Saturday, March 31, 2007

Counting the days!

Less than a month and I will be headed home! I’m sure these next few weeks are going to be the slowest days of my life… I am ready just as ready as all the other Soldiers but holding my wife and that beautiful little girl is gonna be great. That’s all I think about just spending time with them as much as I can. If I didn’t have to go back to KXII, I wouldn’t but nothing is free so we would need money sometime... ; )

Well the last week has been busy as I’m sure the rest of my time will be just as busy so hopefully time will go by fast with us being busy. We had another Med Cap last week and treated over 600 people. I decided not to take a whole lot of pictures and instead stay outside and help with the crowds and make sure people aren’t trying to sneak back in. I did get the picture of the baby playing on the front of one of our Hummvee’s just something that caught my eye as different but cute. Anyway we have been getting in lots of school supplies and we are doing a backpack drop today for a school with over 3000 kids. They go in 2 shifts, 8am-12noon about 2000 kids go and then from 1pm-5pm there are around 1400 kids. So lots of school supplies will be handed out within the next few days.

We had lunch yesterday with some of the elders and they brought up their concern that they haven’t received this much help and support from any Army group that’s been here since the start of the War in 2001. It made me feel good that they know how much we’ve done for them and show us just how much they appreciate it. I know we will make sure our replacements do the same work and hopefully can do the same amount or more.

We also had a pretty cool guest over the last few days. One of our Lieutenants has a friend who is an International IT Coordinator for Build a Bear Workshop.

For those of you who don’t know what Build a Bear is, it’s a store usually in malls. Mainly for kids, you can pick out and design your own bear, monkey, frog whatever kind of stuffed animal you want. I have spent my fair share of money there and I believe Build a Bear has a huge Military following. I like it is because you can put a recorded voice box inside the bear and record whatever you want to say. I bought a couple for Bayleigh before I left just telling her to be a good girl or that daddy loves her very much. For just a little over 30.00 you can have a stuffed kitty cat with clothes of your choice and a voice box of your choice. It’s a pretty amazing place and just a fun 30 minutes for the family. (I should be a Build a Bear salesman!!!!)

Anyway Vadon Willis is Lieutenant Marmen’s best friend and thought he would fly to Afghanistan after he had some work to do in India. Mr. Willis is originally from Oklahoma and thought he would come and check on Oklahoma Soldiers and brought over 200 bears to give out to the Soldiers. Things like that are really what drive us, people showing us how much they appreciate us by taking their time to show us in a big way or a small way by saying thank you. Its important for people to show a little appreciation to every Soldier they can. I’ve had my share of people putting me down or telling me I’m a baby killer or just telling me what we do is wrong. I blow it off and could care less because I know there are wonderful people out there doing the same thing Mr. Willis does. So thank you to everyone who has ever shaken a Soldiers hand or told a Soldier thank you for what they do. I’ve said before we may not all agree with the War or the Politics of War but we go out and do our job like we’re told and we’re not baby killers or murderers. We are stopping terrorism and keeping the U.S.A a free and wonderful country. I really don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to live like Afghanistan has lived the last 30-40 years.

So for my weekly award this weeks Hero is 2 people well 2 people and a group of people so let’s just say a lot of people!! I can’t figure my self out either sometimes!!

1: Mr. Willis for taking his time to come by Camp Phoenix and risk his life to visit us and give out bears to the Soldiers. Thanks for the visit Mr. Willis and thanks for your time and the bears.

2: My Mom for trying her hardest to gather money for all the things I’ve been trying to do over here. She has gathered school supplies and money for shoes. She has been a huge help for my mission. Plus she’s my Mom so if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have the passions I have inside or the fight to do the things I do. Thanks for everything Mom and I know this year has been tough on you but I’ve learned a lot and helped a lot of people so thanks for everything you have done for me and these kids.

Also along with my Mom, all the people in her office at the Carter County Child Support Office in Ardmore, OK. Thanks for everything guys I’m sure Mom bugged you a lot for the money and the school supplies but know that they are going to great things.

Well another mission calling so thanks again for all the school supplies coming in!! Oh and Happy April Fools!!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Steve Bartman or Shawn Gralla?

So last week I talked about the sun and how nice it had been and well for the last week it’s been raining and chilly. So I guess I can’t get my way oh well home will be coming soon less than 2 months!!! I am so ready and I know every other Soldier is just as ready as I am...

Well I have been getting a lot of emails and comments about the letter to the Governor and I’m glad everyone agrees with me. I think Shawn Gralla is like Steve Bartman who gained notoriety on the evening of October 14, 2003, for preventing a possible play on a foul pop-up in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field.

So I hope that soon Shawn will be a Wikipedia hero!! She/he already made Sarge Charlie’s -- Yellow Bellied Sapsucker of the Week Award

Thanks for all of your support of us and the Oklahoma Governor. We cant always stand up for what people say or do to the Military but I know you guys can and you all did so thank you all very much!! So I think I’m gonna start doing an Afghan Hero of the week for people who send items or just help us Soldiers over here away from home…

So this weeks Hero of the week is one of my favorite Blogs and one of the biggest Military and Afghanistan Supporters I have met. She sends me letters almost daily and beautiful pictures from back home. So Cynthia and Karl of Bend, Oregon thanks for everything you do for the Soldiers and for the people of Afghanistan!! You guys are our heros!!

Well I have been getting a lot of email about helping out with shoes and clothes and school supplies. Keep sending is all I have to say! Anything and everything you want is wonderful, we have the room and I will keep taking packages until the day I leave and from that point I will pass over everything to my counter part and they will hopefully and maybe forcefully ; ) keep all of the wonderful people out there up to date. So send send send!!

We had another ribbon cutting and possibly our last for the deployment. It was for the footbridge over Jalalabad Road. Its one of the busiest roads in Kabul and the cause of a lot of accidents and deaths. So hopefully it will save a lot of lives and keep kids from running across 4 lanes of traffic to get to school. It was nice to see possibly one of our last Ribbon Cuttings for 2 reasons, one because it means we’ll be home soon very soon and the other because its one more check on the list of things WE have done for the Afghans. By WE, I mean everyone back home and here. You all have helped out so much and I want to thank you all for everything you have done for us as Soldiers and for the people. They may not know who all this help comes from but they do know it’s from America. I think of it this way, if I can put one pair of gloves on a kid and one day when the Taliban come looking for help that boy will remember what we all did for him and hopefully turn the other way. It’s just a simple thought and may not happen and may not mean anything but that’s the way I look at it. One day Afghanistan will have to stand on its own feet and hopefully that day will come sooner than later but until than I think we all have and will continue to make a difference! Just to let you know about this stuff. A couple weeks ago I had our clothing Conex (shipping container) about half empty. Well about 4 days later it was almost full again, that just shows you how much wonderful support there is out there!

Well I guess I’m gonna sign off for now but thanks again everyone and I hope to see more and more boxes flood in soon. Also if you could check out Jake Hudson’s Blog on my favorite links list. He is one of my best friends back home and was also a Chaplains Assistant with the Oklahoma Army National Guard. Jake was with me in Egypt on our last deployment and I know deep down he would’ve loved to be over here with me right now. He may not admit it but I know he would like doing the work I do and also helping the Soldier in their time of need.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Letter to the Governor From Mr. Gralla of Norman, Oklahoma

I received an email from Sgt Dubb today. I was shocked when I read the email and thought I better reply to the editor.. I hope everyone else will do the same!!!

This letter to the editor appeared in the Daily Oklahoman on March 14th- pass it along and get everyone to write a response.

My response is below.."

Get back to work, governor . . . how much did Gov. Henry's trip to Iraq cost? How much did Oklahoma taxpayers pay for this trip? How many Oklahoman soldiers did the governor shake hands with? What was the dollar cost per handshake? Henry was elected and is paid to guide the state of Oklahoma. He wasn't elected and isn't paid by Oklahoma taxpayers to press the flesh and politic in international affairs in a war-torn country. Oklahoma taxpayers deserve more effect and results from the governor for their tax dollar here in Oklahoma. Henry should pay his own way and use his own time to visit Iraq. Get back to work, governor!" Shawn Gralla, Norman

Send comments to:Ed Kelley, Editor ( J.E. McReynolds, Chief Editorial Writer ( Owen Canfield III,Editorial Writer ( Christy Watson, Editorial Writer (

My response!!

All I can say is wow and what a strong opinionated statement! I am currently stationed in Afghanistan with the Oklahoma Army National Guard. I was right beside the Governor for his whole trip in Kabul and was amazed by how much the Soldiers loved him being here. It was an honor for every Soldier to shake his hand and be thanked personally by the Governor himself.

Its not everyday that we get to see people in Politics or people who do the talking for us back home. So when someone like Governor Henry gets to visit us and spend a day with us its an honor. As far as the cost of the trip, who cares he is the Commander and Chief of the Oklahoma Army National Guard. He is our boss and he came to check on our welfare and well being. I personally hope that Mr.Gralla's boss comes and checks on him as much as the Governor checks on us.

Its important for politicians to step outside of their bullet proof world and see what goes on in ours. Its important for the politicians to see what war were fighting and what were fighting it for. I'm sorry that people are too consumed by money to see what is going on and how important it is to make a change and see a change in a country as poor as Afghanistan. I pay my taxes and have no problem what so ever with the Governor coming to visit. I'm glad and happy that every Oklahoma Soldier fighting the War on Terror in Afghanistan was able to meet their Commander and Chief. So the Governor is working, the Governor is our boss and we elected him we pay his salary so he can come and visit his soldiers any time he wants.

As far as your view on the War Mr. Gralla, I feel for you, that you have never had the chance to see what changes can be made in a country that doesn't understand the Western Culture. I have stepped out of my Camp almost every day to the possibilities of getting shot, and what do I do it for? So my beautiful daughter can be free in our beautiful state and so she hopefully one day wont have to fight for our freedom, the freedom you have to write comments about the Governors trip to visit his Troops.

I would also personally like to invite you over to Afghanistan to see what we do and what we do to protect you...

Corporal Todd Larkin
1-180th SECFOR
Public Affairs NCO

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Governor Henry Visit

It’s been a pretty busy week but the busier we are the faster time flies... I’m getting a little spring fever to get home and be able to play outside with Bayleigh!! The weather is warming up so we have had some wonderful days here recently making everyone’s attitude a little better (including mine!!) But it has been a lot nicer around with the sun and warm weather, the Lake Murray will be mighty nice come June!!

Well we had a special guest Friday!! Governor Henry made a visit to Camp Phoenix and we were pretty happy to see him... He stopped by Phoenix for about half the day, had breakfast handed out some Oklahoma State Centennial coins, and gave out some awards. He informed me that he reads my Blog on regular bases, so I was pretty happy about that to say the least!! I took about 900 pictures and felt a little like a photographer for school pictures after the day was over. Every soldier had to have their picture taken with the Governor. That’s understandable he is a celebrity! It was a good day all in all and I’m really glad he cam over here because it shows he does worry about us and is concerned with what we are doing. He gave me an interview before he left to head back to Oklahoma, I’ve interviewed him a few times before with KXII but I think the interview he gave me yesterday was one of his best. He was very sincere about the soldiers and wanted to make sure that all of our families knew how much he appreciates them in their tough times without us. So I spent the day with The GOV!! I also found out my name was given credit under the AP News!! Thought that was pretty cool, any picture that made the news of the Governors visit was taken by yours truly!! Not bragging or anything but I take a pretty darn good picture!! LOL

Like I said earlier this has been a busy week, we helped move a ton of school supplies from an old school to one of the new ones we built. It made for a long day but we filled up 2, 5ton trucks with desks and office equipment. School will be starting within the next week so we will be having a big school supply drop. We are also looking at getting a road project for the school because it’s like a lake getting in and we don’t want the kids walking through the water to get into school. Well I guess I will wrap this up for the week and call it a day. Hope everyone is good back home!!