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When in Rome…naw, I’m still good.

Welcome to the University of Tennessee. Photo from rob akers

Welcome to the University of Tennessee. Photo from rob akers

Hey Y’all,

I know the posts have been few and far between. No excuses except that I really enjoyed the summer with the family. The kids went back to school today but I didn’t get the pleasure of enjoying a quiet house as I am working this week. However, my wife had a great time moving freely through her day without two kids in tow. Good for her.

This week I have been hanging out in Knoxville, Tennessee during the days. I like Knoxville although I am not a fan of the University of Tennessee. There is no reason behind my dislike of the University, it is just that growing up I found other teams to root for. However, I must say that the UT campus is very nice. It is a growing, vibrant area with a great on campus football stadium. The hotel that I stay in during the day is about a mile from the campus and it is a very easy walk to grab a good, cheap lunch. Last year when I was wondering around the school, I came across the perfect place for lunch. Gus’s Good Time Deli. Gus’s deli is actually on the property of the school and has been in existence since the early 1980’s. They have photos of all the UT football and basketball greats on the wall along with posters of early 1980’s pop culture. It is nice to be transported back in time to the days of my youth.

New Law School Students. I wonder if the welcome goes like this. "Look to your left and to your right. Only one of the three of you will be graduates of this school. Go look in the mirror, 100% of the people you see will have student loans of about 100K. You better study hard." photo from rob akers

New Law School Students. I wonder if the welcome goes like this. “Look to your left and to your right. Only one of the three of you will be graduates of this school. Go look in the mirror, 100% of the people you see will have student loans of about 100K. You better study hard.” photo from rob akers

My daily schedule is remarkably the same and could be considered Ground Hog day worthy. I wake about 2 PM and lay in bed for about 30 minutes thinking that I might fall back asleep but it never happens. I pull myself out of bed and call home as I leave the hotel walking through the World’s Fair Park towards the campus. Somewhere along the busy five lane street that borders the campus, I cross playing “Frogger” and dodging busses, cars and mini-vans. One day last week in my zombie like sleep walk, I almost walked in front of a mini-van driven by a wigged out mom dropping her baby off at college. I guess I would rather be lucky than good.

Get the Roast Beef sandwich. photo from rob akers

Get the Roast Beef sandwich. photo from rob akers

About 15 minutes later, I walk into the deli and order whatever the cooks suggest. As an aside, Sean, Andy, and Brent are great guys and wonderful cooks but surprisingly enough none of them are UT fans. Sean likes Notre Dame, Andy likes Alabama and Brent doesn’t like college football. But every day they tell me a new story from back in the day when they had to kick one of the football players out or when they had to deal with the women’s basketball team. None of the stories are bad but since I they are second hand experiences, I won’t name anyone’s name but you can be sure if you know football you know the players.

Loaded up with my hot sandwich and a Sprite, I make the walk back to the hotel and take my life on my own hands crossing the busy street. Every day is the same except for last Wednesday. That day marked a first and a day that I will always remember for all the wrong reasons.

I walked through the park wearing my standard uniform of khaki shorts and white tee shirt with my baseball hat on, sunglasses, and ear buds softly playing my music. I carried a box of food and a cup of Sprite covered with sweat because it was a hot day, I noticed a guy standing off to the side of the walkway. He was just standing and although I am not intimating anyone, I immediately judged that he wasn’t a threat to my safety. Our eyes met and he gave me a head nod. I am not cool anymore and I don’t know the signals, so I did what I did back in the 80s and returned the head nod and said “what’s up.”

Just after I passed by him, I felt him come up to my right and I turned to look back. He was walking in pace with me and asked if I wanted to invite him back to my room. I am paraphrasing his words but his point was that he was looking for me to pay him for an intimate encounter. I told him that I was good and I kept on walking. About ten steps later, I looked back and he was no longer following me. It was about that time, I started laughing. When I got back to the room, I immediately called my wife and told her that someone in Knoxville thinks I am hot. She didn’t quite find the humor in the encounter that I did, but the lesson is this. I still got it baby!

Took this the day after to prove to the other pilot that I wasn't afraid to go back into the park. photo from rob akers

Took this the day after to prove to the other pilot that I wasn’t afraid to go back into the park. photo from rob akers

Until next time, keep on rockin.

14,000 words off my mind

I need to get some things off my chest. photo from yahoo

I need to get some things off my chest. photo from yahoo

Hey Y’all,

I know I haven’t been posting much lately but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been watching and thinking about things. Since time is limited (both yours and mine) I am going to say some things with pictures. Hope this makes sense.

Why does everyone care about this guy destroying his cell phone? Photo from yahoo

Why does everyone care about this guy destroying his cell phone?
Photo from yahoo

But no one seems to care about this lady destroying her entire computer system? photo from yahoo.

But no one seems to care about this lady destroying her entire computer system? photo from yahoo.

Everyone seems ticked off that a stupid dentist shot a lion. photo from yahoo.

Everyone seems ticked off that a stupid dentist shot a lion. photo from yahoo.

But these people think it is okay to kill 6 million unborn fetuses. photo from yahoo.

But these people think it is okay to kill 6 million unborn fetuses. photo from yahoo.

My mini-suv is the cause of global warming. photo from yahoo.

My mini-suv is the cause of global warming. photo from yahoo.

But no one has the guts to say that maybe there is a problem in China. Photo from yahoo.

But no one has the guts to say that maybe there is a problem in China. Photo from yahoo.

I am glad this flag no longer flies. photo from yahoo.

I am glad this flag no longer flies. photo from yahoo.

But nothing has changed for the millions of people who are slaves to drugs. photo form yahoo.

But nothing has changed for the millions of people who are slaves to drugs. photo form yahoo.

Finally a solution for these folks. photo form yahoo.

Finally a solution for these folks. photo form yahoo.

But no one is willing to compromise and help these people. photo from yahoo.

But no one is willing to compromise and help these people. photo from yahoo.

The most athletic grandma in history is on the cover of all the magazines. photo from yahoo.

The most athletic grandma in history is on the cover of all the magazines. photo from yahoo.

But we still allow big corporations to poison us one Twinkie at a time.  photo from yahoo

But we still allow big corporations to poison us one Twinkie at a time. photo from yahoo

There is a lot going on right now and a million reasons to lose control. photo from yahoo.

There is a lot going on right now and a million reasons to lose control. photo from yahoo.

I hope you feel the same. photo from yahoo.

I hope you feel the same. photo from yahoo.

Until next time, keep on rockin.

My True Colors

So True...photo from yahoo.

So True…photo from yahoo.

Hey Y’all,

Hope everyone is enjoying your summer. I know it isn’t fall time but I thought you might like a ghost story instead of the random “There I was…” war story. I have to warn you before you start reading that the story I am going to tell you is very real. It really happened three weeks ago exactly as I describe it. If you get weirded out over scary things please stop reading now and go on to the next article, because I have proof that things do go bump in the night.

Gather around my little ghouls, Uncle Robbie has a story. Photo from yahoo.

Gather around my little ghouls, Uncle Robbie has a story. Photo from yahoo.

My wife is a wonderful woman who attracts good friends like a light attracts moths. She and three other women have formed a bond that is much stronger than the bond between sisters. All four of these ladies just happen to be in the medical profession although they were friends before their career paths were set. All of their kids are in the same age grouping with the two oldest being 15 and the youngest is just 5. The other six kids are between 11 and 7. The other three husbands and I can be described as garnish, we complete the meal but really we serve no real purpose. As proof as to the tightness of the four families, the last five years we have vacationed together at various locations around the beaches of Charleston, SC. In fact this year is the first we have not vacationed together because of various reasons. So this past weekend the four families minus two leaves of garnish spent the weekend together in Davis, WV.

Despite what you are about to read. Davis is a great little community, during the day. Photo from yahoo.

Despite what you are about to read. Davis is a great little community, during the day. Photo from yahoo.

Davis, WV is a sleepy mountain town about ten minutes from the Canaan Valley ski resorts and just two miles from Blackwater Falls. It is a town of approximately 600 people with a gas station, a couple of restaurants, a grocery store and about five stop signs. The house that we stayed in is almost 100 years old belonging to the extended family of one of my wives friends, Jennifer. As a youngster, Jennifer would visit the home of her Great Grand Parents playing in the yard and throwing sour apples at the neighbor’s houses. Her Great Grandfather “Pappy” ( I don’t know his name, but Pappy sounds about right judging from his picture) built the house in the just after World War I for his wife “Mammy” (I don’t know her real name either) and their sixteen children (Yes, you read it correctly. Sixteen kids in the house.) Jennifer’s Grand-Father took over the house and raised another large family. Jennifer’s Mother was one of the kids that grew up in the house. Not so amazingly, Jennifer doesn’t have any relatives in the area because all the children left Davis WV at a young age. Jennifer’s Mom settled in Huntington, WV where Jennifer was born.

Every year the family converges on Davis for their family reunion where they all stay in the house. Otherwise, the house sits vacant. I have lived in a lot of houses during my life but I don’t know that I have slept in a house that is that old.  I ate dinner in a castle in Ireland that was a few hundred years old once and even that gave me the creeps. But giving credit where it is due, Pappy built a house that has lasted. Other than having old plumbing and electricity, the house is holding up very well. It is rock solid and looks like it can last another 100 years. Yes, it squeaks when you walk, but my house that is thirteen years old already has some squeaky places. It doesn’t have air conditioning but who needs it when you are at 3,000 feet elevation. Last weekend it was over 90 degrees when we left our house and upon our arrival in the mountains, it was a brisk 65. When we left on Sunday, it was 55, windy and rain. It felt like April at the Grand Canyon, cold and once again I was under dressed for the weather.

Blackwater falls. A very captivating place. We could have stayed there for hours and listened to the roar of the water. photo form yahoo.

Blackwater falls. A very captivating place. We could have stayed there for hours and listened to the roar of the water but it was really cold and we were way under dressed for the weather. photo form yahoo.

When my son saw the house Friday afternoon, he was apprehensive about sleeping there. He said it looked like one of those houses in the scary movies and he is right. I thought it resembled the Norman Bates house from the 1950 movie Psycho. My son was so nervous at bedtime that I let him fall asleep in our little bed and then I tried to transport him to the room where the other boys were sleeping. Normally, he falls asleep very fast and I can move him without an issue but on Friday night he woke up and wouldn’t let me walk out. I took him back to our room where we both went to sleep. My wife who normally goes to bed early actually stayed up to talk with her friends. When she came to bed, she got to have the fun of moving our 70 pound, long armed monster to his bed with the boys.

On Saturday night we repeated the process except this time, my wife fell asleep with my son and I stayed up. When I came to bed, it was my turn to move my son. The first night, the house was still a little stuffy from sitting closed up so all the windows were open and everyone left their bedroom doors open to allow the house to cool. On Saturday night, the house was comfortable so the windows were closed and all the bedroom doors were shut. The rooms that the kids slept in all had night lights but with the doors closed there wasn’t even the faintest glow below the door. Old Pappy must have been a perfectionist because there wasn’t any gap between the door and the floor. Because it was so dark, I grabbed my cell phone and tried to use the glow from the screen to give me enough light to make my way out of the room and down the hall. My wife woke up and saw me struggling with my son and the light so she took the phone and lit the way.

It takes a dumb husband to sleep in a house like this. A brave husband tells his wife he has something better to do for the weekend.  photo from yahoo.

It takes a dumb husband to sleep in a house like this. A brave husband tells his wife he has something better to do for the weekend. photo from yahoo.

With my son in his bed, I went to the bathroom to do my business before bed. Walking into the bathroom, I stepped on one of the girls plastic necklaces. The kind that one of the Disney Princes might give to his Princess to earn her hand in the fairy tale marriage, except this one was made in China for two cents and sold in the USA for five dollars. Yes it was uncomfortable to step on but I was man enough to cry in silence. When I was finished with the bathroom, I held the door open with the light on to scout my meandering route around the railing of the stairs and back to the right room. I didn’t want to step on anymore kiddie landmines and I figured it was bad form to crawl into the wrong bed with the wrong woman. With the path cleared of all hazardous objects, I turned off the light listened. Any living creature that weighed more than seventeen ounces and was moving would make a noise. The doors of each room buckled against the latches as the air pressure in the house rose and fell because of the loud wind whipping around the soffits. It was an eerie feeling knowing that every door upstairs was moving in unison but no one was jiggling the door knobs. It seemed just them that flashes of lighting illuminated the hallway from the only open door in the back bedroom.  The house groaned as the storm intensified outside with the sound of rain pelting the roof and windows. Despite all the clues normally associated with every 1980 slasher movie I saw as a kid, I was sure that I was alone and that my wife was back in bed. Being the chicken I am, I started my silent self-talk. “Don’t be afraid, Rob. It is just a walk in the park and there is nothing to be afraid of…”

I tried to step very gently but each step made two squeaks. The first when I put pressure on the floor and the other when I lifted the foot. Three annoyingly loud steps later, I found the edge of the railing. I started out slow because four steps straight out of the bathroom was the opening to the stairs leading down and I had no desire to tumble down the nearly vertical wooden steps. I put the finger from my right hand on the railing and slowly traced my path back to the bed. Making my way down the hallway, the alarms from my spider senses started going off telling me I wasn’t alone in the pitch dark hallway. My internal self-talk went into hyper drive telling myself that it was okay to die like a man. I kept moving towards the room with the forbidding intermittent flash of lighting.

But I wasn’t alone in the hallway.

Making the right 90 degree turn towards assumed safe zone, my left hand brushed against something that I would have sworn wasn’t there ten seconds earlier. It was wickedly cold to the touch. The shock wave passed through my body like a jet blasting through the sound barrier. I am glad that I relieved my bladder just a minute earlier because had I not, it would have happened right then. Instinctively I reached out and grabbed the object that my finger hit. It was a human wrist and the only reason I didn’t scream out in terror was because I was still in gasping for air. Freezing in position and gripping tightly to the wrist of the creature in the dark, my left index finger felt something unexpected… cotton.

I was lucky that my wife spoke English. photo form yahoo.

I was lucky that my wife spoke English. photo form yahoo.

With a trembling voice, I weakly called out to the ghoul in the night. “Baby?”

“Get out of my way, I have got to pee.” My wife replied. She went on to the bathroom thinking that I knew she was standing in the corner waiting for me to pass by.

When she came back to the bed, I confessed that I thought she was a ghost and if she had reached out to grab me, I would have jumped over the railing and tumbled down the steps to my death. She called me a chicken and we both went to sleep laughing.

I have got to be honest about what I am. photo from yahoo.

I have got to be honest about what I am. photo from yahoo.

Until next time, keep on rockin.

Waiting on the call…

IMG_0001

Somewhere in the summer of 2003. I think it was taken in Kuwait but I really don’t know. But I am pretty sure that is still me. Photo from Deron Thompson.

Hey Y’all,

It is time for another trip down memory lane, better known as story time. For the benefit of all of our new friends a little catch-up on why this series exists. Long before I was a father, writer and generally domesticated, I served in the West Virginia Air National Guard as a C-130 pilot. In 2003, we were activated for Iraq and for the next four years the squadron was in a constant state of deployment, with each of the approximately 120 men and women doing their part by being “Over There.”  I separated from the Air Guard in late 2007 after we all had been deactivated and started on a new path of trying to be a better husband and father. Part of that new path was a new venture into becoming a writer. In 2010, my wife asked me to write down my experiences in Iraq and later in Afghanistan so that my kids would know who their dad was before they were born. For a lot of reasons, I hesitated to document these stories but in 2013 on the ten year anniversary of the first deployment, this series was born.

Since the first story, I am honored to know that several of my former squadron mates use my words to tell their families about what we did back then. While I take a small degree of satisfaction from knowing that my friends are able to relate to these events, these stories are solely mine. Even though we generally all had the same experiences, there are so many variables in our collective experience that are uniquely our own. These stories are based solely on my memories of that time and if there are any inaccuracies or misstatements the errors are mine alone. When I write about the men and women who were deployed with me, I refer to them by either their first name or by their nickname.  While I am the central figure in these stories, I am not trying to portray myself as anything other than human.

I am happy to say that I never saw Balad from this altitude. Whoever took this picture was trolling for a missile to be fired up their tail pipe. Photo from yahoo.

I am happy to say that I never saw Balad from this altitude. Whoever took this picture was trolling for a missile to be fired up their tail pipe. Photo from yahoo.

Balad Air Base is located about 35 miles to the north of Baghdad and rests squarely in the center of the area known as the Sunni Triangle. A pair of two mile long runways formed a “V” shape with the bottom of the “V” towards the south. One of the runways was for fixed wing aircraft and the other to the west was for Army helicopters. I wrote a story about hauling a mobile Navigational Aid to the field a few months earlier. For some reason, Balad and I didn’t get along very well.

https://robakers.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/mobile-tacan/

This particular story occurred on the rotation between February and April 2004. Carlos P was the co-pilot, Bobby I. was the Navigator, Rich L. was the Flight Engineer and Mark C. was the loadmaster. For some reason, I want the think that this happened towards the end of the deployment but honestly I have no idea when it happened. This time of the Iraq war was a very dangerous period for all of us. The insurgency was in full swing and in just a few short weeks, the country was going to explode in violence starting in Fallujah in very early April 04. I remember it was a tiring time for me personally and it was getting tougher and tougher to get motivated to continue to fly into and out of these places.

A typical day would normally see a sunrise, a sunset and another sunrise. We were still flying twenty hour days but we were getting a full day off afterwards. That was better than having twelve hours to recover before the next take-off but it still wasn’t enough to overcome the fatigue. When we were not eating or sleeping, everyone tried to find an outlet that provided an escape from what we were doing. Lots of guys played video games, others watched movies and others read books. I kind of bounced around aimlessly between all of the groups. I played college football and Tiger Wood’s golf on Gummy Bear’s PlayStation or I would join Mikey O. and Russ P. watching a movie and I read several books. The two that I remember were the Di Vinci Code and the Angels and Demons. They were okay, but that was the first time that I thought that I could write a book. I figured out Angels and Demons fairly quickly and I decided that if Dan Brown could write that dribble and make all the money from it, why couldn’t I?

From now on when I give a speech about writing, I am going to thank Dan Brown for writing a totally predictable book that made me think I could do better. Oh yea, I still haven't made a single dime off my unpublished novel after almost eight years of writing. Maybe it isn't so easy after all. photo from yahoo.

From now on when I give a speech about writing, I am going to thank Dan Brown for writing a totally predictable book that made me think I could do better. Oh yea, I still haven’t made a single dime off my unpublished novel after almost eight years of writing. Maybe it isn’t so easy after all. photo from yahoo.

So there we were in Balad, it was well into the middle of the night past 2 AM. We were on our last stop for the day, so all we had to do was get the airplane back to Ali Al Salem, Air Base Kuwait in one piece. We off-loaded the cargo and were about to taxi out to the runway. Sometimes we shut down the engines just to give ourselves a break from the constant noise. Other times we left the engines running and transferred the cargo on and off as needed. On this night, I remember that we stayed in our seats and left the engines running. Bobby called the Command Post to tell them we were leaving. Normally that simply cleared us to depart but when they called back and ordered us to stay on the ramp, I vaguely remember him asking a couple of times to confirm the statement.

Bobby relayed the information to the rest of the crew and we all wondered why. Watching the clock tick very slowly with the engines running and no further explanation, I asked Bobby to call in to tell them we were leaving. Once again, they told us to hold position on the ramp. We were all tired and irritable and I was probably not as patient as I normally would have been. I got on the radio and asked the Command Post why we couldn’t leave. They told us that they were coordinating for an emergency medivac and they were going to re-task us for it.

There are very few things more important than a medivac flight and when we heard that, we all sat up in our seats. In the back, Mark asked for permission to take his headset off and start to re-configure the back of the airplane for patients. I cleared him off and told him that I would ring a bell when we were ready for him to be back with us. I looked at Rich and we discussed our fuel state. Carlos and I were already wearing Night Vision Goggles and the airplane was prepped for a NVG landing.  Literally, we took about twenty seconds to brief what we need to brief and then we just sat, waiting for more information.

A few minutes passed and I got on the radio again asking for an update on the medivac.  The Command Post radio operator told us the patient was in Baghdad and that would be where we would be heading. Bobby confirmed that he had the destination and put it into the aircraft navigation systems. Without anything to do, I looked at the fuel panel, did some basic fuel calculations and mentally flight planned what we would do. We had been to these places so many times in the previous year that we all knew them by heart. Baghdad was to the South and even though we would be overflying a large percentage of the Iraqi population, it was night and no one would expect us to fly over at 300 knots and 75 feet. I figured by the time they saw us, they wouldn’t have time to get off a shot with anything more than small arms fire. Random and unpredictable would be the tactic of the flight. When Bobby announced that we needed a little over an hour to get to Baghdad, I literally spun around in my seat. I swung around so fast that is probably where I tweaked my back for the first time.

If anyone on the crew had a camera at that moment, this would have been the picture. photo from yahoo.

If anyone on the crew had a camera at that moment, this would have been the picture. photo from yahoo.

“AN HOUR?”

“Yes, there is a no fly zone so we can’t do anything but fly around it.” Bobby stated.

I pointed out the window. “Baghdad is thirty-five miles that way. It should take seven minutes, gear up to gear down.”

“The no fly zone is from the surface to 15,000 feet and it extends in all directions except for the corridor to approach from the southeast.” Bobby explained.

I was really becoming irate at this point. “Bobby, it is thirty-five miles. Just a couple months ago we climbed up to a hundred feet and went direct. If we go all the way around, we will need to gas up at Baghdad. It takes ten minutes, we have NVGs and there is a dude that has been blown up. We are not going to fly all the way around Baghdad just because some map tells us too.”

Bobby matched my intensity and responded with the same level of defiance and irritation. He emphatically said that we needed to go around to the approved approach corridor. Back home, Bobby was the Squadron Commander and my boss. But on the crew, I was in charge. It was my decision and I knew that I could do what I wanted but there would be consequences when we landed and the mission was over. I looked at Rick and he shrugged. Bobby was technically and legally right.

We all sat in silence listening to the engines drone. I knew it was going to be one of those decisions that would define my career. Go the long way and that guy might die or go direct and Bobby would do everything in his power to end my flying career. I also knew that there were medivacs where every second was precious and there were medivacs where the wounded guy might have a big zit on his face like I had a couple of months earlier. All he was doing was getting a ride to Germany.

Sitting in the silence, my mind ran through all the possibilities. I finally decided that if it was some dude that had been blown up and minutes did matter, then I couldn’t have lived with myself for spending an hour in flight and another 30 minutes on the ground to re-fuel just to honor what some tactics officer a thousand miles away decided was the best was to plan a flight. I knew that I could make the call and go on my own authority but until we picked up the wounded man, I was legally in violation of a no fly zone. After the man was on board, I could declare a medical emergency and break any flight rule necessary to get him the medical attention he needed. I tried to think of a reason to preemptively declare an emergency, but there wasn’t a good reason to do that. Until that guy was on board, we were just a flight doing a mission.

This clock slowly ticked and we waited. I decided that when we told to take-off I was going to do whatever it took to get to Kuwait as fast as possible. I also knew that it might be the end of my flying career but honestly it probably would have been okay. What troubled me was that Bobby and I were friends and I knew that when I told him to sit down and shut up that it would be the end of that friendship. I also knew that any future promotion would sit on his desk unsigned; I would get the worst jobs and generally get the short end of the stick with no mercy as long as he was in charge.

Before we left for Iraq in 2003, a couple of us were talking about what we might expect and somehow we discussed medals and other worthless things they give you for playing in a shooting war. Someone joked that I would probably get a Commendation Medal and a Letter of Reprimand for the same mission.  I played it off like I was a Boy Scout who followed the rules, but the friend that said it knew me too well. Now when I found myself contemplating the decision, I really didn’t care about my military career any longer because I knew that all the crap that we got for being over there didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that everyone made it home alive. My job was to take care of the wounded solider and I had to trust that he would do whatever it took to help us if the roles were reversed.

The minutes slowly passed and we made repetitive calls to the Command Post requesting permission to be re-tasked to fly to Baghdad just to get into position. I even told the Command Post operator that we needed an hour to get there and they could call us in the air if they needed us. That was a total lie but I was anxious to get going. However, every request we made was denied. We all sat in silence and waited. I never told anyone what we were going to do. My plan was to tell them after we were tasked for the mission and to make sure they knew that it wasn’t a request but an order. I was going to say that I didn’t care if they agreed with me or not, but that I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed their help to complete the mission and get that guy to safety. Once we were in Kuwait, I would turn myself in for breaking the rules and I would take the blame. If they were questioned about it further then I would be upset if they did anything other than tell the Commanders that I acted on my own.

I really did expect to be this guy after the flight. photo from yahoo.

I really did expect to be this guy after the flight. photo from yahoo.

Finally, we were called by Command Post informing us that we were no longer needed and we could go direct to Kuwait. Apparently there was another airplane in Baghdad doing the medivac and we were just backing it up. In some ways I was relieved but in others I was disappointed because I was mentally psyched up to do something important. Bobby changed the flight plan in the navigation system and we went home without incident.

Every day, Richie and I would talk about the previous mission at the next meal. I remember sitting down with him at breakfast and we both just ate our food. Neither one of us brought up the incident; he never asked me what I was going to do and I never asked him what he thought we should have done. To this day, I have never discussed it with anyone who was there and I don’t think I ever shared this story with my wife. The only witness to my thoughts that night is God. With him as my witness, I promise that there was no way that I was going to fly a 300 mile circle around Baghdad when the direct route was 35 miles.

As we flew back to Kuwait, we were about five minutes behind the actual medivac flight. We listened to them on the radios as they approached Kuwait City.  I thought about calling the other airplane to find out what the injuries were but in the end I decided that it didn’t matter.  All that mattered was he was going to a hospital.

We need to be listening to our Uncle. photo from yahoo.

We need to be listening to our Uncle. photo from yahoo.

Recommended Reading:

Last weekend, I was reading some other sites and found a fellow Iraqi Veteran online. I am enclosing the link.  Rob Mitchell is a veteran of Iraq and a police officer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you want a real and honest perspective of how someone got PTSD and how they deal with it on a daily level. Then this is the place for you. There are no soft, warm, fuzzy places on Mr. Mitchell’s site so it isn’t for the faint of heart. The most recent story that he wrote was about a roadside IED that claimed the life of his platoon leader and injured several men. His event happened just a few months before the story that I just wrote about. Over the years, I wondered if I had made the right decision to ignore the rules but after reading about his experience, I am convinced that I was making the best decision with the information that I had.

https://22ismorethananumber.wordpress.com/

Until next time, keep on rockin.

writing challenge…

Looks like the lint fairy was here and the tooth fairy is out giving away real money. photo from yahoo

Looks like the lint fairy was here and the tooth fairy is out giving away real money. photo from yahoo

Our good friend Casey over at https://caseyalexanderblog.wordpress.com, left a comment about the previous article. Casey writes about her journey raising two adopted children. She replied to my request that you guys to throw me some cash or otherwise you get what you get. Basically she said that I found any cash in my pocket that I could keep it and consider it from her. If I found pocket lint then I should use that as a writing prompt. For the record I have never met Casey in person so she must be psychic because she knew there wasn’t anything in my pockets. Maybe she used her deductive powers to know that it is the end of the month and my allowance must have run out. Maybe she can see the future or maybe she sees dead people, I don’t know but since she challenged me and she laid on a sob story about her daughter being in the hospital for some tests. Hope this brings a smile to her and a laugh to the rest of us.

“Hey honey, where is my sweater?”
“I have it right here, sweetie.” photo from yahoo

Lent…

A guy goes into a Irish Pub and orders three beers at exactly 5 PM. He pays for the drink and leaves, the next day he returns and repeats the process again. A few days after the guy has been coming in and having his three beers, the bartender asks him what he is doing.

“I have three identical twin brothers; one is back in the home country of Ireland. The other is climbing mountains in New Zealand. Our father made us promise that no matter where we were in the world, we would stop what we were doing and have a beer for each of us at exactly 5 PM.”

The guy keeps coming into the bar for months following the same procedure. He orders three beers at exactly 5 PM, offering a toast before drinking them, paying the bill and leaving.

One day he comes in and tells the bartender to only make two beers. The bartender is confused but he does as requested. The man silently drinks the two beers, offers a toast, says a silent prayer, pays the bill and leaves.

The next day he comes in and orders two beers. He drinks them and says a prayer and starts to pay.

The bartender says. “My friend, the drinks are on the house today.”

“Why?”

“Every day you come in have your three beers and leave. Now you are only ordering two. In memory of your loss, I want to buy the beer for you.”

“What loss?”

“Which brother passed away?”

“No one died.”

“Why two beers and not three?”

“Because I gave up beer for Lent.”

I tried to give up paying taxes one year for Lent. My accountant thought that was a really bad idea. photo from yahoo

I tried to give up paying taxes one year for Lent. My accountant thought that was a really bad idea. photo from yahoo

If you would like to accept Casey’s challenge, feel free and post it in the comments. 300 word limit.

Until next time, keep on rockin.

My name is rob…and I have a problem…

Lookout y'all, Im back. photo from yahoo.

I thought I had a problem, but it was a temporary condition. photo from yahoo.

Hey Y’all,

I know I have been strangely silent online lately and yes you all have earned the right for an explanation. I started writing sometime in 2008, I don’t know what month so for ease of calculations let’s use January 1st.  Since then I have written an entire novel or about 250,000 words and re-written it two more times for a total of 750,000 words. I have written 193 separate posts on the blog with each post averaging about 1,000 words for another total of 193,000 words. I have done twelve veteran interviews, each of them about 5,000 words and another 50,000 words for other things. That is a conservative estimate of over a million words written in ninety months averaging just over 11,000 words a month.

I'm back baby, look out world. photo from yahoo.

I’m back baby, look out world. photo from yahoo.

I guess I fell off the writing wagon and took a month off, sue me! Ha ha. I am not quitting, I just took a month off without pay. I promise you this; if anyone wants to throw some money my way and support my writing then you have my attention.  Until then, you are stuck with my perceptions of what I discovered in the last month as a new visitor to the world.

The NBA playoff games haven’t been that great this year. I am hopeful that Golden State verses Cleveland will be worth watching.

I still cant figure out why this wasn't an intentional foul. photo from yahoo

I still cant figure out why this wasn’t an intentional foul. photo from yahoo

Is every American Pickers show a re-run? How can it be that I have seen every episode when I haven’t been a regular viewer? It is perplexing to me.

"What is this?" "Some piece of junk that we can charge a fortune to a Nashville country music star."  "Maybe we should support Rob and his writing habit?" "Naw, lets go look at Danielle's new tattoos." photo from yahoo, conversation from the NSA.

“What is this?”
“Some piece of junk that we can charge a fortune to a Nashville country music star.”
“Maybe we should support Rob and his writing habit?”
“Naw, lets go look at Danielle’s new tattoos.”
photo from yahoo, conversation from the NSA.

I should have drafted my son for my fantasy baseball team. If I had then I would somewhere north of last place again.

These guys could all help my team. photo from yahoo.

These guys could all help my team. photo from yahoo.

Never, ever volunteer to be the President of your Home Owners Association. It doesn’t pay very well and all you do is make someone unhappy.

Scotty should have given me this book instead. Thanks a lot little buddy. photo from yahoo.

Scotty should have given me this book instead. Thanks a lot little buddy.
photo from yahoo.

My daughter is growing up very fast.

This guy doesn't has a income problem and Ms. Money Bags is going to charge him a slightly lower interest rate than a mobster. photo from yahoo

This guy has a income problem and Ms. Money Bags is going to charge him a slightly lower interest rate than a mobster. photo from yahoo

So here I am back at the work of crafting words. Good luck to us all.

Rehab aint no walk in the park but it is better than these options. photo from yahoo.

Rehab aint no walk in the park but it is better than these options. photo from yahoo.

I have run across a couple of new blogs that I must recommend to you.

Wilson Agaba was born in Uganda but now lives in the United States. He is a wonderful example of a man who promotes love, faith, hope and integrity in everything he does. If you want to find a place that is welcoming, encouraging and promises inclusion for all, then you could do much worse than Wilson’s site.

https://storinghope.wordpress.com/

It is Memorial Day and it is day to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  I found the site of a lady who writes anonymously about her journey as the wife of a Marine. She is as open and honest as anyone I have ever read online. She exposes all the details of her life, warts and all. I admire her courage as a Mom and wife and her willingness to tell the world who she is. One particular post documents her husband’s job as a CACO (Casualty Assistance Calls Officer) and his experience of notifying the next of kin following the death of a Marine. There is nothing fun or lighthearted about this particular post but it illustrates what a Marine will do to protect and defend the family of a fallen Marine.

https://howfaristhemoon.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/having-to-do-the-unimaginable/

I will do what I can over the summer as far as keeping up with regular posts but I make no promises. Yes, I know I owe you some story time too.  Get in line or send me a check, your choice. Ha ha.

Until next time, keep on rockin.

What happened in Vegas didn’t stay there…

 

vegas 6

It is all about the mojo. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

Been out of sorts for the last few weeks but I have good reason.  Other than working and saving up money, I planned a spring break vacation for the family. I am pleased to report than one snag; it all came together like a good plan should.

 

vegas 2

It is the only way to travel. photo from yahoo.

 

 

On Good Friday, the family flew out of Charleston to Las Vegas. I was working the week prior so I met up with them en-route and flew the last leg from Houston to Vegas on the same airplane. But I had to face the first of two moral dilemmas of the trip. According to the travel contract with my company, I had a first class ticket on the flight while my wife and kids were sitting in the steerage class with the rest of the slugs. I did the right thing and sat in first class. I figured that if she wanted a first class life then she should have married someone who could afford it.

 

vegas 3

I think this is how those poor souls travel in coach. Sucks to be them. But all first class folks have to fly on those little Regional Jets (RJ). I hate those things almost as much as I cant stand the TSA. photo from yahoo.

 

 

After landing we spent Easter weekend in Vegas. Nothing says “I Love Jesus” like hanging out in Vegas. Mostly we let the kids swim in the pool but we did take in a magic/comedy show and a buffet. The Nathan Burton show is fantastic and yes it is family friendly. The pre-show was also great. Armando Vera is a slight of hand artist and his card tricks are amazing. My daughter was invited to be a part of the show and somehow, we don’t know how, he made the small fuzzy ball in her hand turn into three fuzzy balls. Her expression was of shock and awe when she opened her hand and there were three balls there. I thought I was videotaping it on my cell phone, but once again the phone is smarter than I am and it never turned itself on so I missed all of it. But the memories will remain forever.

 

vegas

He really had had a great show. In many ways, this show was the highlight of the trip. And he is as family friendly as anything in Vegas can be. photo from yahoo.

20150405_172000

The kids were too chicken to meet him so reluctantly my wife and I shook his hand. Yes, that is my daughter’s finger in the photo. Guess he couldn’t make that disappear. photo from rob akers.

 

 

 

vegas 4

Armando Vera doing his pre-show. photo from yahoo.

 

 

On Monday, we left Vegas to the Grand Canyon.

 

20150410_183808

Here is the rental before I strapped the kids and luggage to the roof. Map quest said it was a five hour trip to the canyon. That is a lie, it was just under two hours. But the kids had that wind blown look when we got there. photo from rob akers.

 

 

The additional bonus of the trip was that my parents met us there and we got to spend the rest of the trip with them. The kids more excited to see them as they were to that big hole in the ground. By the way, it is a big hole. It is breath taking and no picture I have ever seen can translate how extraordinary it really is. The rim of Grand Canyon sits at about 6,500 feet above sea level and it was a very moderate 50 degrees. But the winds were howling at least 20 knots making it very uncomfortable to be out for too long especially when you are not dressed appropriately and we were not.

 

20150407_080624_HDR

I was trying not to get blown off the ledge and still try to look cool for the selfie. photo from rob akers.

 

 

DSC_0090

Just one of the million amazing views. You cant see it but there are people out there on the rocks. They average about one death per month from someone falling into the canyon. I am surprised there isn’t more by the way people were climbing over the ledges. photo from rob akers.

 

 

On Tuesday we took the long route around the south rim of the canyon to Flagstaff. That was an amazing ride with every twist and turn offering another incredible view of the canyon.  We made it down to Sedona where we hit our only hiccup of the trip. The resort that I used for rooms in Sedona did not book us for three nights there. They had us only for two. Long story short, we arrived in Sedona but didn’t have a place to stay. To say that I was less than pleased would be an understatement but we found a great little hotel in the downtown area that was perfectly situated to act as a life boat for six people for the night. It looked like the Bates Motel on the outside but the inn keeper was great and she kept a clean place to stay.

 

vegas 5

Star Motel in Sedona. Fortunately they had a couple of rooms to rent last minute. photo from yahoo.

 

 

With the crisis averted, on Wednesday we moved to the resort on the outskirts of town. That afternoon we went out to Cottonwood for general purpose sightseeing and then Jerome for lunch and had a great time seeing the haunted mining town that literally sits on the side of a mountain.

 

vegas 7

Somehow they built this entire town on the mountain side. There isn’t anywhere you cant walk that is downhill. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Thursday we rented an ATV and explored the Indian mounds and got up close and personal with several of the mountains.

DSC_0386

Driving the ATV. My daughter took this picture. photo from rob akers.

 

Friday morning, I got up and went to the Sedona Airport which is where the locals go to take in the amazing views of the Sedona Valley. Later that morning we said goodbye to my parents and went back to Vegas. On the way back, we took in a tour of Hoover Dam. That is an amazing piece of engineering.

 

20150410_161019

Look at all the dam concrete. photo from rob akers

 

 

20150410_161010

Looking straight down the dam wall. photo from rob akers

 

 

20150410_163240

Dam security sign. photo from rob akers.

 

 

Very early Saturday morning, I kissed my wife and kids goodbye and climbed into my first class seat on the flight to Chicago while my family was packed like rats in a cage sitting with the common people. Life is good.  If anyone is thinking about a trip out west and you want the details of what we liked and what we would change, hit me up on e-mail or text.

 

DSC_0581

While I was gorging myself on chocolate syrup…

 

 

 

DSC_0547

Some guy named Bruce was talking my wife up. He said that he never lets his wife fly in coach. At least I got hair. photo from rob akers

 

 

I am going to try to be more regular with the articles in the coming week and hopefully will get back to storytime. Until then, keep on rockin.

 

DSC_0232

We took over 1000 pictures on the trip. My mom asked if we had enough pictures. I said that if there is no picture, then it didn’t happen. When I figured out the cost of the trip, I stopped counting when I calculated that it was about five dollars a picture. Ouch, didn’t see that coming. I should have taken more to reduce the cost of the vacation. photo from rob akers.

 

 

 

 

 

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