it because it's just sitting there and nobody is in there. They're being cautious because you don't know if it's a VBIED which is an IED, pretty much vehicular, vehicular IED. They don't know if it's a VBIED, and they're being very cautious, but they're calling it back on the radio just to let us know why we're stopping.
Because anytime you stop in a convoy you kind of need to know. That's when we doour formations that we were taught like the gun trucks come out to the left, some of them go to the right, and they're watching in the turrets. When we're halted like that and it's going to be a while then everybody exits out of the vehicle and we do our security ... That's what we were trained, that's what we were taught and ... Anytime you stop. He was calling back just to let us know, stay in the vehicle at this time until he can get more, but that's why we're halted pretty much. 01:02:00
There was some concertina wire that he had to figure out how they were going toremove after they figured out what they were doing with that vehicle. Needless to say that vehicle was an IED and they just had to push it with a vehicle and get it out of the way and move the concertina wire. They didn't really do that until we started taking small arm fire. All these people out of this van, out of nowhere on the overpass, just starting shooting at us. Then there were people popping up on the right and people popping up on the left and they're just shooting everywhere.
You have people calling all different kinds of things on the radio. I think onceour convoy commander heard what was happening to us in the back ... Because he's up there, he can hear stuff of course too, but he doesn't know that it's on the right and it's on the left. We're sitting in the middle of a kill zone. That's when he pushed the VBIED, IED, out of the way and moved the concertina wire and started hauling through the gate to get in so he was calling the QRF too, which is the quick reactionary forces, on the other radio trying to get them to come in either with choppers or come out of Baghdad; because they would come in on Humvees with fifty cals, or MK 19s, or Abrams the tanks, or they would have Black Hawks come and help.
We're sitting in the kill zone and honestly, it was only ... Honestly, just acouple minutes but it felt like ever. It, honestly, at that point never being in an engagement like this, and having people tell you, "Oh, you're fine. We didn't have an issues. You're not going to ... I mean, IEDs or small arms fire." Like, "This is an ambush, what are you talking about? They're firing at us on the right and the left, and over the overcast, and there's an IED." Not knowing what to expect even though we've had great training and they tried to train us the 01:04:00best that they could as far as what to expect.
It just felt like it was forever and my goodness, hearing some of the peoplethat ... They always told us you don't know how people are going to react when you're in the heat of the engagement like this. The people that you feel may be high speed and be able to keep things together may be the ones that crack under pressure. They tell us that those that you think will be all over, and crazy, and not calm, and unprofessional as you could say may be the ones that hold it together and stay calm and be able to do what they need to do.
I'm glad that they told us that because I saw it really ... It was there thatday during the ambush. Because the people that were so high speed were on the radio and they were so like ... Yeah. I just remember the gun truck and the three guys that got shot in there and just hearing them call ... It was very emotional and of course you're not crying during this. You're just like, "Okay, I need to get out of the kill zone. Let's push through, let's push through."
But when you're hearing people in the gun truck that are not calm, and notkeeping it together, and they're, "Oh, Dire went down! Oh, Coe's down! What am I doing? I need to get out of here! I'm getting shot! They're getting shot! There's blood everywhere!" You're hearing that and you're like, "Okay, what can I do, what can I do? These are my brothers and sisters. What do I need to do?" 01:06:00You're just all these different emotions. Yeah. Yeah. We pushed through, we got through.
My company commander, or, my convoy commander ... My convoy commander, sorry,had made contact with QRF once he finally got into the gates. They were not anywhere to be found because they were busy taking care of other things that were happening at the south gate, and the east gate, and the west gate. There was so much going on at that time that they didn't have enough people to call in for backup.
The QRF were under-manned maybe or didn't know what was going on because therewas so many different engagements going on at once. Finally, they called in and they went out there but, of course, we had already all pushed through. When they finally get out there nobody is really there. I mean, they can count the bodies and stuff like that but other than that nobody is there, they're all gone. Our biggest thing was he had gotten the QRF or gotten a hold of somebody to send somebody back out there to help whatever.
We're all in, we're all into safety but the biggest thing was getting thosepeople that got shot the medivac and giving them the CLS procedures, the combat lifesaving procedures, to help them until the medics from the medivac could come and do what they needed to do. We did have three people that got shot. It was Sergeant Dire, Specialist Coe, and Sergeant Justin Miller. We did what we could 01:08:00do, what they taught us to do with combat lifesaving skills.
The medivac did come pretty quickly and got them where they needed to be which Ihad heard through the rumor mill, I don't know how true that was, that the medivacs were already out anyways because of all the other engagements that had happened during that Easter weekend. They were already in the area. They took the three away. They did not die.
I praise the lord for that because that's something that I don't know how Iwould be able to deal with the rest of my life knowing that ... It's one of those things that you say, that you're never going to leave a fallen comrade. If you're going to take a hundred and eighty-nine people into a war, you're going to bring back a hundred and eighty-nine. Do or die. That's just what our warrior ethos is, and that's what we live by, and that's the Army.
That's battle buddies, that's what we do. Being that they did not die that'samazing. It's horrible that they got shot but they did get recognized the way that they should as far as getting their purple hearts and getting the extra benefits. Good. I'm glad, you know? The one soldier did come back. The one got medically discharged. The one that did get medically discharged from speaking to him ... Because, like I told you, I speak to all my battle buddies. We're a family, that's what we do.
He has had several medical issues since getting shot. I know he was going toCanada, getting his care and treatment. A lot of it they had said they felt came from his injuries that he sustained from getting shot in Iraq. He's doing well 01:10:00and he's the most vibrant person you would ever meet in your life. He has a good future. That was our biggest thing and if that wasn't enough, when we actually pulled into BIAP and we staged because that's what you do when you pull into a base. We were staged and there's a perimeter.
It's basically a fence with concertina wire and it's pretty high so insurgentscan't come over, no solider could go over it. I don't know why a soldier would want to go over the concertina wire, but anyways, nobody can go in and nobody can go out unless you go through the gates. We're in the staging area and we're all kind of numb and we're not really all talking. We're all kind of quiet trying to, in our head, process what happened. Because it happened so quickly even though it felt like it was eternity.
We're all just kind of quiet and our first sergeant and commander come to us,because they were actually on our mission with us, ad they're like, "Look, that was pretty scary. Yes, there's three people that are medivac'd, we don't really know what's going on." We knew that they were alive when they left but we didn't really know what their status was, but we knew that they were in good hands and it was very scary and he's like, "Look, I would just advise that you guys do call home. Limit it as much as you can, like two minutes at a time. But go ahead and go to the tent to the phones."
We have tent city, there's phones sometimes. They let us go to the phones and wewere like two minutes, quick, on and off. I, at that time, didn't know who I 01:12:00wanted to call because I knew that my step-dad would hear at Temkin, because he's a factory worker, what happened to Sergeant Dire because his family worked at Temkin. Of course they're going to hear. I didn't want my step-dad. I know from his experience of Vietnam and stuff that I don't think he would have gotten my mom scared or worried. He may have not have said anything but I didn't want to really take that chance.
I made sure when I called home I called my husband and I couldn't get ahold ofhim so I called my parents and I forgot it's Easter weekend. Of course they're at my parents house celebrating Easter. and went to Easter mass, and doing the egg hunt with my kid and my niece and nephews, and all that. I call and I'm glad that he was there because I got to tell my husband what happened and explained to him not to be scared, not to be nervous, I'm okay. But I got to talk to my step-dad and let him know, "Hey, just in case you hear stuff from Sergeant Dire's family, yes he got shot, yes he's in the medivac but don't say anything ... You know, I just don't want you being worried about me."
I did what my command team told us to do: made it short and quick which ishorrible. I mean, because you have so much adrenaline running through you and you're just kind of like what in the world just happened. You're replaying and processing everything that just happened. It's crazy to only be able to talk to him for two minutes but everybody had two on that mission. We went back to our trucks and later on that night we started taking attack, and mortars, and small arms fire over our fence where we're staged.
I mean, we're shooting back and forth and it's just crazy. We're tired, we'reexhausted, but that adrenaline ... I can't explain. Adrenaline is a beast. You're like, "Okay, I don't care. I'm tired and I'm exhausted. I guess I'm just going to shoot and sit here and keep firing back because that's what we're told 01:14:00to do." I mean, we fought for hours against Baghdad International Airport where we were staged against the fence. The towers were taking it, they were shooting back, all these tanks everywhere were coming, you know, trying to help. It was just crazy. That night was very crazy and that was the most engagement that I saw when I was in Iraq.
Now, we hauled missions everywhere. Did we see IEDs? Absolutely. I know a girlthat was in my tent that got a purple heart for getting hit by an IED in her truck. She had lost hearing for a little bit but she's good now. We saw IEDs all the time. We had small arms fire all the time. I know that I have taken a round and I was in a Humvee because I ... I was sometimes put in a gun truck, which they wouldn't let me sit on the fifty cal or the MK 19 because it had both weapons on the turret. They always made me drive and then the convoy commander was the most senior of that vehicle and he would be sitting over there manning the radio, and the MTS, and putting stuff in.
I was always driving. Even when I was put in a 915 which is a semi-trucktrailer, it's like the freight liners, I was always driving. Very rarely was I ever like a co-driver sitting over the commanding directions or talking on the radio. I usually was always the driver. I've been in different vehicles. I prefer driving the 915s because it's fun to drive. I've been in the gun truck a couple of times and it's just whatever they need. I ran a lot of missions, a lot of missions. I think, looking back, I like that because I was busy. I didn't have to worry about, "Oh, it's Thanksgiving. Oh, it's Christmas. Oh." All these holidays. I enjoyed staying busy because it made the time go so much quicker. 01:16:00
The one time we were in a gun truck ... I forget what my thought was. I'm sorry.The one time we were in a gun truck I'm driving of course and we had taken a round. We didn't know where it was from. Our protocol then was if you take small arms fire and you don't know where it's from you don't do anything. You report it of course, the time that it happened, if you had any damage, you get out of what we consider a kill zone, and you form up a box further on up and you call in and let them know that you took some arms fire at the grid square that it happened and the time. Then you do an assessment: if there's any ... It's called ACE. If there's any casualties, equipment failures.
We do our assessment to make sure nobody got hit, our vehicles didn't get hit.My vehicle did get hit. It was the gas tank and I was like, "Whoa, okay." We're leaking fuel and I'm having issues with my Humvee at this point too once we discovered what was going on. It didn't want to go. It was just stalling and it didn't want to move. I was like, "Okay, something's definitely not right." When we got out of the ... You know, because we had taken the small arms fire, but we didn't know where it was coming from so we didn't fire back because that's what they tell us to do.
We get up further and my vehicle is acting funny and it's like hesitating andnot wanting to go. When we got out to do the assessment I noticed, yup, there's a gunshot right there by the tank of the Humvee. It had went through the wire, the tube, the gas tube. It was hanging there and we couldn't fix it and we were 01:18:00trying to come up with everything like tape, everything. It wasn't just doing anything. I'm the only girl in the gun truck and I'm like, "Hey, you guys can make fun of me all you want but try this tampon."
They stick it in and it did what it needed to do to, I guess, suck it in wherewe could get to the next base until we can get it fixed by the maintenance guys. They're like, "That is hilarious. You really need to write a story to Playtex to let them know they saved your life." No, but that was awesome. We had small arms fire a lot. Sometimes we knew where it was coming from, sometimes we didn't. If you didn't know where it was coming from you didn't fight, you know, you didn't fire back.
When you're driving you always have your weapon outside your window. Of courseI'm always the one driving, so when you're driving they tell you if you see where people are firing at you from you put suppressive fire but you fire down, but you just let your weapon suppressive fire because it kind of scares them because they hear it even though you're not really aiming at them. That's what they always told us to do. If the co-driver, of course, has access to be able to aim, try to aim and shoot at them kind of thing if we know where it's coming from.
We did have a lot of ... After that Easter ambush we had a lot of small armsfire. You would know sometimes where it was coming from and sometimes you wouldn't, and IEDs. I'm just thankful that we stayed a family, and we were there for one another, ad we brought everybody that we went there with. We didn't lose anybody and that's awesome. Now, have we lost TCNs? We have. Honestly, there's not a whole lot we could have done. We're there to protect them and we did the best we can.
But when you have third country nationals that aren't armed, and don't haveflack vests, and don't have Kevlars ... I mean, there's only so much you can do 01:20:00when they're hauling their loads and their semi-truck by themselves and they're in between Army vehicles that are hauling equipment. There's only so much you can do and do I feel bad for the TCNs that lost their life? Absolutely, I do. But there's not a whole lot we could have done to protect that.
Some of it was accidents like ... There's this, what they call, Dust Tampa andit was nothing but sand and it was so bumpy, and so many pot holes everywhere, and it wasn't paved at all. It was just nothing but sand. That was the longest stretch of anywhere we had to drive was that ... We call it Dust Bowl, Dust Bowl Tampa. You can't hardly see in front of you and you got to watch. If there's a convoy coming the opposite direction, my goodness, don't hit them. You can't always control what those TCNs do per say because you can't always see. If they hit something and they die, it happens.
We did the best we could at protecting them ultimately. We did take good care ofthem like getting them ice and water anytime we stopped at a base. We didn't just go off and go take our showers if they had them or go eat hot meals and not bring them something. We always brought them hot meals back; to-go plates and stuff. We always took care of the TCNs the best we could. They weren't allowed to go on base so they always had to park in the staging areas and somebody had to stay with them at all times.
That's just what the protocol was for that, but we did try to take care of themthe best. They always wanted to go with us because a lot of people didn't take care of them as far as when we pulled in, get them the ice and the water, and hot meals, and make sure that you don't get pork because you don't know what their culture is. A lot of them don't eat pork. We took good care of them and 01:22:00they always wanted to be with us. I always wonder sometimes where some of them are. Because I don't have communications with them or anything. There's a lot of good people there.
But that was my deployment overall. It was weird because we ... Our orders saida year and there would be like ... Towards the end of our deployment it'd be like, "Oh yeah, we're going home this day." "Nope, sorry." Then it was, "Oh yeah, you're going home this day!" "Nope, sorry. Just kidding." We just never really knew. Honestly, at that point I didn't know if I wanted to leave. It wasn't just my soldiers that I deployed with. It was all these other companies that we hauled co-missions with.
There was a unit out of North Carolina and I love them guys. They were awesome.We ran missions with our sister unit that's also out of Ohio. They were the 1487 out of Piqua and Eaton. They were awesome. We all came at the same time so we were all leaving at the same time anyways. The North Carolina people didn't come when we showed up and they were leaving after us. I love them, and I love the Marines that were out there, and I loved the Hungarians. I met so many different people. I didn't want to leave. It was okay like, "Oh yeah, you're going home." Yeah, would I get it excited because I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to go see my son. Yay!" "No, you're not going home." "Yup you're ... No, you're not going."
It was over a year and I think it was like thirteen months then we finally gotnotifications that, "Yes, you're going home." We had to go to Atterbury and I remember thinking, "Man, stop making me so miserable. Just send me home 01:24:00already." I'm already crying because I feel like I'm turning my back on my sisters and brother that are still deployed over here. It was different emotions. I was excited to go home and see my son. I've seen pictures and talked to him a little bit on the phone. I was scared. I was nervous to go back home not knowing what to expect. I had been gone so long.
I did feel like a part of me wanted to be there. I cried. I cried at the airportlike, "No! I don't want to leave my brothers and sisters." It's so weird to feel like, "Yes, I want to go home so bad and no I don't so bad." It's conflicting. When you're dealing with emotions like that it's crazy. Long story short, we had went back to Atterbury so overall we had to be there, I think, three days. We had to do out-processing, medical, all that stuff. I just remember thinking that was so long like, "If I'm not going to be deployed to Iraq and be with all my brothers and sisters then send me home. I don't want to do this out-processing crap. Let me go."
We did. We made the best out of it the best we could. Still trying to beresilient and ... Yeah. Trying to ... Yeah, yeah. It wasn't bad though because we did sit around and talk about all the memories of Iraq and the stupid stuff we would do. It was just ... Yeah. I think we all needed that, just to sit around and talk about all the experiences. We did do stupid stuff a lot just to break up the, "Got to go, got to go, got to go." We needed that, we needed to laugh and have those fond memories and it was good. I think we did need that 01:26:00even though I was like, "Ah, really? I don't want to do this."
We went back to Atterbury and Atterbury had changed a lot from the time wedeployed out of there from coming home. We got to meet Jared, the Subway guy, just FYI. That was awesome. He gave us free cookies. We got to come home. We got on the GSA bus and we're traveling from Indiana to Ohio. We're coming home to Ashland back to that church. No, actually, we came back to Ashland University. We came out of their field house. We deployed out of the church, the Baptist church on Temple Road.
Anyways, long story short, we're in the GSA buses and theirs quite a few of themand we're driving and the closer we get ... There are people standing everywhere with welcome home posters, and flags, and there's like firetrucks out there with these huge flags, and these huge banners that say, "Welcome home 86," and people taking pictures everywhere like media. It was crazy. I felt like I was in Hollywood like I'm a movie star or something. It was phenomenal, the support coming home.
I don't remember that when we left. I think everything happened just so quickly,like hurry up and go. Not that we didn't have support but it was just crazy coming home and seeing the support. There were just rows of people and it was just crazy, and the schools, and it was crazy. Then getting there and seeing your son that grew so big. It's crazy seeing family that you haven't seen in 01:28:00over a year.
It was crazy. It was a very emotional day for everybody. My son not wanting tolet me go and we're standing in formation. I'm like, "I don't care at this point if I get yet yelled at. He doesn't want to let me go." I'm not going to be like, "No, sorry. I've got five more minutes of this formation. I know I've been gone for over a year but" ... The emotions. It was everybody. I don't think there was a dry eye in that place at all. Family members, kids, service members. There wasn't a dry eye, I think, in that whole building. Just the support we had coming home ... I think we all kind of needed that, you know? I do.
It was amazing. There's not anything I regret at all as far as deploying. It isone of those weird things though like the balance of, "I don't want to leave my family. I don't want to leave my husband, I don't want to leave my kid," and then, "But I don't want to not be with my brothers and sisters. I don't want to turn my back on them or feel like that's what I'm doing." It's very hard to deal with that.
TP: I wanted to ask, if I may interject ... A couple times you talk about youdeal with those people dealing in different ways, whether it's combat, whether it's these conflicted feelings of coming home. I'm curious now, how do you you personally deal with those?
MP: That's a very good question. Every situation that I've ever been in, Ialways kind of look at the pros in my head and I look at the cons. I kind of 01:30:00formulate, "Okay, this is the good stuff about coming home. This is the bad stuff about coming home." I look at it on both avenues but that's more internally. There are a few people that I would be able to feel comfortable to talk to, not that I didn't feel comfortable to talk to all my family as a hundred and seventy some soldiers.
But you have those close, close, close friends; your battle buddies that youcould talk to them. When I was crying at the airport about not wanting to come home even though I wanted to go home, I just really felt like I needed to still be there and support the other branches, and the TCN, and everybody. I did get to talk to my battle buddy, my closest battle buddy and explain, and her console me. She understood where I was coming from even though she wasn't feeling the same way. She just wanted to go home but she still showed me the compassion and let me get it off my chest, and talk, and understand why I was crying at the airport while everybody else is like, "Yeah! Woo! We're going home." Yeah. Yeah.
TP: This question is going to back up a little bit. Another thing [inaudible01:31:30] hearing you talk is very much a strong sense of duty and responsibility to your battle buddies, your comrades, but even I think going back to when you first started talking pre-deployment when they said, "Hey, we're going to deploy. We have too many of you. You're going to stay home." You are ... Young son, going to get married, and you went and retrained and re-classified your MO. I want to know where do you feel that comes from? Where 01:32:00do you feel it came from and how do you feel that evolved?
MP: Honestly I think it goes back to the way I was raised. You have morals andvalues. I already had the morals and values growing up with my family, and our heritage, and our background, and our traditions that when I joined the military ... Like I told you, I was very sheltered. I wasn't use to seeing or hearing people's lives that weren't like mine and they had hard lives, and parents that they don't know, or drugs, alcohol.
I wasn't around that. I was very sheltered growing up. I already had thosemorals and values. When joining the military they just emphasized on my already established morals and values. It's opened my eyes so much and I'm so thankful to it because, like I said, I have a lot of African American friends now, and Japanese friends, and Chinese friends. I didn't have that growing up because we were a small, Caucasian family. I'm very thankful to be able to be so diverse in people's backgrounds, and where they come from, and who they are. We're all brothers and sisters.
That's just my religious belief. That's the way God made us and we're allbrothers and sisters. It doesn't matter your religious background, it doesn't matter your nationality, it doesn't matter your background. We're all families and sister. We are all brothers and sisters one way or another. I get along with so many different people because I accept everybody.
What you decide for what it is ... It's like, I'm a poster child for equal01:34:00opportunity. I'm going to accept you no matter your background, your race, your religion. You are my brother and sister and that's just the way God has made us. That's just my religious belief. Honestly, I believe my sense of duty stems from my already ... Morals and values that my family has established in me, or has taught me, or raised me to the Army emphasizing those values and warrior ethos.
JH: I was wondering if you could speak a little more to the transitionexperience coming out of Iraq, being back home. You've got these conflicting emotions, have this hugely important sense of duty to brothers and sisters who were still over there in the field, and you've also got a family at home that you're coming back to. What were those first couple of months, year, what was that like?
MP: The transition was very hard. It's probably the hardest out of everything.They always say every deployments different. I can tell you from my military experience they are a hundred percent correct. The transition of coming home, you have all these emotions and all these feelings, or at least I did. I had very conflicting feelings. I had had a cousin that was active Marine that was stationed at Camp Pendleton. I'm sorry, not Camp Pendleton but North Carolina. Camp ... I'll come back to that because I forget right now.
He was getting ready to leave for Iraq. He had volunteered to go with Limacompany out of Ohio because they didn't have enough NCOs. He was a staff 01:36:00sergeant in the active duty Marine Corps. Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was there with his wife, three children, and she was pregnant with their fourth. He was just getting ready to leave and I remember just feeling like, "I really wish I could talk to him, and advise him, and give him guidance, and tell him my experience."
But I know the Marine Corps, they're a little tougher than the Army. They're notas sissified. I felt like he was in probably pretty good hands. It still bothered me knowing that he was getting ready to leave and I didn't have a chance to be able to talk to him because he was already pretty much on his way. I was struggling with that. I didn't know where I belonged. I did not know where I belonged as a wife, as a mother, I didn't know where I belonged as a daughter, a sister, an aunt. I didn't know where I belonged. I had been gone so long I felt like ... Yes, I knew kind of what was going on at home but it wasn't ... The connection wasn't always there because I had been gone so long.
We got to talk maybe once a week, email once a month, get care packages maybeevery couple weeks, two to three weeks at a time. You do feel a little disconnected. I do know what was going on at home. I know my husband was working nights and he was doing the best he could taking care of my son. He had a son that was very young. He was coaching football and trying to help his mom get through her death of her husband. I know he was very busy. I know everybody was very busy. Life is very busy. 01:38:00
I just didn't know where I belonged and that was very hard. Do I step and belike, "Okay, I'm going to punish the kids because they're being bad?" I just felt very disconnected. I didn't know where I fit in. I didn't know how to be a mom. I didn't know how to be a wife. My first year of marriage was in the sandbox. My parents went on my honeymoon. It was very hard and I know that some people noticed this. I was pushing everybody away. I can't explain it. I don't know why.
I pushed my mom away, I pushed my sisters away, I pushed my husband away. Iwould say the only one I did not push away is my son and my step-son. I didn't push them away. I don't know why. I don't know if it's just because they're kids, they don't know any better. But I pushed everybody away. I didn't want to leave my house. I was so scared of going to gas stations because I was afraid I was going to pump gas and leave and not pay because that's what we did all the time in Iraq.
When you're so accustomed to doing something all the time it's a habit. I was soscared of going to a gas station and not paying for my gas. When I did leave for the house I felt like I constantly was looking behind me, and watching people, and looking at the road to see if that's an IED. I was constantly on alert. I feel like I never took ... I never got a rest. I was always on alert, I was always questioning. If somebody came up behind me, oh my goodness like, "I almost took you down. I'm going to break you le" ... I was still on alert. I 01:40:00don't know if that's just because that was the habit of what we did when we were deployed. We were always on alert and watching.
The thing is like I only had to do one thing in Iraq and that's drive and keepand eye on things. At home, no, I had to start learning how to pay bills again, figure out how to be the mom, what my role is as a wife, clean, cook, do laundry, maintenance. There's so many duties that I didn't have to do so long that it's like, "Okay, where do I begin even adapting to be that person again." Then I'm looking at ... I want to go back to school because I haven't finished. I stopped for fifteen months. I want to look at going back to school. Maybe that will help me adjust, get my mind off stuff, get me back on my routine before I left. Because I was go, go, go, go, go before I deployed.
Not that I didn't go, go, go, go when I was deployed but I didn't have all thoseextra duties. I had to drive truck, woo, and keep and eye on things. I didn't have to cook, and clean, and be a mom, and be a wife, and be a daughter. I didn't have to do any of that. Coming home it's, "Okay, where do I start being a daughter again. Where do I start being the wife and do my wifely duties?" It's hard just trying to figure out where you fit in.
There was so much anxiety and I didn't want to leave the house. Like I said, Iwas pushing people away. The closest people to me I pushed away. I would call my battle buddies or they would call me and we were all going through the same thing. We all were. We could be driving down the road and get so angry. I mean, 01:42:00to the point that you would follow that person down and be like, "Look, don't cut me off and use your turn signal next time." It was really ridiculous the amount of anger and the anxiety that I had. It wasn't just me.
My battle buddies were going through the same thing. We would get together andmy husband would get upset from time to time like, "Whoa, you're spending a lot of time with your battle buddies. Don't forget us." It was just a very hard transition. I am very thankful that he was prior Marine because he's been deployed. Not like this kind of deployment, not like a war deployment. He understood the transition and he refused to let me push him away because I'm pretty sure we probably would have been divorced if he wouldn't have realized what I was doing and pushed back like, "No, I'm not going to let you push me away."
Realizing if you look statistically on marriages and divorces when it comes todeployments and military service let alone, the numbers are shocking. I can understand and relate though because if my husband would not have pushed back I probably would have been divorced because I did push him away. I pushed my mom away and it's taken some time. I think she understands even though it hurts her, but I mean she understands. It's taken years to apologize even though I think she does truly understand but it just hurts.
I've had to work on my relationships with my sisters for the same thing. We useto be so close and tight before I deployed. When you constantly are being told that you're not the same person it hurts because I don't know how to be that 01:44:00person. I was so young. I was, what, twenty-two? Twenty-three? Twenty-two, twenty-three because I had a birthday over there. That's still a prime time to be growing in who you are individually wise.
Was it the war that changed me or is it me growing into the person I formed?Yeah, the angers not normally me. I'm the easy, lucky, "I love everybody" person. But the transition overall is the hardest thing, I think, out of everything. It really is. I think there were situations that had prolonged the transition. My cousin Kendall had died in Iraq because he had just left as I came home and he died with Lima Company.
That was hard. Then seeing on the news nothing but negative stuff about what washappening in Iraq. They don't show you the positive stuff, like the humanitarian missions that we ran. They show you nothing but negative and bad stuff. Just seeing the death tolls keep going up, I just ... It was really hard. The transition, I think, was the worst.
JH: Can you talk a little bit about the ways you and your buddies supported eachother or saw support during this time?
MP: We called. Cell phones are amazing. We called each other a lot. I think inthe beginning of coming home, like maybe the first two days, we kind of let each other do our things, like my closest battle buddies, which happened to just be females, because of course that's who you spend a lot of your time with. There 01:46:00were three of them. They are the closest female battle buddies that anyone could ever have. They are amazing. We've been through so much, all four of us together. I would say in the beginning when we first came home, we gave each other the chance of seeing the family, seeing everybody, kind of adjusting. Then it was day three or four of being home. "Hey, how are you doing? I miss you. I miss your smiling face. How are you doing? What's going on?" I think in the beginning, none of us really understood the emotions and feelings and the rough transition that we didn't really discuss it right off the bat, I don't think anybody was like, "This is what's going on. I'm so angry. I'm so ..." It took a little bit, but we would check in on each other almost daily and just check and see how we were doing.
Then it finally came prevalent down the road that we're all facing this angerand this bitterness and not understanding and transitioning of a rough and ... We were allowed to have [inaudible 00:02:21] time off before we had to report back to what they call drill. We were allowed to bring our family members to the very first one. Then just getting to see our whole unit together, and then talking to people that you normally didn't talk to, even though ... You care about them, of course. Then talking to everybody. Wow, there was so many of us going through the same emotions and the same rough transition. The military did the best they could at explaining to us about the transition, especially when we came home. That was, I think, part of the reason why they had our families come 01:48:00with us. They gave out awards and [Co 00:03:04]. [Co 00:03:05] they brought him in and gave him this purple heart in front of all of us. It was really awesome. Gave out awards that they didn't give out earlier. It was awesome. We were back. We were united. It was really good.
Then to understand, and you feel so bad that you have these thoughts andfeelings like, "I feel like I'm seriously demented in the head. I am so angry. I'm so bitter," and not knowing who to really turn to to talk to. It's not like I couldn't talk to my husband or my mom, but my reaction was to push them away. That's how I dealt with it. Just hearing that they, my other 170 some people, people that I talk to when we finally started to easily drill back into it, this is months later, hearing that they were struggling, too, it gave me kind of a sense of relief, like it's not just me. Wow.
During that transition of coming back to drill, I did spend a lot of time withmy closets battle buddy. Like I said, my husband would get to a point where he'd be like, "Okay, you guys just spend four out of four weekends together. Can you include me in your ... Not that I didn't have my ... I had my kids through the week. The weekend was time for me to spend with her. I get where he's coming from, because I think I would be kind of hurt if he did that roles vice versa, but yeah. It was good therapy for me to be able to spend that time with her, because she was dealing the same things I was. It was a sense of comfort. 01:50:00
JH: When you talk with your battle buddies in your wider network, were otherpeople seeking out other sorts of services to deal with the transition, whether through the VA or counseling or things like that?
MP: I don't know. I honestly think because we all were going through the sameemotions, and some guys are bull headed and strong. They don't want to let their ego down and admit that they need help. I don't know if any of the males would have admitted to me that they were going to maybe the VA or seeking counseling or therapy. I don't think any of the guys would have told any of us females any of that, because in their eyes ... The military has always kind of showed us it's a sign of weakness, per se. We're supposed to be so strong and tough, and we're here to save the day and save the world. Woo! That I think it's really hard for people to be honest and open up and be like, "Yeah, it was really tough," or to cry, or to show any kind of weakness, per se. The military has just taught us so much to ... Now as I grow in the military, I realize that that's not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength to actually be able to say, "This is what's going on. It's not okay. If I can prevent anybody else from feeling this way or dealing with these emotions ..."
It's taken me time to realize that it's not a sign of weakness, because themilitary has always been tough and strong. I don't think any of the males would have ever admitted. I can't sit here and say I know that any of them did use the VA or seeked counseling. I just know that speaking to ... I was like the social 01:52:00butterfly. I know everybody. I'll to anybody. I was the one that kind of glued everybody together like, "Oh, I understand you don't like so and so, but come on. We're family." I always did it in my dorky little way. I do know the females, speaking to them. They were transitioning hard. It was one of those things that we did discuss, because the military did bring in services to tell us about the VA, and how to cope with stress and transition. I was just too bull headed and stubborn to use it and admit that I needed help.
It wasn't until 2008 that I finally admitted after years of people telling meI'm not the same person, to finally admit that maybe I do need to talk to somebody. I don't feel traumatized, even by the Easter ambush. Does it affect me and ... It's formed me in the person I am today. I'm sorry that that person is not the same go easy, easy go lucky person. I try to do the best I can at being that person I used to be, but again, I don't feel like I'm traumatized. If anything, this experience, I'm very thankful for.. it's opened my eyes to so many different things. It's really formed me in the person I am today. Being able to mentor my soldiers and explain to them all my experiences and have them understand, like somebody once told me. Every deployment's different. Just because those high speed people are high speed now, doesn't mean that they're going to react that way in an engagement. You have to be aware of these things. You have to be aware of your ... It's helped me be the better person I am today 01:54:00and being able to mentor my younger soldiers that have no experience.
I do admit, it was 2008 when I finally admitted that maybe I do need to talk tosomebody. Even though I don't feel like I'm traumatized or anything, I'm very thankful for the experience that I've done. Maybe I do need to just talk to somebody, because sometimes looking at my scrapbooks and pictures and reading my journal, I can sit here and tell people all day long that I wouldn't have changed a thing about deploying to Iraq, because I wouldn't. I loved all my brothers and sisters. I loved everything that we did. I don't regret anything, and I wouldn't have changed anything, but reading my journals and seeing pictures, it brought back so many memories that I think I store so deep down that I don't talk about. I can't explain it. Like I said, I don't feel like I'm traumatized by anything, but at the same point when your mom and your husband and your sisters tell you you're not the same person, maybe I do need to talk to somebody. I did try.
TP: How did you go about reaching out for that?
MP: I called the VA. They had let me know that, yes, they would sign me up forcounselings, but I had let my time lapse from my deployment that I couldn't seek their services free, per se. It would have to go through my insurance or I would have to pay out of pocket if my insurance didn't cover it, because I did let my time lapse. I can tell you from my husband's recent deployment that they had changed that that it's five years now you have to enroll into the VA. Even looking back, that was still past really five years from when I kind of 01:56:00deployed. I don't know if maybe that's a good timeline to say you have five years to enroll and get your services, or maybe not have a time frame. Just my opinion, because everybody deals with their emotions different. Everybody admits to things at their own time. I don't know if really a time limit should be on there, but that's just my opinion.
I'm very thankful and very appreciative of what the VA offers, and I'm glad thatmy husband didn't. Even though he felt like he didn't really need to go see any specific mental heath or he didn't need to go see therapy or counseling or what have you, he didn't feel like there was anything, a special person that he needed to see at the VA, but he didn't wait either. He enrolled in case later on down the road he has issues.
JH: Can you speak a little bit more to, if you would like to, what thatexperience was like finally deciding to seek services and then hearing that there had been a window?
MP: It's weird, because when I finally said, "Okay, I'm going to make that calland go in the right direction," I felt proud of myself for finally saying, "Okay." I felt like there was a sense of relief off my shoulders, but then hearing that, yes, they could help me, but because I let the time lapse, it would have to be through my insurance, or I'd have to pay out of pocket. I was like ... I felt a little angry. I'm a veteran. This should be offered to 01:58:00everybody, regardless of time frames. I served my country. I did my due. I did my part. There was a little bit of bitter and angriness, but I do appreciate the VA and the services that they provide. I 100% would stand up for their honor. I just wish they would re-look at their policies about time frames.
JH: What did you do after that, in terms of seeking services our counsel. Whatdid you decide at that moment? You left the VA, you've heard this message.
MP: I did nothing. Fake it to make it, [inaudible 00:13:42]. No. I didn't reallydo anything. I never did seek counseling. I still never really have. I've just learned to continue doing my thing like the military has always taught me. Keep trucking. I am as strong as I can ever be, and there's nothing that I can't do. They have taught me that. I did seek some counseling for my husband's deployment, because my kids were acting not theirselves, and I was seeing some outbursts. I did do counseling, family counseling with my children and myself when my husband deployed. She had talked to me about my experiences, and she was like, "Oh, I really love to talk to you about your experiences and stuff in Iraq. That's so ..." She seemed very enthused to hear about ... But we never really went into me. It was all about my kids and what they were going through, and maybe what I was going through with my husband's deployment, because I say the transition period from when I came home from Iraq was hard. My husband's deployment was hard. It was very hard. Seeing both sides of deployment, I will 02:00:00deploy any time. I love my kids. I love my family, but I'll go deploy, because being the one that's home, trying to maintain everything, it's hard.
TP: You described it ... We're kind of [inaudible 00:15:25] think it's good. Canyou describe the conditions of his deployment?
MP: My husband's deployment?
TP: Yeah, and talking about that transition. When is this ... Is he ... Yourefer to him as former Marine when you guys got married. Did he re-enroll?
TP: Then how does it come that he transfers to be deployed?
MP: Okay. What happened was my husband was in the Marine Core before I ever knewhim. He served five years, six years. Don't hold me to that. It's five or six years. He was stationed in Camp Pendleton his whole career. He had got out of the service, but his deployments with the Marine Core were seas. He would go on the ships with the Navy guys, and they would go to Singapore. They'd go to Australia, Hawaii. He went to all kinds of cool places. Just throwing that out there. Yeah, he had deployed to all kinds of different places, and it was more of ... It wasn't a war. It wasn't Desert Storm, Desert Shield, it wasn't Iraq. This was back in the '90s that he was in the Marine Core from '93 to when he got out I think in '98. That was all after Desert Storm, per se. His deployments were just more of the ships, deployments like what they train for, per se. It wasn't combat, war, or anything like that.
They had talked to them, because of course, Marines get married and they have02:02:00kids. They talk to them about transitions, because sometimes they can be on the fleet for months on end. Sometimes they come back for a little bit, and they leave again. They talk to them about transition. He was already aware and kind of knew what to look for in transitioning from deployments. Every deployment's different. My deployment just happened to be more of the combat war type environment than his. But he had got out, and he had moved back to Ohio. He was working coaching football for high school, and just doing his thing. Then we met in 2000 ... Sorry, I keep burping. 2003 we met, and that's when we ... We were only together like six months before we got engaged, and then married December 20th, so nine months and we were married. But I love him. I couldn't imagine him not being in my life.
It was after my deployment he was like, "Uh-uh. Uh-uh. No more. I'm joining, andI'm going to deploy. You're going to stay home and be the mom." He had joined the Ohio Army National Guard the year later. The year after I'd got home we actually were expecting my youngest. We had had another boy. He joined the Ohio National Guard, and he actually worked full time before I did. He was a technician, federal technician, and he's been in the same unit as I have. We haven't been in the same unit for years, but we have been in the same unit before. He loves it. He absolutely loves it.
He deployed in 2012 to 2013 with the 1486, my unit that I deployed with back inthe day. But I have moved out of the units, because I think my higher leaders 02:04:00were trying to take care of us knowing that the 86 was going to get ready to deploy in 2012. Moving me to try to ... Because it's one thing that my husband and I both have family care plans, because we have to being married soldiers with children. We both have family care plans, but I think it was one of those, "Hey, you know what? I think it would be so much easier on your children if at least one of you were home. We don't really need you, so we're going to transfer you to another unit." Is that hard? Yeah, because I would have loved to be with the 86 again. That's my family. I've been in different units within the 112 motor transport battalion. He is now no longer in the 1486 or the 112. He's actually in my sister battalion within our MSC, our brigade. He's in the maintenance company.
His deployment, he went to Afghanistan, and things have changed a lot.Deployments, now you know a year out that you're deploying, which I don't know if that makes it any easier on anybody or harder, because you're anticipating that, "Okay, they're leaving. They're leaving," and they have all this training to do. I don't know, because I feel like I was jumping through hoops before I left to get everything together. Even though we have stood up, stood down, stood up, stood down, we still found out last minute, "Oh, no. This is for real, and you are definitely leaving." We still only had so much time to get everything together. But I don't know if it was easier to deal with, because it was busy, busy, busy, busy, got to get this done, got to get this done, versus his, knowing that he's going to deploy in a year. He's doing all this training, and 02:06:00it's delaying it. It's just like, "When do I get to move on with my life and not have to worry about this deployment?" Not that I'm against any deployment, but it's just I think sometimes having a year notice that you're deploying, it's harder on the families. It really is.
Finally when he deployed, he was only gone in Afghanistan for nine months,because the rule was your deployment is 12 months at max, not the 15 months like my deployment was with the mob site and demob, re-deploy, mob site. There's a little bit of a difference, because my deployment was so long, and his deployment shortened. Yeah. He was only deployed to Afghanistan for nine months, and he knew when he was coming home for a while. They told us. I just ... Being on both sides of it, you're only focusing on one job, where I was working full time, taking care of three kids on my own, maintaining a house, and paying bills, and getting the kids to their doctors, and everything you can think of fell on your shoulders. I'm not one ... I'm very independent. I'm not one to ask for help. It's very hard for me to ask for help, and maybe that's one of my weaknesses. I do look at it as it is a little bit of a weakness. I'm more of one to do things on my own and not ask for help.
We had just moved to a new area. Not really knowing our community, it was a02:08:00little hard. It was very hard. I'm putting four hours a day on the road just driving two and from work on top of ... I'm not going to tell my kids they can't do all their sports that they've always been able to do in the past, because it's not fair to them. They're already missing a big part of their life with their dad being away and being scared, and not knowing what's going on that I'm not going to take their sports away from them either.
I did the best I could at ... My kids play every sport you can think of, everysport. It's not just doing homework, and packing their lunches, and getting them in for bed and baths. It's getting them to soccer practice, and wrestling practice, and this wrestling tournament, and this football game. It was every sport you can imagine, which I think was best for them. I really do with everything with their dad, but I can tell you his deployment is so much different. Every deployment is different. I've realized that through my military career and from what my mentors back in the day told me. He had a Magic Jack. He could call me any time he wanted. Any time. It wasn't like Iraq where I had to buy phone cards that, one, are expensive, and two, there's a huge pause and delay on those phones. Then there's lines. Sometimes they don't even work, and sometimes they do. He could call me any time. I could call him and leave him a message on his voice mail. He could Skype with me.
When I sent him care packages, which I tried to send him one every Friday justso he wasn't ... I did not want him to ever have that disconnect from how I felt kind of disconnected on my deployment. I sent him a care package, or tried to, 02:10:00every Friday. He would get it within a week. That wasn't like when I was deployed. It would take a little longer for me to get my packages or letters. His deployment, as far as the structure of communication and feeling connected to home, was a little more advanced than what I had. I do appreciate that, because I feel I knew where he belonged transition wise, but he still struggled a little bit with transition. I think his would have been worse, if it wasn't for being able to get the care packages and seeing us to Skype and to talk whenever we wanted to, within reason, because sometimes he was out on the road or he worked ours in the maintenance and didn't want to call to wake me up, because you got to remember the time difference. It's not like ... Per se, he could call any time he wanted to, but within reason. He had the capabilities to call any time. It was just depending on his schedule and my schedule and what was going on if he did call.
I feel like he was a little more connected to at home with the boys and I, butit was still ... It was super hard. That was a very long nine months. Very long nine months for me, and seeing both sides of it I will go, "You stay home any day."
TP: Do you think, given your previous combat experience and then he's deployinga combat zone ... I don't know. I'm guessing it's MLS based on what you've said where the group he was stationed with in the National Guard. What concerns did you have for him going over there, because he wasn't going on a ship mission to Singapore this time?
MP: No. He was in the 1486 transportation company, so they're transportation.It's the same unit I deployed with in Iraq. I knew a lot of the people he deployed with, so that gave me a sense of comfort that I know these people. They 02:12:00were my brothers and sisters, a lot of them. Some of them have come and gone, and there's new people, but I knew all these people. Being that I am full time now working ... Everybody knows me. Everybody within our companies and our battalion, even our brigade, even this sister battalion, everybody knows me, just because I work full time. I have a lot of additional duties that I have to talk to people about situations and that kind of thing. Everybody kind of pretty much just knows me.
I had that sense of comfort that he was with people that I know, that he cantalk to, be friends with, have that kind of teamwork and that bond. But I was nervous, because I didn't know what he was getting into. I know that his deployment was totally different than mine, as far as when he was out on missions, which was very rare, because he was maintenance ... He's a 91 Bravo, so he's a mechanic, he was more back at the base where they were stationed at in Kandahar. He was working mostly on vehicles and stuff, but from time to time, he did get pulled out on missions, because you have to have vehicle recovery if a vehicle goes down.
The MRAPS, MRAP is a vehicle. It's mine resistant, something something. It's oneof those big SWAT sheriff vehicles that are up armored. They're very secure. It would take a lot to damage an MRAP. That's what they drove in Afghanistan was MRAPS. They're up armored, and they're heavy, and they have the ballistic windows. It takes a lot, a lot to be able to get through one of those. I wasn't 02:14:00too nervous or concerned in that aspect, and it didn't sound like from what he told me that he dealt more with mortars, just incoming mortars than anything. They didn't really have small arms fire and IEDs like we did. He wasn't out on the road all the time.
It didn't make me any less nervous for his safety, but I feel like I know beingmy experience of serving and knowing what's going on, I have better intel of what's going on with my husband, because I know the situation, because I served and had that experience. Working full time, I know a lot of the stuff that goes on with that unit or the other companies. I feel like there wasn't any time that I didn't really know what was going on. That gave me a sense of relief. I'm still nervous and scared for him. You are. You're thousands of miles away, you love this person [inaudible 00:30:16] with all your heart, unconditionally, and you're going to be nervous. You're going to be scared. You're going to stress a little bit about their safety, but I feel like I had a probably little more sense of relief than most of the other spouses or parents would have had, because I have a little bit more information, insider scoop pretty much.
I can tell you something that helped me through his deployment was the FRG, theFamily Readiness Group. They have these in every unit. We had one when I deployed. My husband didn't really get involved with it, and kind of looking back, I wish he would have, because I think it would have helped him with certain things. It's more of an organization of the volunteers that come in. 02:16:00They're mostly spouses or parents of a deployed soldier, and they form this organization of you get together once a month either on a phone with a teleconference or you go to the armory. You discuss about upcoming events, past events. They are ... I keep saying "um". I'm sorry. They are resources to be able to give you, like if somebody's having a tough time for counseling, or if somebody's having financial issues, or ... My goodness. I can tell you it seemed like everything broke when my husband deployed. I don't know how to fix any of that stuff. They're an organization that can give you resources to help you find people, like a plummer or a mechanic to fix your car. They're just a good organization.
What is comforting is you get together and you talk to all these parents. Youtalk to these spouses. You see their kids. Your kids get to talk to their kids. It's one of those other support groups of being able to understand and feel like you have somebody else to talk to that understand and relate to what you're going through. I tell you, that helped a lot. I had several spouses that would call me throughout the deployment and just speak to me about how I was doing, and that they were having some issues. Being able to talk to each other and give guidance and advice, and comfort each other in ... sometimes it's just listening to what somebody has to say. It really is. Sometimes it's not about trying to fix your situation. That's ... I always try to fix everything, but sometimes it's just listening to what they have to say, because sometimes they just need somebody to talk to. That group really did, I feel, help me get through that 02:18:00deployment, because that was really tough.
Now when he came, the transition was rough, but I don't think it was as hard.His biggest thing is he had some anger. I'm like, "Oh, I had anger when I came home. I know how to deal with this." He was forgetting things a lot. I think some of that is you have one mission to focus on. You don't have to cook and clean and do laundry or pay bills when you're ... Well, most soldiers don't, when you're deployed. You have one mission. His was to fix vehicles. I think when he came home it was that transition of, "Okay, how do I be a father? How do I be a husband? How do I be a son, a brother? How do I be an uncle?" I think he was struggling a little bit where he belonged, and when is it okay for him to take over his duties that he had before he deployed. I think he was struggling with that.
He struggled very bad in the beginning with his anger and forgetting things. Hewould forget the easiest, smallest little things, like appointments that he made. It's like, "Do you need me to help you track that?" But he finally got back on his feet and transitioned. It was a little rough.
TP: Do you feel that your struggle in getting back into that, did it make youmore empathetic to what he was going through? You saw he had some anger, and you were like, "Oh, hey. There's a flag. I know that one," but are there ... Do you feel that that actually helped you help him maybe more?
MP: Absolutely. Absolutely.
TP: Does he feel that way?
MP: I do believe so, yes. It was one of those talks that I had with him, and healready knew my pain from years prior to when I finally admitted that maybe I do need to go talk to somebody, and then realizing that I let the time lapse. Yes, 02:20:00I could use their services, but it's on my own account. It's not free. Where it was one of those ... Of course I attended every pre-deployment seminar to go over all the resources. When he came home, I went to the post with him to talk about the transition and the counseling. I had already knew from going to his post-deployment that they talked about transition and the VA, and getting enrolled at least within the five year mark, so if you do have issues further on, that you could see them.
Well, it was one of those talks that I had had with him like, "Hey, I get thatyour angry. I get where the anger's coming from. I dealt there. I've been there. I've dealt with that. You remember." You tend to forget things about emotions and stuff sometimes of things that have happened in the past. You don't truly forget, but it may just not be as prevalent. Yeah. I had told him, I was like, "Don't let that five years elapse. Make sure you go and at least get enrolled, because you don't know. You don't know what the future holds. Don't do what I did and make that mistake. I didn't know any better." When we deployed, they talked about stuff to us, but they didn't go over everything. They didn't go into details, because it was all kind of fairly new, per se, where now we've been doing it for how long that they go over everything to the point that you've got five years to enroll into the VA.
He did go and get enrolled, and I'm thankful, because it was only ... He was offfor 30 days after his deployment, and then after that, he had to start doing his 02:22:00monthly drills and reintegrating into going back to drills, per se. Then he had to report back to work, because he works full time as a federal technician. It was only a month after he had been working he kept having stomach pains. He had enrolled into the VA. He went to the VA, and spoke to them, and went to our family doctor about it. Hear to find out he had contracted hepatitis A. The VA did take care of that and help him. His would have been way worse if he wouldn't have gotten all the immunizations before deploying. They're very good. They military is amazing about giving you every shot before deployment. He would have been way worse if it wasn't for already having all those series. All it did was it killed his actual hepatitis.
They say that it came from food and water that he drank when he was deployed.You have to do some research, but it's basically feces that get in that, and you've consumed it, water or food. You got to remember the people that cooked for him were third country nationals that their customs are different when they go to the bathroom than what ours are. Maybe they're not as educated about being cleanly with their hands and stuff. It's just different cultural differences. By no meaning he's not angry about getting that. It happens. We're just very thankful that he had had the hepatitis series that it had killed the thing, but he was still having stomach pains. It eventually went away, and he doesn't have it any longer. He did have to get all of his series back again just so he would 02:24:00have antibody in case he ever contracted something like that in the future, and it would kill it like it did this last time.
I am very thankful that he did sign up for the VA. Like I told him, I was like,"See? There you go. You said that you weren't going to go do any counseling with the VA. You didn't need them for anything, but look. You got everything you needed through them, and they took care of it." I'm very appreciative to the services that the VA does offer. I just, again, think they need to reiterate and maybe revamp and re-look the time frames that they say to get enrolled for services.
JH: You guys have these kind of [inaudible 00:39:43] experiences. It's twodeployments with not that much time in between. What was happening? You're dealing with this transition and processing your emotions and [inaudible 00:39:53]. What's happening in your civilian work life and your Guard life between when you first came home from Iraq and this time we're talking when your husband comes back home? Are you switching positions? Are you moving around?
MP: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep. Like anything, you do move around. When I camehome from Iraq with the 1486, it was 2008 is when I became full time. I was working up at North Canton for our battalion working in operations. Then I had recently got a promotion, per se. I was permanent, not temporary full time. I was the armor for the 1486, the unit that I deployed with and my husband deployed with. I worked out of Ashland, our of the Ashland armory. Then I was only there for six months and got promoted. I moved to the 1485th, the DET, because there's a company Minus and a DET. That was in Dover. I was working there as a training NCL. 02:26:00
I'll just go through all my movements first, and then I'll go into the stateactive duties, if that's okay. Then I was there for a good two years. Then I was moved to Coshocton, which is still with the 1485th, but it was with the company Minus instead of the DET. I was working admin. That was ... I moved to Coshocton the time frame that my husband was deployed. Then in 2013 I moved back to north Canton as operations sergeant. That's North Canton, it's the 112 motor transport battalion. I've been there ever since.
When I moved up to North Canton at the 112, I had to re-class, because myposition has changed. You have to sit in certain slots, and those are based on MOSs and rank structure. When moved up there as the operations sergeant, I was no longer considered an 88 Mike, I was an 88 November. An 88 November is a supervisor movements coordinator. I had re-classed, and I did that last November, because those classes are very hard to get into, but I went to Fort Lee for a month and re-classes my military occupation specialty to a movements supervisor, supervisor movements coordinator.
I like it. I love it. I wouldn't change my job for anything. I really do, I lovemy job. That was that. From my deployment to my husband's deployment, there were several state active duties in between there. I was only home from Iraq for a small amount of time before hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and the Golf Coast. We got called into the state active duty. They originally asked for volunteers first, which I could not do. I couldn't get enrolled into college, and I was 02:28:00having some transition issues, like we discussed. It was one of those things that I was like, "You know ..." You know that sense of duty I have in me. "Yes, I'll go. I'll volunteer."
A group of us had come together through our battalion and we linked up. We wererunning missions out of Wright Patt Air Force Base here in Ohio in Columbus. We were staying at what they called the Buckeye Inn. It's like a hotel there. We were hauling missions back and forth, just doing humanitary missions. They told us that they didn't know what they really needed us for, but they wanted us to go to help haul debris to bring water, move food, whatever it is that we needed to do, they wanted us to be down there with our semi truck trailers, our 915s. That's what we did. We drove. I tell you, during that time of driving, and we were going ... We were first reporting to Lake Charles, Louisiana. That's where we were reporting to first, but we were driving, we were driving. It's awesome to see ... You saw all these FEMA contractors and all these government agencies driving. They were driving with you all around these highways. The further south we got, people knew what we were doing.
I remember stopping to eat, and it was the McDonald's. They were like, "You guysaren't buying. It's on the house. You guys are going to Katrina, right?" We're like, "Yeah." They're like, "No. It's on the house." Just seeing the support of that, that was just amazing. It's not that you need somebody to pat you on the back for what you do everyday. It's giving you that sense of ... It's giving you 02:30:00the sense of the support, the love from the community. Sometimes that's important. It's not that you need a pat on the back or to be rewarded for everything you do, but it's good that we have that reputation in the community. That's very important.
I don't want anybody to ever feel that the armed forces is a joke and they can'tcount on us, because my goodness, we have been trained so much. We do constant training all the time that there's not anything that can ever be handed to the US and the military could not take care of. I'm not just talking about the Ohio Army National Guard. I'm talking all: Coast Guard, Air Force, everybody. I see it all the time. There's not anything that the US could be presented with that we could not get through. We are a darn good source. I'm really just glad to have that reputation, per se, and the support outside in the community. I know that other soldiers feel the same way. But people were so nice and so supportive on our way down, because you got to fill up every so often and put more diesel in your truck. You got to stop and go to the bathroom sometimes. You got to stop and get water or whatever.
The further south we got, when we finally got down and saw the devastation, itwas bad. It was muggy, and buggy. You couldn't stop at a gas station and get fuel, because guess what? They don't have it. You couldn't stop at a gas station and get food if you were hungry, because guess what? They don't have it. You 02:32:00couldn't get anything cold, because they have no electricity. They had nothing. It was eye opening to see what a hurricane can do. It's crazy. People were so sweet and so thankful we were down there. I could not tell you how many people came out of everywhere and just were so thankful to see us. At that time, we weren't really doing anything. We were jut trying to get to our post so we could get a mission and start doing what we needed to do.
When we finally got to Lake Charles, it felt like I was in Iraq again, becausewe slept in tents on cots. It was awesome. It was good. Then we started running missions. Then we finally got called. We had to go to Golf Port, Mississippi and do some stuff. That's where they wanted us to set our post up again. They were going to move us from Lake Charles, Louisiana to Golf Port, Mississippi. It was devastating to see the damage there, too. They got hit pretty hard. We actually got stationed in Brett Favre High School. They only reason I remember that is because I was on the phone with my husband talking to him. I'm like, "Who's this Brett Favre guy? There's a statue out here at the track, and his jersey's in the cafeteria in the high school." He's like, "You dork. That's Brett Favre. He's only the best quarterback in America, in America." "Okay, Brett Favre. Got it."
We were in his high school at Golf Port, Mississippi. We actually got stuck inthe eye of the hurricane of Rita coming in. I could cross that off my bucket list. But we were pretty safe. It's pretty cool and interesting to see. I've never been in an eye of a hurricane, and it was interesting. We got through 02:34:00that. Nobody got hurt. There was a bunch of K-9 contractors there and FEMA people. Just getting to talk to them and talk to them about their services and what they were doing there during Katrina and Rita, I guess you could say now, because Rita came in and flooded more and mad more damage. It was really cool to hear about everything that they do and what the coordination is between the military, and FEMA, and all the state contracting, and the K-9 units. It was awesome.
We were running more missions, and we get called back. We had to go back toWright Patt that our command was calling us back. We came back, and they had alerted all of our units within our transportation battalion. Everybody got called in at this point. We came back and we gathered back in. I got back with my platoon, because it was only those that had volunteered originally. We got disbanded and went back to my platoon. We went back and we had to report back to Lake Charles, Louisiana. That was the central post where everybody in and out kind of checked in and [inaudible 00:50:18]. That's where we were stationed and that's where we stayed the rest of our time. We were hauling missions, you name it, hauling debris wherever they told us needed to be. This is mostly in Louisiana at that time. We were doing some missions out of Mississippi, and then we were hauling some water and food to Texarkana.
We even had people going into Texas and those areas and helping support. F itwas hauling water, to food, to hauling ... There were some times that we had to haul the shower trailers and trailers that had the laundry, the washers and 02:36:00dryers for the people to do laundry. We were just hauling whatever they needed. Yeah. I love that experience, because it did open my eyes. I've never been in a hurricane. I've never seen what damage can do, other than seeing what you see in a textbook. But actually seeing it in real life, it was quite the experience. Seeing the support that people had was amazing. Then we came home. That was one state active duty between my husband and my deployment.
Another state active duty deployment that we had was this was October 2009. Thatwas for Hurricane Gustav. Again, that was in Louisiana. I forget what city it was, but it was an abandoned Walmart where we made post at. They called us in, Louisiana did. This was my whole unit. This was the 1486 still. I was working up at North Canton in operations at that time, but I still belonged to the 1486. I went with the 1486 during Gustav, even though I was working full time up at North Canton through the battalion. Everybody got alerted. Everybody got sent. They only ... When they alert you, they only really give you a couple days to get your stuff and get to the armory. Right now our governor has a 72 hour rule. Every governor has a different rule, but during the state active duty, I think three days we had to have all of our stuff and go. It doesn't give you a lot of reactionary time, so you want to make sure when you're serving in these kind of capacities to know that things can happen in matter of notice. Kind of have your child care ... I couldn't do the things I do without the support I do have with my family and parents and my husband and stuff.
Long story short, we get called into hurricane Gustav. We go somewhere in02:38:00Louisiana, and we sat in an abandoned Walmart. I get it. I understand that they were concerned like something like Rita, Katrina was going to happen, and they were just trying to be proactive, but we really didn't do anything. It was more of I got to go adventure out and see Louisiana. I'd never been to an above ground cemetery. I did get to adventure out and do some stuff, because there wasn't any missions at that time, but it was good to be there so the community can have trust that we are there to support them when there is a disaster like that. I don't regret anything, and I'm not blaming or being upset with anybody that sent us there for hurricane Gustav and we did nothing. It was good to be there, because I do feel like sometimes it's better to be prepared than being like, "Oh my goodness. We could have prevented some of this if we had gotten people here quicker or sooner." I think they were just trying to be precautioned, like what happened with Katrina and Rita, and be a little more proactive. I don't fault anybody by any means. I am glad. I think it is good for the community to see us, that we are there to support then things do go wrong or disarray.
That was one. Then I've been both on those state active duties. There's threeother state active duties between those times that I wasn't called on and didn't attend, but I worked behind the scenes, as far as being back in the operations cell, keeping communications open and resources, and getting food to them if they need it, like catered meals or what have you, and doing travel vouchers to make sure that they get paid and reimbursed and that kind of thing, the soldiers anyways. I've gotten special service ribbons and stuff like that for supporting, 02:40:00but I wasn't really on these missions. It was just more of working behind the scenes in operations cell. That would have been ... I would have to refer back to my sheet, but it was H1N1, and basically it was just four days of ... We had to drive to some CDC, and it wasn't me, per se. It was a unit, and giving them all their stops and their directions and stuff. That's the kind of operations that I did behind the scene, and tracking their movements.
They would have to go to the Center of Disease Control center, CDC, to pick upthe vaccinations of H1N1, because people were getting sick with this flu very, very bad, deadly ill. We were caught up in the state active duty, and we went and picked up all these vaccinations, and we took them to different places throughout the state of Ohio, like the health departments. That's how people were getting the H1N1, because there were issues that there wasn't enough in the area. That's why we got called in to go pick those up and drop them off. My husband actually was on that mission, even though I was working behind the scenes in the operations cell. He was on that mission, and it was only a couple days, I think four days.
Then another state active duty that I worked behind the scenes was hurricaneSandy. They called that the Guardian Apple mission, and I worked behind the scenes on ... It was my unit, predominantly, the 1485th when I was there and the 1484th. They came together with a group of 36 people, and they got called into state active duty through Ohio through the governor. They went to New York and New Jersey, and they were helping with the cleanup and the destruction and 02:42:00devastation that happened with the hurricane Sandy. But I worked behind the scenes, so I was not there.
I do know that nobody got hurt, and they did the best they could, but there wasan incident that one of the soldiers accidentally ... It wasn't his fault by any means. It was China Town in New York, and it's very crowded, and people don't stop. There was a Chinese guy that just walked out in front of him and got ran over, and he did die, but that was not any reflection to us and how we do business. That's what New Yorkers do. They just walk out, and they don't see these big vehicles. There wasn't anything they could have done. They did try to do combat life saving skills to help him until the ambulance and police and stuff got there. There wasn't anything anybody could have done or prevented. It happens. Things happen all the time, but we do ... Of course I'm sure that soldier felt really bad, and we've got him counseling and that kind of thing to deal with that, because it's not something you ever want on your conscience at all. I just worked behind the scenes on that one, again, just making sure people had meals, got their transportation, their routes, their travel vouchers paid, that kind of thing.
The other state active duty that I got called into behind the scenes was mostrecent. That was the Guardian Neptune mission. That was just 2014, and that was we had a small group again of people that called into state active duty to haul water to Toledo because of Lake Erie and the algae bloom. Again, that was only a week mission. It was like four or five days, but I worked behind the scenes on 02:44:00that as well. I didn't get in a truck and drive back and forth to Toledo or anything hauling water. Just an operations cell giving them directions and telling them where to stop and using the gas [inaudible 00:59:12] cards and making sure they're turn on and that kind of thing.
JH: Can you talk a little bit about since coming back from Iraq having theseother state active duty assignments of you being down for Rita and Katrina and also these ones behind the scenes, what's it like having these state active duties that have kind of punctuated the rest of what you're doing with the National Guard? How did that compare to your deployment over sees experience?
MP: I can tell you every deployment's different. If it's a federal deploymentlike Iraq to state active duty deployment like Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Sandy, Neptune, H1N1, they're all different. Every single deployment is different. I can't explain it. It's just the nature of the situation, I guess. You look at it, every situation's kind of different. What they saw in hurricane Katrina and Rita is definitely different than what they saw in hurricane Gustav. There may be different missions given, because the [devasty 01:00:12] and the hurricanes were different. Hurricane Sandy is totally different than hurricane Katrina, Rita, and Gustav. It's just like Iraq deployment to my husband's Afghanistan deployment, totally different. Every deployment is different, and that is the biggest thing, like I explained earlier, was just mentoring my soldiers on being cognizant of how every deployment is different and how you handle it and you do your mission and you do the best you can do.
You be professional and you uphold to standard, because you got to remembersomebody's always watching you. Somebody's always watching you, no matter where you're at. You have to be cognizant of your area and your surroundings, and making sure that you're upholding that standard and that professionalism, 02:46:00because the one thing you don't want is being in Iraq and doing something that's not professional, and having the Iraqi children see that, and having a negative opinion about why we're there. We're in their country. You don't want them having that negative aspect of, "Oh, yeah. We don't like American soldiers. We want to kill them," like the insurgents want to. Or using that example as state active duty, and that kind of falls in the same realms of my husband's Afghanistan deployment. You don't want people seeing that kind of stuff, and you don't want to let your Guard down either to show that you're weak. That's only setting yourself up for failure, per se.
State active duty, you don't want to show any signs of embarrassment or anythinglike that in front of the community. You want the community to be able to trust you and know that we're there to support them in whatever it could be. We're here to protect. We're here to serve. We're here to do. You want those good opinions and you want those good pictures made of what you're doing for your service.
TP: In kind of going off that with these different deployments punctuating, andyou're moved to full time. You talked about the difficulty in transition, and not even really getting that sorted out, and then doing the state deployments. How do you feel now between your role and the struggles you had? I also think, too, you mentioned that when your husband deployed, you reached out for services kind of on behalf of your children and your family, because you were noticing some flare ups, but still didn't seek out anything specifically for yourself. I guess I wonder how do you feel either now or kind of looking back? 02:48:00
MP: I can't reiterate enough I do not regret anything. None of my deployments,if it be federal, combat war, to being the spouse at home holding down the homeland when the husband's deployed, to the state active duties, I would never change a thing, good or bad, because it is what's formed me to be who I am. It's important to me to be able to speak about the good and bad, and being able to show that experiences, the good and bad, to my soldiers to my soldiers, and be able to mentor them, and to train them for if they get called into the next state active duty or to the next deployment, as far as any of the deployments that ... We got Kosovo going on. We got Iraq going on. We're deploying soldiers. I want them to be cognizant of every deployment is different, and the good and bad, and what to actually train and understand so they ... It's trying to open their eyes to the experiences, good and bad, so they know what to kind of expect. It's try to eliminate maybe some of the bad so they can understand how to react to those situations and better educate them, and how to prepare if it does happen to them. Did that make any sense? 02:50:00
JH: One thing I wanted to ask, in a term of service like yours, what kind ofchanges have you seen both in the internal culture of the Guard and also in the public's reception of the work of the Guard?
MP: Will you repeat that again?
JH: What changes have you seen in the culture of the Ohio National Guardexpectations around servicing the ... When you started out, this was fairly early on in our involvement. Maybe people didn't necessarily expect to deploy in the same way versus now. What has changed within the Guard that you've seen, and also what has changed in popular response, public response to the work that you guys are doing?
MP: I can tell you from the support, and like I told you, when we got closer toAshland when we first came home from our deployment back in the day, there were thousands, thousands of people out with banners and flags and posters and waving and supporting us. These weren't people that we all knew either. These were just the community of Ashland, Ohio. To seeing my husband come home in the past, there wasn't that. The people that came home came to the base to see them come home was mostly the families. You did have some state reps that were there, and you had some people from the governor's office. Our higher headquarters, like our state headquarters were there, but it was not like the whole community where they got together.
I don't know, and by no means I don't mean to be rude or disrespectful. I think02:52:00that things have changed. In the beginning of Iraq, that was fairly new. It was like Desert Storm. When I was a little girl and I saw the stuff on the TV, I admired that, and I respected, and I wanted to be like that girl in the uniform. Wow. To now this has been drawn out for how long that maybe people don't realize the importance of ... That it's important. Beginning of the war, people didn't know really what to expect and what was really going on. I was added at the very beginning, versus where yeah, it was Iraq, Afghanistan, but it's still operation during freedom, operation Iraqi freedom. It's still pretty much the same deployment campaign, post 9-11 that I think it's just strained so long that maybe different ... Yeah.
Now as far as state active duties and stuff, everybody anytime they see us andthey know that we're there for something, they always support us and thank us. I feel like there's times I can't go anywhere, because I have to wear my uniform everyday. Somebody comes up to me and shakes my hand, and I'm like, "Aw, thank you. That means a lot to me." It's not that I don't think that we're not supported. I don't want it to sound bad. I'm just ... There's just definitely a huge difference from when I first came home, which was the beginning of the war to when my husband came home. Huge difference in the support.
JH: Transitioning from talking about the impact of your service in the outside02:54:00world to back to your family. Can you talk a little bit about the way that your service and experience have changed your relationship with your family. I know you spoke to your family members going on Desert Storm really impacted you and were a role model. Have you become that person in your family? Has it changed your relationship with your other family members? Are there veterans in your family?
MP: As far as the veterans in my family, I have a cousin that serves full timeand works full time for the Ohio Air Nation Guard, and he's actually stationed out of [ricken 01:09:38] Chicken, Wright Patt Air Force Base. I call it [ricken 01:09:42] Chicken. Sorry. He does work full time, and we talk, because he got deployed to Iraq a couple years after I did. We've talked about ... We're under the same organization. His is kind of Air Force, mine's Army, but the Ohio National Guard, his is Air, mine's Army, it's the same. We have the same hire ups. The TAG is Air Force guy, and he's the TAG for me and the TAG for him. The Adjutant General. That's what the TAG stands for. We discuss thing, and we talk about things all the time.
Then my cousin Jeremy, my baby cousin Jeremy actually is serving in the FloridaNational Guard, because he went active duty after hearing Bart and I talk about stuff. He was at Fort Knox. He was in [inaudible 01:10:29] infantry guy. He actually deployed to Afghanistan, and my husband and him have that kind of connection and talk about stuff that they've seen, and the famous coupon that's in Kandahar. They have that connection and they talk. Then my uncle Mark talks a lot to all of us about the different things, because he was in the Desert Storm, Desert Shield. His experiences were a little different. We talk about similar things.
The biggest thing that makes me stop and think about stuff is my stepdad has02:56:00never, ever really ever talked about his Vietnam experiences. It was when I called home for my two minutes from when my command team told me to call home when we were at [bayop 01:11:18] after our Easter ambush, before we had to fight against the wall and explain to him that some things had happened, but I'm okay. "I just wanted you to know in case you heard that ... We did run into some issues, but we're good. You're probably going to hear about Sergeant [Dyre 01:11:35], but I'm fine." He started to open up about some of his experiences in Vietnam. He doesn't even talk to my mom about that stuff. He doesn't talk to any of my other siblings. I get pieces of it.
It started when I called him for those two minutes. I feel horrible having to belike, "Hey, I can't talk long. Can we talk about this? I'm sorry. I'm going to get in trouble." He understands, but I feel horrible, because I'm finally hearing some of his experiences. I've been with this man for how many years? He's basically raised me. He is essentially my father. That's who I refer to him to, even though he's my stepdad. He's not my biological. He is my father. After all these years, and he starts to open up, and I'm like, "I can't talk long. I'm sorry. Can we pick this up?" To when I came home, he started to piece [inaudible 01:12:40] and start giving me a little bit extra and telling me a little bit more.
Every Veterans Day, I try to always make it, and I missed it last year, becauseI was at Fort Lee doing my 88 November MOS school. I try to go to Veterans pancake breakfast at the VFW with him every year. That is one of our things. We 02:58:00go with my uncle Phil, who just died, too, last year, right before I left for school for 88 November. He was in Vietnam, too, and actually was wounded and had a purple heart. He was the 101st airborne. That's who I fell under in Iraq. Hey, we talked about the 101st airborne. Every Veterans Day he gives me some more pieces of the puzzle. I don't know why it's taken pieces here, pieces here. Just maybe different times, different deployment.
I wouldn't have wanted to be in Vietnam, hearing some of the things and readingthe stuff in the textbooks. I wouldn't have wanted to be in Vietnam. I would have, because that's my sense of duty. Wow. That war was totally different from anything else that you've ever read. Yes, World War 2 was and World War 1 was, and the Revolutionary War, but Vietnam was a different beast. That's one of the wars I don't think I would ever want to be in, especially the things that you hear. You read about, you hear about, and when you're stepdad tells you that you know wouldn't lie to you, the reaction and how everybody didn't want them over there, and the support that they had. It really hits home like, "Whoa, I'm so sorry for that."
A couple years back when I came home from Iraq I had put together a metal boxfor him. I've been around this man for years, years. I've never really seen him cry, ever. My husband and I gave him this metal back that had all of his awards from when he served Vietnam, and it had his dog tags. It had a little brass thing on it that said "Staff Sergeant Urban [Steuder 01:15:02]" and his duty 03:00:00dates and where he was stationed. He cried. I know my siblings looked at me, and they started crying, and my mom started crying. I'm glad I was able to do that for him after hearing how much negative and no support he had back home, because nobody wanted them over there. That's horrible.
He kind of has negative opinions about some things when it comes to the militaryand deployments. I understand where he's coming from, because he went through a lot. I can sit here and cry about how hard my transition was. That man dealt with a lot more than I ever did. Just seeing the difference in different deployments, that was the one that really stood out to me the most. It's great to have that kinship and be able to talk to my uncle Mark about Desert Storm and my uncle Rob about when he was in Desert Storm, because he was in the Navy. He saw the different side, because my uncle Mark was in the Army and he was in the Navy, and hearing my cousin in Missouri talk about his Coast Guard days. Everything's different. It's nice to be able to talk to that with your families and see everybody's different experiences and see what's similar, but there's nothing when it comes to when you're stepdad that you've known for years starts to be able to give you little pieces at a time about his Vietnam experiences. That's the one that really means the most to me.
TP: Given that it sounds like you clearly have quite a few close relationshipswith other people who have served. Just in your family alone, quite a few. Your battle buddies ... One of the things we wanted to ask was given that about 1% of 03:02:00the US population serves, what do you think people should know about military service, about combat, about the people serving in our military?
MP: In the United States we are all that we have. Yes, can we have allies thathelp and support us, like the Great Britain. They're always backing us. They're always helping. Let's face it. Unfortunately not every culture, not every country believes that we're all brothers and sisters of God, because we all have different views. That's just my opinion. We're all brothers and sisters, and when it comes to the United States of America, and seeing our past and our history and how we've formed what we are today with the Declaration of Independence, to the Bill of Rights, to the US Constitution, we're all that we have. We're Americans, and we have to stand together and support each other. We're all we have. We have to be able to be there in a moment's notice and be able to support ... I'm not going to lie. There are times I get nervous about if there's going to be another Revolutionary War sometimes with the way things are going. I don't want that. We're the United States of America, darn it. We are brothers and sisters, and we have to stand united and stay together and support one another.
I get nervous about seeing if there's going to be another Word Word 3. I getnervous about that stuff. I don't want to see any wars. I am not a fan of wars, but things happen, and you can't always control things. You just have to be able to stand together and be able to trust one another and look to your right and look to your left and know that they got your back and you go theirs. That's my 03:04:00biggest thing about the United States.
TP: Do you feel that people don't ... Do you feel that people who haven't served ...
MP: Here's my thing. There are so many people that I know that have not served.Some of that, I think, is going back to my high school days of people that looked at me and were like, "I don't think I could do it." Yes, you can. You can do anything you put your mind to. You've got to be able to believe in yourself, and trust me, the Army's going to teach you, or the Marines, or the Air Force, or the National Guard. They're going to teach you. Trust me. They will train you. We are one of the best darn trained branches, well, overall, all of us, all the branches are trained very well and to do what we need to do to be active and proactive in any crisis or devastations. We're very trained very well. Anybody can do it. I just think that there are people that are scared, or maybe that's not their calling. That's okay. Everybody has a different calling in life. It's okay.
We are the United States of America, and I've seen this in the past with stateactive duty. When there's some devastation that happens, people do come together. They really do. They bring all their strengths in. If it's nurses come in to do this, and plumbers come in to do this, and construction workers come in to do this, and you got your military people doing this, and you got your truck drivers hauling in equipment or food or what have you. People come together in crisises and devastation. It's okay if they're not in the military. I would love for everybody ... I think it should be a requirement when you turn 18 and you go 03:06:00sign your form for the draft in case there's ever one, and you go turn in your stuff to be a voter, when you do all those forms when you turn 18, per se, I think that there should be a mandatory requirement that everybody serves in some branch or another a year, two years, something, because I see so many times you have your people and everybody comes from different walks of life.
You have your people that have had really hard lives, and my heart pours out tothem. I wish I could fix everything and everybody could just live in this amazing, no conflict world. Unfortunately that's not what it is. You got to do what you can do to advocate and support and resilient and adapt and ... You see these people come in from bad lives. Having them go into some kind of structure that teaches them discipline and gives them means, they clothe you, they pay you, they send you to school, they train you. What more could you ask for? You're getting paid. They lodge you. They give you everything. There's nothing you have to do but give yourself. Sometimes I think some of the people that have come from not so great backgrounds that would help them, structure them, and give them values, and morals. This is just my opinion, and be able to give them some kind of future.
I never expected to still me sitting in the military 16 years later. I thought Iwas just going to do my first six years, get out, have my college done, woo! You know what? I love it, and there's nothing that would change that for the world. 03:08:00Even those that have good backgrounds, like I had a good living experience. I grew up well. Even at that, it's formed me into be so independent and know that there's not anything that I can't do. I can do anything there is to do. I got this. That's because the Army has trained me that way and taught me. It's not being conceited or egotistic or anything like that. I know there's nothing that can't be handed to me that I can't get through.
JH: One thing we are asking veterans [inaudible 01:23:41] the project is we havesome questions looking at the impact of 9-11 on service. Can you tell us a little bit about where you were on 9-11 and what happened?
MP: I was at annual training for my two weeks during September 11th. I was stillin maintenance, but that was one of my best annual trainings, because we were considered YRT, which is year round training. We were actually hauling stuff. First time I ever drove a 9-15 semi truck trailer, FYI. That was interesting. My guy that was training me how to drive this showed me the basics. It was like, "All right. Hop in." I'm driving four lane traffic that I've never drove in even my own little POV, my privately owned vehicle. That was very interesting, and it's very memorable.
Yes, we were on annual training, and that was the first time I ever drove a 9-15semi truck trailer. We were hauling to Camp Ripley, Minnesota. We were just hauling stuff, and actually September 11th happened when we rolled in there. When we rolled in there, they didn't want to let us in, because you got to understand when September 11th first happened, nobody knew what was going on. It 03:10:00was just a whole bunch of random stuff like the Pentagon got attacked, and the towers got attacked, and then some plane in Pennsylvania. There was a lot of stuff that people didn't know really what was going on. They didn't know that it was really terrorists. I think at the time they just didn't know ... Something was going on. They just didn't know exactly what, I think.
We show up at Camp Ripley, Minnesota, and they didn't want to let us in thegates. "Hello, we're military. Here's our TMR," which is a troop movement request. "This is the point of contact we need to see." They did let us in. It just took them a minute. They're just doing what they're told to do. I get it. I got it. We're not bad people. I know this. They don't know that. We get in, and they're on shut down. We can't get ahold of the point of contact to get these loads off our trucks so we can get out of there. We're calling home asking Ohio, "What's going on? What do we need to do?" Nobody knows what's going on. We're stuck there. We're just sitting there.
Finally we start listening to the radio, and things start coming on, and we'relike, "Oh my goodness. What in the world is going on?" I think even at that, nobody really knew. Nobody really put terrorists in there. We just, "Huh, that's weird that that happened there at the twin towers. Oh, what? The Pentagon? What? What is going on? Are the planes bad?" Just stuff that we're discussing, and nobody really knew what was going on. Finally someone came out and they're like, "Okay, we were instructed to go ahead and unload these loads, but you guys need to get out of here. I would advise you to ..." because I don't know why we didn't stay there. I guess they didn't ask, but they were like, "I would advise you guys to go back to your hotel," which we did have a hotel. "Get out of 03:12:00uniform, don't even let anybody know that you're in the military." We're like, "Okay." Because none of us are putting it together like terrorists or anything, but this is what this point of contact, and I don't even know what rank he was, was telling us. That's what his people were telling him.
Our convoy commander was calling back to Ohio like, "Hey, this is what we'rebeing told." Finally they unload all of our vehicles, and we go back to the hotel, and sure enough, our command team told us the same thing. We actually had to park our vehicles, military vehicles ... because of course you can look and tell that they're military, they're camouflage. We parked them down the street away from the hotel, because we don't even want anybody to know that military people stayed at the hotel. We put them in this parking lot. I can't even tell you what parking lot it was. It was a grocery store. We just parked our vehicles in there, and then we get taxis and go back to the hotel. Then we were told to stay at the hotel, not go anywhere. We were allowed to go as long as we weren't in uniform, and don't let anybody know that we were military. This is what we're being told, so we do.
We were at the hotel I think for two days. That's when I got my first tattoo,because we were talking. Somebody was like, "You know this is terrorist." Things started coming out on the news and people making their own opinions. They're like, "I'm telling you, we're going to end up going to war, whoever did this." I'm like, "What? I can't go to war. I'm getting a tattoo." So I hopped in a taxi and went and got a tattoo. We're just chilling in the bar, and I wasn't of age, so I wasn't drinking. Then finally we were told we could go ahead and come back to Ohio. We get in our vehicles, and we drive. It was interesting. People were really nice on the way home. Everywhere where we stopped to fuel up, people came 03:14:00up and thanked us and talked to us, and asked us what we were doing. We're like, "We're not at liberty to say," because operation security. You can't always put your stuff out there, just in case there's insider threats. I would hope that ... It happens, but I would never pray or hope that any insider threats ever happen. We just got to protect ourselves and be smart about operation security and stuff. We just basically told them what they always train us to tell like, "We're not at liberty to talk about that, but thank you. We enjoy what we do."
We get back home, and then a couple weeks later they started actually telling usthat they needed people to come in and secure the armory, because they didn't know what really to expect with September 11th. All they know that it was terrorists. They didn't know if there was going to be more threats. Then we started to have five people at the armory Guarding all day long. I never got called into that, because I was dong college and doing my own thing, and working full time that I didn't volunteer to go into the armory, but I knew a lot of people that did go into the armories to secure the armory after September 11th. I do believe that September 11th was a big part of the Iraq and when we went in.
JH: Is there anything that you haven't gotten the chance to talk about that youthink is really important for service experience?
MP: The only thing that I think is important to realize, and I would want people03:16:00to know this for other service people that deploy or community members, I would want it to be known you got to remember that there's so many people affected by one person's deployment. It's not just your being affected, the deployed person, it's not just the spouse, it's not just the grandparent, the parent, the sister, the brother, the niece, the nephew, the uncle, the aunt. Everybody's affected, but you got to remember that the children are mostly affected by this. I do believe that they have done very well at giving advocacy and counseling and resources for soldiers that have deployed parents or what have you.
It's really interesting, though, in my aspect, my kids have that love/haterelationship about our careers, kind of like my mom does. It's one of those things like, "Really? You got to go again? How long this time?" It's a little different, because my experiences may be a little different, because my husband and I both work full time for the Ohio Army National Guard. We both serve. We both deploy. We both do state active duty. We both have to go to training. We both get called into all kinds of things. It seems like my kids are always like, "Really? You're leaving again?" That's the first one of the things they do ask. "Is it two weeks? Is it a week? Is it a month?" They get a little irritated, that they feel like ... It's not that we don't try to make them feel important. We let them play every sport. We're always at their sporting events. We're 03:18:00always their number one fans.
It's not that my husband and I don't do a good job tag-teaming when we have toand making sure that the kids feel that they are important. It's when you see their reaction, you see what they say. I feel like it's kind of an ... It's one of those annoyance to them kind of things. Because they go to schools with parents that come from all different ranges of careers. Our careers are a little different. But it's weird to see what they write. My oldest son just had to write a paper, what freedom means to him. It about brought me to my knees hearing what he had to say, because he shows me one side of the annoyance of me always being gone, or my husband always being gone, or ... I'm not going to lie. My husband and I discuss this all the time. Finding the balance of our careers with our personal family life is very hard. It's very challenging at times. It's something that we try really hard to make sure that we do make sure that the kids know that they're important, that we love them, and that this is our job, and this is our duty.
When I go into parent teacher conferences and the teachers tell me, "Wow, yourboys are pure leaders. I don't know where they get it from, but wow." Because some teachers don't know what my husband and I do. It's amazing to hear what my children say to their teachers and what they write when they have to write like, "What does freedom mean to me," it brings me to my knees hearing them say, "Freedom means to me that my parents leave a lot, but I know that it's for their 03:20:00jobs and protecting this country and protecting our US Constitution or the Declaration of Independence." Hearing them talk highly of what my husband and I do, it makes me feel I'm doing the good thing. I'm doing the right thing by them. I'm raising them well. I'm teaching them what it is to be a good citizen.
I just find it to be important of everything that we talked about, and that'sone thing that we left out is the children's views of military. I do believe to continue having a military structure in force, it's important to show that to the children. If I wouldn't have seen all the commercials and hear about things about Desert Storm and my uncle Mark deploying, would I have joined the military? I don't know. I think it's very important to start with the children and make sure that the children aren't forgotten when it comes to the parents deploying. The future starts with the children. It's going to be an evolution time after time, and it's going to start putting that pride and that value into children at a young age. It's just going to keep revolving. Don't forget about the children.
TP: Is there anything we've not asked you that you'd like to talk to us about?
MP: I don't know. I don't think so. No.03:22:00