Our middle son Jeremy left for Iraq last week, we had the opportunity to see him off. as promised he has written several emails which I offered to share with you here. Getting promoted to Sargent.
With his older brother and Dad. By the way he has a temperature of 101 whilst this was going on...and they leave the next day.
Checking their equipment, Jeremy and his Corpsman Ward, prior to getting on the buses to leave for the airport.
See you in 7 months, battalion leaves, there are about 235 guys altogether.
Here he is stopped off in Maine where we got his first email from. He looks as if he is over his temperature.
Dear People not in Bangor, Maine, We have begun our Easterly journey towards the troubled country of Iraq in order to begin our mission there. After a few minor delays our plane lifted off at noon and landed in Bangor, Maine where we will rest and let the crew switch out the fuel and clean the plane. Last time, we were in a terminal by ourselves. I thought the reason for this was because Marines are typically very unruly in groups. However this time, we are in a civillian terminal just putting around regular people and when we stepped off the plane we had a welcoming committee of veterans who shook all our hands and welcomed us in. We take up most of the seats or sit all around the floor just calling our families or using the wireless internet to contact home and say whatever it is we forgot to say or just repeat what we've already said. Next stop is Germany where we'll stop for the same reasons, maybe to switch out the crew again as well. Last year there were no shops even in the terminal in Germany, just a few seats. To answer some questions that might be popping into your heads, we are on civillian chartered flights with meals and things but there aren't any first class areas and we still have to get rid of prohibitted items. Of course, our rifles, knives, handguns, and automatic weapons we are allowed to take on the plane, but any other contraband is ludicrous. I'm very excited to be on the way and i look forward to beginning the missions. Talking with a few other veterans, i figure this time will seem to go faster knowing what to expect and have been away from home for 7 months before. Last time, everything was all too new. Well that's all for now. No pictures of course but maybe in country i'll have a few pics of Kuwait. Transportingly, Jeremiah
Dear America, After taking off from Bangor, Maine we flew a few hours to the German city of Leipzig (spelling?). Leipzig however was no where near as friendly as Maine was. $7 for a postcard, $8 for a small can of pringles. Nowhere to charge your phone or computers and of course neither worked internationally. Their internet was down so everyone sat around for an hour and a half just stretching their legs and sleeping. After Germany we took off again with a new crew to Kuwait. Here we got the same briefs we did last year. For those of you who remember my email last year, this time it's much different. They tell us we're in a combat zone, give us a small bit of ammunition to carry around and generally orient us on this confusing base. But of course, we're not in a combat zone. Not with McDonalds, Subway and Baskin Robbins here. No one walks around with armour and if there was a threat, i'd welcome it. I now don't have the nervous jitters i did before in Kuwait. Before i was itching to go and find out what iraq was like. THis time, i'm just eager to get into the thick of it not because i'm unsure, but because i AM sure. All the new guys shave their heads and it has surprised me to see how many of them there are. Now you can look around and see who exactly is inexperienced and doesn't know what is going to happen. We've started our combat pay now and we're waiting for the plane to go into iraq. We'll fly into an air base and truck over to Camp Fallujah where we should be stationed for the majority of our tour. THis is the same spot i was in last time and i look forward to getting there and seeing it all again. It feels familiar, almost a little nostalgic. A few veterans and i have seen the engineers who toured with us last year leaving now to America. We pass each other in Kuwait and exchange a few friendly names and faces. Thanks for all the emails, the internet as you might not know, only lasts for 30 minutes here and i'm unable to respond to everyone but it's VERY NICE to receive them. So don't be shy about writing. I still don't know my address so you'll have to wait and phone calls too if you expect one of those. But don't be sad because i'll only be in Kuwait for a few days (hopefully). Anticipatingly, Jeremiah
Dear Readers, I was wrong. We didn't spend a few days in Kuwait. We slept the night and left early the next morning for Al Taqqadum, or TQ which is the base all Marines fly into. It's a naval base that i flew into and out of last year as well. Last time, we stayed here for a few days as well, but i've already learned we are going to leave here shortly and go straight to Camp Fallujah, our permanent station. This is fantastic. I can't wait to begin getting situated and moving into a rhythm. I was able to call a few people as well and it was good to hear some friendly voices. A few people have mentioned to me that it seems as if we just left here the other day. More like we just had a stint of R&R and now we're back where we were. Nothing much has changed (maybe a different building here or sign there) so it all seems as though we just left. One major difference is the free internet here at TQ used to have 14 computers but now they've moved all of them to a $5 an hour computer center and left two run down slow ones to compensate for the load. It's a good way to earn money i guess. How valuable is your time? Well, that's all I guess. It's hot here (95 or so) but not nearly what i'm used to. It's a dry heat of course and we've already seen a few raindrops. And i mean you could count the ones that fell. I'll try to keep you updated as best as I can but as always the rules are as follows 1) I won't mention if we get hurt, killed or anything bad happens. That's not your business. Parents read this. 2) I won't tell you where I work, so don't bother asking. And i'm not gonna tell you what exactly I've been doing 3) I won't tell you when i'll leave for how many days. I'll let you know i'll be gone and you'll just have to be patient. You can expect culture, weather, and platoon characters in these emails and of course delving into the maddening psyche that makes up Jeremiah. Verbosely, Jeremiah
Dear (Fill in the blank yourself), I'm not gonna put "dear' on the top of the emails anymore since it's getting too hard to think of ideas and the lot of you are in such a broad category as it is. So instead i'm just going to launch straight into it. Firstly, we are in Camp Fallujah and it is so similar. Everything is strikingly the same as last time so much so that it really feels as if we never left. I am even rooming in the same room my team leader was in last time. In fact, the mirror on my door from last deployment is in my room now, and the pictures my ATL (assistant team leader) put up last year (Sherpa if you remember his name), were still up this year. Nothing changes. But of course, the more things change the more they stay the same, so change is inevitable behind this mask of similarity. As it turns out i am no good at electricity and have fried two of my power strips rated at 125 V. The trailers here are 220 V and i've wasted them both. Fortunately all my electronics can withstand that voltage, but now i have to find a powerstrip for it all. Ok back to the mind. I was in the shower on the night of our arrival and i had a real bad homesick moment. Not because i didn't feel home. Oh contrair....it all felt very familiar. But i hadn't settled in yet. It wasn't my stuff yet. It wasn't my room. It was a room with bags and no electricity. I didn't yearn to be back in the states so much as wanted to be done moving around. It passed quickly though. As you might remember from last year, the leadership goes on Right Seat Rides. This expression derives itself from the passenger of a car watching where and waht the driver does. In other words, the Team Leaders, Platoon sergeant and platoon commander will all go out with 1st Recon on a mission and see how they do things. I will go as well, being 3rd in charge. The rest of the platoon will just hang back on base and fix up their rooms or shoot their rifles on ranges. Later, 1st Recon will come on Left Seat Rides where their leaders will watch us and critique us or offer pointers.Then they'll leave and we'll have the reigns to learn or change what we wish. I'm not saying where i'm going of course or what i'm doing but i'll be gone so don't be alarmed if there are no emails for a bit. This is how you'll get to expect things. If you don't hear from me, that just means you'll have to wait until you do. C'est la vie. In case you hadn't heard, i'm a sergeant now. Don't know if that means anything to you but I got promoted just before i left. All things seem to be going well so far. Other than my room being frustrating but that's easily fixed. I just didn't know how electricity worked....until now. =oP Foolishly, Jeremiah
WE WENTout to watch 1st Recon conduct one of their missions and observe how they did things. We being the key leaders from 2nd Recon. It's typical to do a simple mission in order to keep everyone happy; it's their last mission and no one wants to get hurt, and it's our first, so no one wants to get hurt. What surprised me as I got hauled out in the back of a truck, all geared up with my rifle loaded and ready, was how quickly it all happened. I'm used to the quickness of leaving Iraq and arriving in the states a few hours later in loving arms and the shock of trying to readjust so quickly, but I had yet to transition the opposite way. Last year, I was one of the new guys who had a few days to set up gear and get my room squared away and buy things i needed. This year I got to Camp Fallujah and 24 hours later I was on a truck to meet 1st Recon out in the field to learn and watch. It shocked me that a few days prior, I was driving and ordering food from a menu and hearing the waves and now I was riding with Night Vision in the back of an armoured truck, eating MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) and listening for gunfire. It went well, as in uneventful. We used boats which was a first for me, but a second for them. I learned and picked up a few tips but it's mostly the same. Iraq has really gotten a lot safer it appears or maybe that's just the areas they've been working in. Who knows? The only way you can ever really know is by going into yourself. It was good though to be jocked up again though and with my rifle. I missed that feeling. It's hard to describe but sitting on the boats cruising to the next set of tents with 20 other young men all committed to the same goal and country you are really gets to you. I look forward to hearing from all of you and i appreciate your emails. Sorry if i don't write back to you but i am pretty busy now and it's only going to get worse. OH! my address: Sgt Jeremy Vandekar, Bravo Co, 1st Plt 2nd Recon Bn Unit 76678 FPO, AE 09509-6678 That should be the same address as last year and if it's too much to put in a UPS address line, just put the "Bravo Co...." line in with the "2nd Recon Bn" line. If you want to send it to someone and are not sure what platoon they are in, just don't include their platoon number and it'll get to them. Things to send to give you ideas: Tobacco products, air freshners, baby wipes or moist wipes, red bull/energy drinks, protein products, magazines, sunflower seeds, etc. Things I specifically need/want are: a bore snake (Walmart or a gun store, run it through your barrell and cleans out the carbon), Crocs (the shoe/sandals). that's all i can think of for now. If you end up sending one and i get two, don't worry everyone wants one or needs one. ok thanks very much and i'll talk to you all later! i should get a few days of rest before heading out again. Aspiringly, Jeremiah Vandekar