In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Saturday, December 25, 2004

How did I spend Christmas?

Nestled in my fart sack, the 5 a.m. alarm came too early. I reached over and hit snooze. Ten minutes later, snooze again. Finally, at around 5:30, my scraggly butt jumped out of my sleeping bag and prepared for my 0645 mission: to follow around General Casey and General Ham as they wished troops a Merry Christmas. Top ranking generals do this all the time and they always want a photographer… Builds morale for privates to have their picture taken next to a man who has more stars than Pluto. Anyway, I normally assign this type of a mission to one of my soldiers, but it was Christmas and I wanted them to enjoy the day. Back to waking up. If you would have asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I would have said a nice, hot shower and for all my troops to be safe. Well, I got one of those. You know how it is, you turn the “hot” shower knob and you just stand there waiting for it to actually get hot. Well, I’m standing there completely nude waiting and waiting and waiting. I held my hand against the cool water, thinking that it might be hot, so I step in. Nope, my hand just got used to the water; it was cold. I didn’t take a shower. I just shaved and put on a lot of Speed Stick. “Good thing it’s not hot, because I’d hate to be stinky around the highest ranking general in Iraq. The cold air will keep in the stink,” I thought to myself still ticked off at the cold shower.

As we were leaving the compound, general H stopped at the gate to say hello to soldiers. These are the guys who have one of the hardest jobs in Iraq, always a target but never leaving their post. They do this without accolades every day. But on December 25, 2004, a guy with a star on his collar and a lot of love in his heart said thank you. They were surprised, but really appreciated the thoughts.

As we strolled through Mosul, there were a few traffic accidents. Totally forgetting I was in Iraq, I wondered if the morning radio shows would suggest alternate routes. After that very short day dream, my thoughts went back to looking for car bombs. Before I knew it, I was standing in front of General Casey with my camera strapped on my left and M-16 on the right.

We went inside the camp’s dining facility, where he randomly walked up to soldiers eating. To put this in perspective, picture yourself eating at your local diner and your state governor or the President walks up to your table and says “hey, mind if I join you?” A four star is like a God in the Army. One private talked with food still in his mouth… “Hi,” chew, chew, “sir.” Everybody stood up. “Please sit down. I just wanted to say thanks for what you’re doing.” One kid pulled me aside. “Hey, sergeant, who is that?” I felt like hitting him on the head with my camera. “That’s the commander of Multinational Forces Iraq. Duh.” “Oh, I thought that was Sanchez.” “No, he was the commander of Multinational CORPS, not Forces, Iraq and he was like three generals ago anyway.” Some people, I swear.

Then, we went to the battalion headquarters of a unit that lost several soldiers in the Marez attack. I was expecting a somber group, still saddened by their loss. Rather, they were in the holiday spirit. Christmas music, lights and Santa hats were on show for the general. He shook all their hands and asked for updates on the enemy situation. A buck sergeant pointed laser light to a map and briefed the general. Again to put this in perspective, this would be like a mail clerk of a fortune 500 company giving the CEO advice on financial investments. Only in the Army will the most senior person listen to the little guy. I guess that's what makes our military so special.

And then we loaded up in the Black Hawk to go see the soldiers at the far away, remote FOBs. I’ve flown a million times, so I don’t gawk down mesmerized at the earth from above. I normally doze off. I assumed my normal position: head tilted low, hands inside my vest and legs crossed with my Kevlar tilted and eyes closed. I think I was out for 30 minutes when I came to and what I saw scared the heck out of me. Flying over the mountains of northern Iraq, a thick fog settled around our bird. It was so bad that the pilots couldn’t see what was in front to the left or right. The gunners were sticking their heads out the window looking for something, but all they saw was a vapor condensed to fine particles of water suspended in the lower atmosphere, aka fog. Luckily, these pilots were well trained and got us out of the hairy situation. For a little bit, I thought we were about to give an Iraqi mountain top a facelift.

We landed and said hi to more troops. I took their pictures, and then we were off to meet an Iraqi dignitary who lived like a king. His home sat on 500 acres of beautiful farmland. He had a lush green garden and a marble sidewalk leading to the front door. He also had armed guards at every entrance. This guy was kind of like the Donald Trump of northern Iraq, except he wore a man dress. He made us pizza, French fries and a bunch of other food I can’t pronounce. I was starving, so I ate everything put before me except the chicken lying in a vat of orange sauce. The general and the Iraqi man talked politics while I stuffed my face. I must admit, I’m not a very neat eater. Grains of rice dribbled off the plate and I smeared tomato paste on my cheek. The general’s aide gave me a funny look. “Boy, where did you learn how to eat?” Hey, I grew up in Oklahoma, pal, let me eat. It was actually a nice Christmas dinner despite most of it ending up in my lap.

I don’t remember much of the flight back, because I was sleeping. When I landed at the camp, everybody said Merry Christmas and seemed to be in good spirits. So, despite the cold shower, it turned out to not be a bad Christmas after all.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY. DON’T FORGET WHY WE CELEBRATE IT!

71 Comments:

At 9:24 AM, Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

"MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY. DON’T FORGET WHY WE CELEBRATE IT!"

For the presents, duh! Merry Christmas to you, too!

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger Bigs said...

Mr. Sminklemeyer, I wish I discovered your Web site much earlier because I'm so opinionated and I look where I could have put some good comments on some of your past articles. Maybe one day I will go back and add my comments.
My wife Mrs. Bigs, is working on our traditional Christmas dinner with our Family. You probably would blend in with us well because we like to eat. Did you watch the Nutty Proffessor? Well were like the Klump-Family, except we add a little drama. Some years its me and other years its another persons turn to keep the Drama going. Middle brother hit much bigger brother who is a football player in the scrotum and you figure the rest. Needless to say a few tempers flared with a few mischosen words but they kissed and made up before the night was over.
Today we will have our Christmas Dinner, we will Pray to our Heavenly Father and pray for peace and prosperity for you and your Fellow Soldiers. You had a awesome Christmas Dinner and it sounds like you enjoyed your special dinner. You were able to witness the side of the General you were writing about earlier.
Here in America we have people with different Religions. However, our Country was established with God in it. Everyone has the right to their own beliefs but our fore fathers built this Nation with God in It! Christmas, for us is the Celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior who I personally pray to for a hedge of protection for you and your fellow soldiers. I'm sure you and some of your fellow soldiers have walked on the same ground Jesus walked on. Another person wrote about Jonah and the whale. Can you share some of that with us.
I don't know if you have our email, but I sure would love to meet you in person when you get back to the states.

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger Sminklemeyer said...

Dad, aka Mr. Bigs, you're so incognito. Love you.

 
At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Sminkie! the Bigs Christmas gathering sounds verrryy much like ours minus the fart contest love ya!!!!!!!!!!!

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger GranpaSminklemeyer said...

Mr. Smink, we ate Christmas dinner and had good time. The dinner isn't as good as yours but we had home-made potatos-O-Brien.
Hi Smink hope you had a very merry christmas we did wish you were here to eat with us Im glad your ok after that nonsense in the mess tent Its probably impossbable to have complete security in a place like that Well take of yourself and Im proud of you and the rest of the troops for what they are doing to keep our country safe.
Dear Smink, Hope you had a very very Merry Christmas. WE DID. SANTA WAS GOOD TO US.its so good to know that you are ok . thanks to all of you for the sacrifice you are making. May God bless and keep you and bring you back home real soon. LOVE grandma SMINKLEMEYER.
Smink, we love you and cant wait for you to be back home.Merry Christmas Avin, Leanna, Tallon, Savaughn, Billy, and Shannon

 
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It was chilly by the lake...my nephew went skating with his dad after church and no one came home bruised.

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Have a blessed day...and keep safe. Milwaukee is just as you left it...I checked it out!

 
At 2:31 AM, Blogger Caroline said...

Okay, I'm not a undercover family member, but I'd also like to say that I'm sorry I didn't find this blogspot sooner! I'll definitely be back to check in on you, and I'm just counting the days until you give in to the luxury a man dress can provide.

Take care!!

 
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Dude, nice job on the eating. You know I'd be right there with ya. ~RJN

 
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At 12:33 AM, Blogger JUN said...

After serving her dinner, discount north face her kettles, saucepans, aud stew-pans must be properly washed and cleaned, and ranged near the tire to dry. By the lime these are done the plates and dishes will be returned to her from the dining-room, and must be immediately washed, and either ranged in the rack or put to dry before the tiro. north face jackets sale Then she makes up her kitchen tire, cleans and sweeps kitchen, larder, and scullery. In families where the dinner is late, supper is rarely wanted, so that the cook's employments are ended when all the operations above mentioned are performed. She may then clean herself and sit dowu to her own work, or to repair and make kitchen towels aud cloths, until the hour for rest.1569. Secondly. The routine of North Face Outlet the week's work. Monday, in country families, is a baking day. The bread is often set over night, but is not kneaded and formed into loaves till the next morning, after the cook returns ft jm assisting the housemaid with the beds. The cook has often mure to do ou this morning in washing up everything which her attendance ut a place of worship, the previous day, had rendered it expedient for her to leave untouched. This, with her daily business, usually occupies all her spare time. Tuesday, her kitchen, North Face Jackets larder, scullery, &c, to be scoured ; tables and dressers washed. Wednesday, the dining-rooms and library more thoroughly cleaned than cm ordinary mornings.

 
At 10:55 PM, Blogger JUN said...

To add to the Lee Trust, numbering as it already does 67 persons, new members to represent the above-mentioned The North Face Sale interests, would in our opinion be to add to a body already far too large, and to render it incapable of efficient working. Still mere impracticable would it be to have two bodies; to retain the Lee Trust Shape Ups Shoes (whether in an independent or surbordinate position) for the exercise of their present function of regulating the navigation, and to create a Conservancy to watch over all the interests of the river except navigation. Unity of management, so desirable in all undertakings, is, in river administration, an absolute condition of success.We recommend that the Lee Trust cease to exist Shape Ups Boots except for the purpose of providing electors as herein-after mentioned ; that their powers, rights, and property be transferred to a Conservancy Board which shall have charge of all the interests connected with the rivers, and that on that Board the Lee Trust be largely represented. The present staff of the Lee Trust should be retained, and thus the Conservancy would be enabled to start on its career with a complement of officers of local knowledge, long experience, and tried ability. The present Chairman of the Lee Trust would preside over the Conservancy Board, and the leading members of the Trust would continue to be associated with him. But the multitude of those who are now but nominal members North Face Outlet of the Trust and who have no real concern in the undertaking would be superseded for all purposes except that of being electors, and be replaced by a limited number of active governors. In this way there might be established a good Avorking body, compact in its constitution Skechers Shoes and adequately representing all the interests of the river basin.We would propose a body not exceeding 15 in number, composed as under:—5 Members to represent the navigation (the first five to be the preseut Chairman of theLee Trust, with four of the existing Trustees to be elected by the existing body;future vacancies to be filled up by election by Members of Lee Trust.)1 Member to be nominated Discount G Star Sale by proprietors of Stort navigation.2 Members to represent the New River Company, viz., the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, or Treasurer, for the time being. 2 Members to represent the East London Waterworks Company. 2 Members to be appointed by the Corporation of the City of London. 1 Member to represent and be chosen by Traders on the Lee and the Stort.

 

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