09 August 2010

Getting Off the Bus

It's time I tell you something ...

After months of mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and fiscal preparation for deployment to Afghanistan, I didn't get on the bus.

I will not be deploying to Afghanistan with 2-34th Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. Today marks the last unit send-off from Iowa, and I'm not going with them.

A rule regarding my pending 20-year-mark and subsequent retirement was reinterpreted by Big Army, and I'll most likely be leaving uniformed service in December. I will continue to be a member of the Iowa Army National Guard until then.

Yes, I was surprised by this turn of events. So was my family. And we're all a little conflicted about it. It quite literally came down to the hour I was to throw my duffel bags on the truck. "Everybody get your bags on the truck--hold on there, Sherpa, not so fast!"

It's hard to change family focus and plans so quickly. Hard to see one's buddies go off to war. Hard not to feel left behind.

At the same time, it's hard not to feel like I've suddenly have been given my life back. I can re-focus on my civilian career. I can witness my daughter's first days of kindergarten. I can watch my 3-year-old son grow inch by inch, day by day, and word by word. My wife says that my not leaving is blessing to our family, but she is kind enough not to say it around me.

This deployment has been an emotional bungie jump for me and my family. We have fallen and bounced and twisted with a hundred unexpected jolts. A number of you have asked how I ended up telling my kids that I would be leaving them for a year. The truth is, my procrastination now seems like genius--my children need not know that Daddy was once going away, until they are old enough to read and understand this blog.

I plan to continue writing the Red Bull Rising blog, partly to help collect and capture this latest chapter in 34th Infantry Division history. It is a wonderfully storied unit, and my friends and colleagues will be writing history. I can only hope to help them write it all down.

In the coming months, I should also have expanded opportunities to share ideas on how we can all help "remember, support, and celebrate" our citizen-soldiers, veterans, and their families. I'll also continue to explain and illuminate how our National Guard soldiers are pursuing their Afghan missions.

Thank you for reading Red Bull Rising. I hope you'll continue this journey with me. I hope that you will continue to think good thoughts, and pray for the safe return of the Red Bull.

In the meantime, tomorrow is another day, and, well ...

Let's just say I haven't told you everything yet.


  1. Oy, what a whiplash experience. I had wondered if this was what you were leading up to telling us. Happy for your family, though. :-) And yes, you've still got the suspense going.

  2. Okay, so now you go over as an embedded reporter in 2011 with Andrew Lubin. WOW! What a time THAT would be!

  3. Wow, that's surprising news. Glad you'll be safely home. We'll keep a good thought for the rest of the Iowa soldiers on their journeys.

  4. @ Kanani: Why am I getting a Gonzo-vibe of "Fear and Loathing in Afghanistan" from that suggestion? I'll have to ask the good professor if he needs a Sherpa ...

  5. Just keep writing Sherpa... We're here for ya.

    Life takes many twists and turns when we least expect it, doesn't it?

    Sending you a "Good luck" wish no matter where your path leads.

  6. Looking forward to your future writings.

    ...hoping all is well off the bus.

  7. Oh wow!!! I'm so sorry and happy for you all in the same breath! I know I had a hard time seeing everyone go, wishing I was going with them and I've been out for 4 years now! Hope you can re-adjust your focus easily and hope you don't get too down about not going with your buddies. We need good soldiers back home as well :) Things happen for a reason, I'm certain you aren't still here by mistake. :)

  8. It is great news for your family, but on the soldier side, I know the mixed feelings you have. I stood on the pier on my next to last day in the Navy and watched my ship pull away from the pier for her next voyage, waving at all my friends. And I will still be around reading your stuff. You are too good a writer. I have to keep coming back.

  9. Sherpa - I understand your inner conflict. We almost had some guys that didn't go when our team deployed because of medical reasons (I was one of them!). So I know how you must feel.

    Believe me, there are plenty of Soldiers out there who are pretty good at what we do, so don't feel like you're letting anyone down by not going! It's a young man's game anyway, so as I get older, I feel much less guilty about staying behind and doing what I do.

    I can tell you as a recruiter, I get people all the time asking to deploy, who get turned down. We have more volunteers than we have slots, believe it or not! So don't take it personally.

    Keep writing - you have a gift, so keep giving it to the rest of us!

    Stay Army strong, bro -

    Zool, out

  10. @ Coffeypot: Watching two buses full of my buddies was hard enough--I can't imagine what it must've been like to see the whole ship move out without you! And ... thanks for your support. You were one of the first to reach out to me blog-wise, and it means a lot that you're still around to keep me honest.

    @ Zool, and KY Woman, and all y'all: Same goes for you, too. Sometime, Zool, we're going to have that beer together, and we're going to talk about that younger generation, and how to fix it. I hear you, though: It's a young man's sport. I'm becoming increasingly convinced, however, that COIN is best understood by (ahem) more seasoned individuals. More on that theory later ...

  11. Oh my goodness. I know the feeling. First pump over to Iraq I found out I was more than half way through my first trimester not even two weeks after we arrived in country. A couple weeks after that I was sent back to Pendleton. Then a few years later with a different unit, a company I'll hold dear for the rest of my life, I found out I had a liver mass that would prevent me from deploying days before our flight out. Watching them leave was so hard and I felt like I was letting yet another family of Marines down. Although I did end up catching a later flight out to them a month later after having surgery and effortlessly convincing a boot medical officer that I was fit for duty :) I feel for you, though. Preparing for a deployment is exhausting and then finding out there have been a "change of plans" can be just as wearing. If I didn't already know of your wisdom I'd give you some words of encouragement. Instead I'll just say that I'm glad there's some good to be found in everything. I'm looking forward to reading what happens next!


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