• Chapter 76: Home Away From Home

    March 12, 2016
  • I started a letter to my grandmother at 9:30 AM on the 11th. I wrote, "Hi grandma. I got your letter dated March 2nd, Post marked March 4th, seven days. Yesterday I got the one dated the first. Mail has picked up a lot. I hope it's getting home faster. I've been trying to keep all the letters I've received, but it's well over a hundred. Some of them were rained on again so I started throwing some away, keeping the dry ones. Now though, since we're expecting to be here two more months, I'm burning most of them keeping certain ones. Whenever we throw away a package or letter with our address and yours we have to burn it. Terrorists can get a hold of it and send a package with a bomb in it to me or even you. So don't take any packages sent to you from me, because I'm not sending anything home."

    "it's a beautiful day today. It has been the last four or five days. Warm and sunny all day. I'm getting plenty of sun just like on a big beach." At this point I stopped writing my letter because we got the word that we could go make phone calls home. Of course everyone wanted to go. So we went into groups, one group would go while the other stays with our equipment, then the second group could go. I was in the second group. There was some kind of tent structure set up with satellite phones. As we got in line to use the phones, there were several others Marines and Soldiers from other nearby units there also. We must have stood in line for at least an hour. We were told we had 10 minutes tops. Only time for one short phone call. I made a call to the one person I knew would be home, my grandmother. By the time I made my phone call, it was roughly 11 AM. I don't even think the thought crossed my mind that it was in the middle of the night in Dallas. It must've been about 2 AM Dallas time. Later that day I made a second call from a different location. I don't remember any part of either conversations, but what I do remember was the delay in the voice transmission. It was a little bit funny and a little bit annoying that there was such a delay in hearing the other person that you would start talking before you even hear what they were saying. I didn't really like that but I was thankful to at least talk to someone back home.

    The following day at 12:30 PM on the 12th I continued my letter I had started the day before. "Well, I had to stop writing to go make that first phone call to you and when I got back they told us to pack up, we're going back to camp 15 (Al Jubail). That's where we were when we first got here. It was a 7 hour drive, and when we got here, we brought all of our belongings inside our tent (which sits on a concrete slab) and then went to do three things that before we only dreamed of doing; take a hot shower, eat a hot meal, and make some phone calls. It was too much. Things should be a lot better from now on. Well, I got to go for now. I need to write Caron too. Say hi to Linda."

    I remember taking that first hot shower. My skin was so dark I thought I had this great, wonderful dark tan until I saw it wash off my body, literally. I'm sure it was a combination of the material that lined the inside of our M.O.P.P. gear, as well as the smoke from the oil well fires and, of course, dirt that washed off. One thing was for sure, it was good to be clean again.

    While I had been writing a letter to grandma, she was writing the following letter to me dated March 11, 1991 at 10 AM: "Good morning again. Just eight hours ago I was talking with you, I wish it could have gone on for hours but we will make up for it when you get home. I called Robin about 7:10 AM. I was trying to get her before she took the children to school and this also is her and James' class day. They go on Monday Wednesday and Friday. I called Brenda (my mother) but she was too sleepy to talk so I told her you had just talked to me and for her to get a cup of coffee and call me back, so that was a fast cup as she was back in a few minutes. Everyone was happy to hear from you. Caron may be over before Linda leaves for work, she said she was planning to. We are all so glad you're not having so much stress now. One day soon it will be this big day when you can step on Texas soil and breathe our Texas air. Right now the air is quite windy, you know this is March, it's cloudy today. We may get some rain and it is much-needed. I'm glad you at least have tents to live in, though sharing with too many isn't much fun." I don't think I took any pictures of the inside but I found a drawing that resembled it pretty close and included it here.

    "We will feed you good when you get here. You have a while to make a menu for us so start making notes and send us the list. I guess we will need to lose some weight so we can eat with you. Linda is mailing you a package this morning so hopefully it will be there in a week or so. She is sending spaghetti and meatballs, chili with beans, regular crackers, bacon flavored crackers, can cheese spread, peaches, pudding, mixed nuts, corn nuts, chocolate cookies, candy, raisins, and Kool-Aid. You should have received the other package we mailed the 5th by now. It was the one with the chips, bean dip, cheese dip and picante sauce along with other things. Well Linda is rushing me so I'll address the package so she can take it to the Post Office. It was so good talking to you. I'll write again tomorrow, God willing."

    Yup, I had my own little 7-Eleven. I was starting to get paranoid that I might get robbed of my chocolate pudding and corn nuts. I can't tell you how great it was to have some of the comforts of home sent in these care packages. Prior to getting care packages, we had the worst food, the worst weather, and the worst living conditions I had ever endured, and it was only the beginning. Things were different now, though. Hot showers, phone calls, and no more war. Things were definitely looking up.

    "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty."
    Philippians 4:12