Joyce and I want to thank you all for keeping Brad in your thoughts and prayers (and for the care packages) over the past 9 months. Brad returned to Ft. Campbell a week ago. Joyce and I were there to greet him when he arrived.
He, individually, and his unit performed with distinction. Apparently, his unit has a long history of distinguished service. They were called to deploy unexpectedly when another company could not prepare in time. They completed 4 months of training and preparation in 40 days. While at Camp Taji Air Base (the busiest helicopter base in the middle east), the unit directed 60,000+ flights without mishap. His senior officer and NCO received Bronze Stars, Brad and one other received Army Commendation Medals.
Despite being ATC trained, Brad's role there was more administrative but still mission-critical. He functioned as the supply sergeant and company administrator (it's a long story). He had no training for either role, but learned them OJT with 12 to 14 hour days. Kids with great computer skills, smarts and a sense of responsibility are still at a premium in the service. Most of Brad's fellow soldiers were sequestered on the air base. Brad was assigned some responsibilities that got him into Baghdad, Kuwait, Qatar, and other locations in Iraq. Not all of these were unpleasant.
Most of the time, Brad was relatively safe. But not always. The air base was a target for random mortar attacks. Brad had one or two close calls, but always had his battle gear on and was uninjured. Aside from that, and one other incident (the kind that parents are better off not knowing about), he was out of harm's way. Perhaps the worst part of his tour was having to endure extreme weather conditions (temps peaked at 138 degrees, sand storms, etc.) and no beer.
Now that he's back, he has to complete his re-integration program (a euphemism for no drinking for several days), then flies to LA to visit his brothers (a euphemism for much drinking in several days). He will be home with us next week for 10 days (a euphemism for moderate drinking).
Brad's immediate future in the military presents several options. He is deliberating over those and will decide what he wants to do over the course of the next several months. He still has over two years left on this enlistment and is considering a re-enlistment.
Again, we all appreciate your support of our son. It means a lot. Things are different now compared to the Viet Nam era. We took Brad and a couple of his buddies out for dinner last week at one of those Japanese steak houses. Four others shared our grill station and struck up conversations with the guys. They were fascinated by the stories from Iraq. When dinner was over, I went to pay the bill only to discover that one of the other gentlemen had picked up the whole tab (not an insignificant amount). Our bill came back with "Thank you for your service. Y'all are taken care of." scrawled on it. Military service is still largely a thankless task, but gestures like these and the support you have given our son help a great deal.
Love to you all.
Craig and Joyce