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Archive for August, 2011

Back From Iraq, To Home, To South Korea

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where Am I?

Hearing the familiar sounds of raindrops on my window, for a moment I forgot where I was, as pleasant flashbacks from Iraq rushed through my head. Honestly for a moment all of my senses told me I was in Iraq. It was all too familiar and reminiscent of times gone by; me propped up on my bed against a large pillow, with my laptop in my lap, as I began typing my thoughts and feelings of the past few days.

My room now, here in Seoul Korea on the Yong San Army base, twice the size of what was my CHU in Iraq, but still somewhat the same, with a small fridge, a microwave, a clothes closet and a set of drawers. The ever-present sound of the air conditioner gently buzzing in the background and the warmth of my laptop keeping my legs warm as cool air swirls around the room. It was if I lost track of my departure from Iraq, my short stint home and my arrival here in Korea.

What added to the moment was an instant message from a close friend in Iraq that popped up on my screen, questioning my whereabouts, forcing me to pause to reflect on my location. After taking a quick assessment of my room, which didn’t help much, I forgot for an instance and had to rely on my memory bank to come up with the answer.

Some things seem to never change. I still have to walk a ways to get to the bathroom, which I share with many other soldiers. And the showers are much the same, with small individual stalls separated by curtains and walls. I am on another military base, not unlike bases anywhere else in the world, with the customary fast food joints, buildings and buses carrying soldiers from point to point.

But, I hesitate to say this, I somewhat miss the ever present churning of the large gas generators feeding electricity to all of our CHUs in Iraq, with their mind numbing sounds. I definitely don’t miss the heat that an August in Iraq would be dishing up or the frequent annoying sand storms, all to common this time of year.

Time seems to have slipped away from me, as I realize it has been over two months since I blogged last. Please forgive me, as the rigors of my transitional life from Iraq, to my home, and now on to South Korea, have kept me fully engaged in dealing with the demands of the moment. . The constant changes of time, weather, language, culture, people, surroundings, smells, sounds, and etc., have been mind boggling and difficult to adjust to at times, but still somewhat familiar other times; as at each juncture I have memories of past experiences that have kept me anchored.

Even so, I have felt like the “jumper”, in the movie with the same name.
Deciding to seclude myself in the confides of my room for the evening, as blogging became the priority for the night, I made a quick peanut butter sandwich and began typing. It felt good, as the rust and cobwebs seemed to break away, allowing for thoughts to flow freely, fingers moving and words and sentences forming on my page. I make no claims of any skill in writing, just a certain degree of enjoyment and pleasure acquired through the action.

Feelings From Iraq Carried Forward:

In my last blog, if I might repeat myself for a moment, I came to a point where I was ready to leave Iraq and begin the next phase of my journey. It had been an incredible year in Iraq; a very magical year full of miracles and amazing experiences. I came to the point where I could honestly say that all my goals had been accomplished there. With all my projects completed and no loose ends to tie up, a feeling of comfort and satisfaction had come over me filling my mind and heart.

As I think back over the past year, it was incredible to see how many miraculous things had occurred; how many times the Lord’s hand made things possible for me and others. He was with us every step of the way, watching our every move and surprisingly it apparently all mattered to him. In times of pain, he was there. In times of sorrow, he was there. In times of difficulties, he was there. I know this for a fact as it was manifested to me time and time again.

Pardon me for jumping around a bit, as this leads me to a more recent experience.

The Present Day Good Samaritan:

While in Taegu, some 4 hours by car south of here, I had been fully engaged for the past two weeks, giving all that I could give to my new assignment during the annual UFG exercise (Google this). The exercise was all but over, as all my belongings were packed up in my ruck ready to make the trek back to Seoul. The task at hand was to get the ever so heavy ruck, now bursting at its seams, up to the TOC (Google under military acronyms), where it would be loaded and transported back to Seoul. Due to my new assignment, and a full day of appointments with the General, I was to fly north for meetings and on to Seoul, without my gear.

With thoughts of the tasks at hand swirling around in my head, I woke early with my mind already somewhat worried about how I was going to carry the ruk, with my bad back, to the TOC, by myself. Not necessarily worried, just concerned about how it was going to be accomplished, with out too much pain and suffering, as it seemed somewhat of a daunting task, given the distance from my quarters to the TOC.

I was in route, walking to my room to retrieve my ruck, deep in thought, when one of the General’s helicopter pilots pulled up along side me on the road, in a borrowed Bango Truck, asking me if I had a need to transport any of my gear anywhere. He wasn’t ware of my concern, or of my need, and had just been offered the truck by another acquaintance to move his gear. How timely it was, what an answer from heaven; for a seemingly insignificant unimportant menial task, of no apparent spiritual importance, but yet for me at that time, very important.

It is as if the Lord was aware of my consternation, there right with me, knowing the concerns of my mind. Again down in the weeds with me. It was a small thing, but just one more sign of his continual companionship, as I travel the various roads of this journey, knowing I am not alone. Full of gratitude I expressed my appreciation to the pilot but more so I offered up thanks silently to my Father in Heaven and Savior for their continual love and support.

Being full of faults, shortcomings and imperfections, I feel unworthy at times, but I know, he understands and accepts me anyway, with unconditional love knowing of my inner desires to do his will. I am reminded of a scripture in Mosiah 2:17, “I tell you these things that you may learn wisdom: that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” I can’t remember the other scripture that comes to mind, but it states something like, “I have been about the Lord’s business, doing his will.” And that is how I feel.

With a feeling of satisfaction and completion in Iraq; I also felt there was more to come and another road to take along this journey I refer to as my “path in life”. Full of desire to serve, I walk this path, one step at a time, with no clear vision of what may lie ahead, armed only with faith believing it is the path he desires me to take.

North Koreans are in Need:

Since the early 70’s, having traveled to South Korea as missionary for two years, I have had thoughts of serving the people of North Korea in some capacity. Through my debriefings of North Korean defectors over the years, with their stories of pain and suffering, of starvation, of torture and persecution at the hands of their leaders, still ringing clearly in my mind and heart, I have had a strong desire to provide some degree of humanitarian assistance to these people.

While still in the states prior to my deployment to Iraq, during a discussion with Roseann, one of my partners in Operation Give, she stated, somewhat out of the blue, that we needed to help the people of North Korea. Startled by her comment, and confident she wasn’t aware of my inner thoughts and feelings relating to this subject, I questioned her on the origin of her expressed desire, knowing full well where this thought had come from. With no apparent answer, we both looked at each other and with few words acknowledged the source, knowing it had come from above.

During my R & R tour break in Iraq, I met up with my wife in South Korea last March, to travel and enjoy some time together. Amidst our travels and tour group activities, I took the opportunity to visit the Reserve support group at Yong San Army base in Seoul, South Korea, to express my desire to work there for a year or two.

After making a phone call and a subsequent 5-minute phone interview I was offered a position to work in civil affairs for 8th Army, doing the vary thing I had been doing in Iraq for the past year, only in South Korea with mention of humanitarian work in North Korea. The opportunity was dropped in my lap, as if from above, as if he knew of my desires and was preparing the road ahead for me to fulfill those desires, according to his will.

Right now I am on only on orders until the end of September, until the end of the military’s fiscal year here, with hopes of an extension for the next year. Without being able to see beyond today, I drive on with full confidence that things will work out according to his desire, whatever that may be. And if it doesn’t work out, my journey will be back at home in America, but for now I live as if my calling is here in the land of the morning sun, South Korea, my second home.

Over the years, as I have traveled here during joint operations and exercises some 50 – 60 times, I have grown fond of its people, their culture, their food and their language. Married to a Korean wife for the past 35 years, you can imagine that Kimchi has become a standard food item on my table even in the states. With thoughts of one day mastering their language, I am driven to persist in my Korean studies, all the while grateful for the level of ability I do possess.

This my life’s tapestry is yet to be woven into a finished piece of art, as additional pieces continue to be connected or inserted, ever increasing the bigger picture of what it may yet become. I travel down the path visually blinded at times, by the shear size of the tapestry that extends well beyond the range of my inherently human blinders.

I have realized through past experiences that certain preparatory steps are required in the beginning stages of each new path, in order to be ready for what is in store further down the road. Acceptance of this process early on allows me to drive through the difficulties in order to reap the rewards of persistence as the road comes into view and things begin to fall into place.

At first the purposes of each step along a path are not clear; initiating questions regarding such purposes, but one need but wait as the fog clears and clarity brings an increased sense of sight, allowing the individual to see further than before.

To be continued….

Believe in a purpose, act with faith and look for buds to blossom into fruits from your persistence.

Chief Wiggles
“Doing it the Wiggles Way”