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‘Dear Everybody’: Letters from front lines to those back home

(Editor’s note: The following is part of an occasional series of letters from Army Capt. Michael A. DeLaughter which give a glimpse into the everyday life of the deployed soldier.)

CAMP TAQQADUM, Iraq — Capt. Michael A. DeLaughter is a Transportation Corps officer serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq. He is assigned to the 69th Transportation Company at Camp Taqqadum, Iraq. His sister, Cindy Robertson, works at the Volvo Plant in Dublin and resides in Giles County with her family.
9 June 2008
Dear Everybody,
This letter isn’t about mountains, or the lack thereof, or goats, or dust and heat (although they will be mentioned and featured prominently). This letter is about the soldiers.
Ten years ago, the Army was a safe bet.
We had won the Cold War and the only deployments were to Bosnia, which, while it was time away from the family (Michael took his first steps while I was there) in a lousy environment, there wasn’t any actual shooting involved.
Now, it is a whole different story.
The demographics of the Army have changed in the past six, going on seven, years.
Sixty percent of the Army is now single as opposed to 10 years ago when 60-70 percent were married.
The constant deployment cycles have taken their toll, both in attrition and divorce.
I have mentioned before that a good two-thirds of my troopers are under the age of 25, and each and every one of them wants nothing more than to “bust gate” and go on mission.
The mission comes first with them.
They will drive through the night (and night over here is a serious kind of dark) over routes that make back county roads feel like a four-lane highway to get to their destination, download their cargo, reload for back haul, maybe get an hour or so of sleep (usually much, much less), turn around, and drive back.
They are out in a dust storm with the hot wind blowing dust and grit into their faces preparing for the next mission.
They walk everywhere in a heat so intense from both the sun from above and the sand radiating from below, that the sweat from their feet will give them trench foot unless they change their socks three times a day.
They gripe and complain about everything from the heat to the lack of PX facilities to the Lakers in the finals, and, yet, they put the mission first.
They cuss, swear and bow their heads for a prayer before every mission.
They will walk off with almost anything not nailed down and share their last cigarette, bottle of water or magazine of ammunition.
They watch “manly” sports like football and ultimate fighting but will shed unmanly tears during a memorial ceremony for a fallen comrade.
They miss home, civilization (where you can get a cold beer at the end of the day or watch more than the three AFN channels), and, yet, I had a soldier who refused to go home on emergency leave because his “family” was here.
My NCO’s are hard on them, not because they are cruel but because they care, and they want their soldiers to not only succeed in the Army but also to prepare them for whatever happens to them after they leave the service.
And, in the fullness of time, the young privates we are training and deploying with today will be the NCO’s and officers of tomorrow’s Army.
The Army is in the business of protecting America and her interests around the world, on every continent (to include Antarctica, a weather and scientific base), and, in my opinion, nobody does it better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the following in response to the weakness of the American youth during the run-up to the Civil War:
“So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.”
After seeing these men and women perform, I must agree.
I am proud and humbled every day by the works that they have done.

Take care,
Mike

‘Dear Everybody’: Letters from front lines to those back home

(Editor’s note: The following is part of an occasional series of letters from Army Capt. Michael A. DeLaughter which give a glimpse into the everyday life of the deployed soldier.)

CAMP TAQQADUM, Iraq — Capt. Michael A. DeLaughter is a Transportation Corps officer serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq. He is assigned to the 69th Transportation Company at Camp Taqqadum, Iraq. His sister, Cindy Robertson, works at the Volvo Plant in Dublin and resides in Giles County with her family.
9 June 2008
Dear Everybody,
This letter isn’t about mountains, or the lack thereof, or goats, or dust and heat (although they will be mentioned and featured prominently). This letter is about the soldiers.
Ten years ago, the Army was a safe bet.
We had won the Cold War and the only deployments were to Bosnia, which, while it was time away from the family (Michael took his first steps while I was there) in a lousy environment, there wasn’t any actual shooting involved.
Now, it is a whole different story.
The demographics of the Army have changed in the past six, going on seven, years.
Sixty percent of the Army is now single as opposed to 10 years ago when 60-70 percent were married.
The constant deployment cycles have taken their toll, both in attrition and divorce.
I have mentioned before that a good two-thirds of my troopers are under the age of 25, and each and every one of them wants nothing more than to “bust gate” and go on mission.
The mission comes first with them.
They will drive through the night (and night over here is a serious kind of dark) over routes that make back county roads feel like a four-lane highway to get to their destination, download their cargo, reload for back haul, maybe get an hour or so of sleep (usually much, much less), turn around, and drive back.
They are out in a dust storm with the hot wind blowing dust and grit into their faces preparing for the next mission.
They walk everywhere in a heat so intense from both the sun from above and the sand radiating from below, that the sweat from their feet will give them trench foot unless they change their socks three times a day.
They gripe and complain about everything from the heat to the lack of PX facilities to the Lakers in the finals, and, yet, they put the mission first.
They cuss, swear and bow their heads for a prayer before every mission.
They will walk off with almost anything not nailed down and share their last cigarette, bottle of water or magazine of ammunition.
They watch “manly” sports like football and ultimate fighting but will shed unmanly tears during a memorial ceremony for a fallen comrade.
They miss home, civilization (where you can get a cold beer at the end of the day or watch more than the three AFN channels), and, yet, I had a soldier who refused to go home on emergency leave because his “family” was here.
My NCO’s are hard on them, not because they are cruel but because they care, and they want their soldiers to not only succeed in the Army but also to prepare them for whatever happens to them after they leave the service.
And, in the fullness of time, the young privates we are training and deploying with today will be the NCO’s and officers of tomorrow’s Army.
The Army is in the business of protecting America and her interests around the world, on every continent (to include Antarctica, a weather and scientific base), and, in my opinion, nobody does it better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the following in response to the weakness of the American youth during the run-up to the Civil War:
“So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.”
After seeing these men and women perform, I must agree.
I am proud and humbled every day by the works that they have done.

Take care,
Mike