Monday, July 12, 2004

Even at war he's still the same different guy

by Matt McNabb published Apr 28 2004
It’s 7:15 a.m. local time in Baghdad, and Jimmy Schaffer, an Army Reservist
stationed in Taji, a suburb of Iraq’s capital city, needs help.
“Hey, give me a name of a catchy sounding coffee shop,” he asks.
It’s only 10:15 p.m. in Paola, and it’s a Tuesday night, when he tells me
this, so I can’t be seeing things. Can I? Did my friend, in a war zone for
the last two months and three days at that point, just ask me to name a
Apparently, while he and I were talking via an Internet messaging service,
he was helping another stateside friend of his with an interior design
I feel halfway compelled to point out to him the fact that he is, in fact,
in a war zone, and shouldn’t he have more pressing issues on the brain?
Like, perhaps, not being shot at?
But I don’t. He did, after all, tell me that he was “gravy” when the
conversation began and I inquired as to his well-being, followed with no
fewer than three question marks.
“I can be all gravy because I don’t get out into the (stuff) of it all,” he
tells me.
Well, that’s a relief.
So, what is it that you’re doing, I ask? This is the first time I’ve spoken
with him since he was deployed, so I’m full of questions. Go figure, a
reporter with a lot of questions.
“I’m actually driving a shuttle bus for troops, but when I don’t do that I
am convoy security which means I’m in a gun truck,” he says. It’s at this
point that he inquires about my social life.
Hold on. You’re not out in the stuff of it all ... in a gun truck?
I guess if you’re not there, you don’t know.
The rest of the two-hour conversation goes, loosely, like this: One moment
it’s like talking to him when he was living near Wichita, where we met and
became friend while working at one of that city’s dining establishments.
The next moment, we’re talking presidential politics, how to boost morale,
and how to get people to re-enlist to pick up the pieces.
We talk sleeping attire. We talk culture. He tells me rockets shook the
windows in the building where he was playing UNO the day before. He tells me
he got a T-shirt from the Kuwaiti Camel Racing track.
He tells me he met Saddam Huissein — not the deposed leader, however, but a
member of the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps of the same, unfortunate moniker.
“I want to play ultimate frisbee,” he remarks. By this point in the
conversation, I’m used to such seeming indifference to his surroundings.
“So get some boys together and have at it,” I suggest.
“I might just do that, even though we do have a war to worry with.”
Yeah, there is that. I was going to remind him, if he didn’t bring it up.
I shouldn’t have been as caught off guard as I was, I suppose. This is the
same guy who used to call me on his cell phone when he was delivering pizzas
- not just while he was driving to the house, but when he was actually at
the door - and I was working at a security desk on campus at Wichita State
Did I really think being activated and sent to Hell on earth would change
my friend?
Well, yeah, kinda.
We do get into some deeper things in the conversation. But I don’t ask him
if he’s had to shoot at anyone, mainly because, well, I forgot. Hey, I
didn’t prepare for this; I had no list of set questions.
I do ask him, though, if knowing everything he knows now, would he still
sign up for the Army Reserves?
Yes. I should have known. Why, I ask?
“Well, the way I see it, when I joined up I had no real sense of direction,
or real skills in general. Now I have a job that I take pride in, friends,
and even though I’m clear across the world doing a job I don’t find so
appealing, I’d still be here because I know it needs to be done. The people
of the world need to be free.”
This friend of mine, this man, this soldier ... I remember mopping floors,
doing dishes with him, stocking the salad bar, spilling drinks in the
kitchen. I never thought of him like I did right after I read what he said
right there.
About five minutes later, as we talk of coalition troops sticking to the
June 30 deadline — or not — he abruptly changes the subject to his plans to
cook breakfast for a friend of his while on a two-week R&R visit this
Ahh ... that’s more like it. See ya in July, Jimmy.

Matt is an old friend of mine/ talented writer and decided to write this article for the small town paper he works at. I just recieed this article so needless to say it made my day. He has gotten nthing but good responses from it, and even made a lady a wee bit teary eyed.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Everyday's a holiday

Hi gang, It is 1146 here in Taji,Iraq and the temperature high for the day is going to be around 109 degrees so once again am going to hide out as much as possible. For the next week I have been given the task of Hadji guard which isn't a fun detail but it's not all that bad. What is Hadji guard you ask well, Hadji guard is when we act as guards for the local nationals (hadji) as they work to make sure they don't try anything or run off. I only work from 0900 to 1600 and I get an hour lunch break, I may even only work half a day, but it beats being shot at or risking it. It's really kind of funny in a way though, we have gate guards that check our hadjis for any items of contaband, and they are backed up by perimeter guards. We also are training ICDC (Iraqi Civil Defence Corp) soldiers but they are being guarded by guards and the perimeter guards. So essentially where I am I have a guard watching the perimeter a hadji guard watching the perimeter a US guard guarding the hadji, and the perimeter, and then we all act as guards when anything feels fishy. Makes you feel kind of secure. Today I am going to start clueing you all into the terms we use around here as well as some of our slang. Here is the first three entrys in the glossary

Hadji- A term used for any local national, primarily those that are dumber than a box of rocks.

IED- Improvised explosive device

MmmRE- Meal really ready to eat it's only been cooking in the sun for the past 4 months or longer...

Well I'm off so until next time Stay Classy America


Friday, July 09, 2004

Logging on

Hi gang,
This is a new thing for me, but I thought it might be the best way for me to share news and stories, with everyone all at the same time. On this blog I will tell you any news, stories, thoughts, or just random junk I find amusing. In addition you will finally get to see pictures of me and my friends, as well as Iraq and other interesting things. Hope you all join me on my uncool adventures. Until next time...

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