What I did on my Birthday

I celebrated my birthday the other day. The typical question one is asked is “well, what did you do on your birthday?” I went on a mission to check out a couple of projects up north. I did not want to stay on the PRT dwelling on the fact that I just turned thirty-seven.

My day started really early and rushed. When I woke up I only had thirty minutes to gear up and get in the Hummer. I threw my stuff on, ran out to where the trucks lined up, threw my rifle and helmet in, then ran into the DFAC to grab breakfast. In a paper bowl I threw in eggs, biscuits and gravy, and a sausage and took it back to the vehicles. About that time we started the final safety brief. I was able to scarf down breakfast before we left. That was a good thing because eating inside a bumpy vehicle with full battle rattle on would have been difficult.

It was a long ride and it was cold that day. When we got to our destination and got out I about froze. It was bloody cold up there! We were at a higher altitude and it was really windy. I thanked my judgment for telling me to wear my polartec longjohns and my neck gator. In any case, after walking around I warmed up a bit but not much. I ate a food bar for lunch because I just couldn’t stomach the idea of eating an MRE.

We weren’t expecting to but we actually got back in time for the staff meeting (we hold them twice a week). I slammed together some notes (I was gone all day) and briefed my portion. Typically, when you are finished you say “pending your questions I have nothing further”. My commander said that she didn’t have any questions but that she was glad that I was back in one piece because I went on the days mission and she wished me a happy birthday!

I had planned a special dinner for myself. Good thing because dinner at the DFAC was less than appetizing. I had waiting for me a can of highland beef haggis, a tin of single malt whisky cake, and raspberry oatmeal shortbread from Caledonian Kitchen. I killed the haggis and had a third of the whisky cake (it took me three more days to finish the cake). The only thing missing was a couple of rusty nails (drambui and scotch whisky). I am still eating the shortbread.

Thursday nights we all get together and play poker. After dinner I joined the poker game. It’s mainly the commander and senior staff that plays but it is open to anyone. It is a really good time to just hang out and BS, smoke cigars, and give each other a hard time. I came away from the game with a new nickname. The Sergeant Major started calling me the Outlaw Josey Wales because I was smoking small cigars like the ones that Clint Eastwood favored in so many of his westerns. Josey Wales chewed more tobacco than smoked it but I wasn’t going to argue with the Sergeant Major! Everyone had to say what was their favorite Clint Eastwood movie was and I named two, High Plains Drifter and Unforgiven.

After poker, I hit the rack and that was that. I would have much preferred to play with my sons and be with my bride but I made do. Next year I think I will carry on with the haggis and whisky cake and definitely I will have those rusty nails.

CPT NightHawk


Another Update to Last Post

In the last post I neglected to include the link to the news release in the Colorado Springs Gazette. It contains more background on CPT Martinez and Kelly, his bride.

Please keep Kelly and the kids in your prayers.

CPT NightHawk


Update to Last Post

In my last post I mentioned that a colleague of my wife lost her husband in Iraq. I didn’t mention any names on purpose because it wasn’t really public knowledge. It is now and you can read about CPT Michael R. Martinez in the Jefferson City News Tribune and the Rocky Mountain News.

Michael was supposed to come home in February. Kelly is going through a really tough time now. Please say a prayer for Michael and pray for Kelly, his bride, and the kids (three sons and two stepdaughters).

Kelly, I promise that your loss will not be in vain. God bless you and your family and on behalf of my fellow soldiers, please accept our most sincere gratitude for your husbands service to our country.

God speed CPT Martinez.

CPT NightHawk


Dealing with Loss on the Front and the Home Front

I called home the other day to hear some bad news. One of my bride’s colleagues lost her husband. He was a JAG officer serving in Iraq and was in a helicopter that went down. The incident is mentioned in this CNN article.My wife really feels for her colleague and was at a loss on how to reach out. This tragedy also brought home to my wife that I face the same risk of losing either life or limb. When we say our good byes she always asks me to be careful which I say I always am. This time she asked me to be really, really careful.

When serving in a combat zone soldiers don’t have much time for grief. We have a remembrance ceremony and we get back to work. If we can’t be there for the actual ceremony we will have a quiet moment in our work area and then get back to work. Soldiers have the immediacy of our environment to keep us focused. That isn’t the case back home. How do you help someone you know cope with the loss of a loved one?

In one of the magazines my wife sent me from home there was an article on helping friends cope with loss. I am paraphrasing it in this blog so you all can take this advice if you know of someone that has suffered a loss recently. I already sent this information to my wife so she can help her colleague.

What not to tell a grieving friend:

  • “Call if you need anything.” Chances are he or she won’t.
  • “Let’s go out to lunch,” and then not follow through. Your friend could be counting on it.
  • “Have a great day!” Grieving friends don’t have great days.
  • “I’ll be there for you,” and then not follow up on your promise.
  • “Things should be better now. It’s been X number of months.” There is no timetable for grief.

Making a difference:

  • Tell him or her they are in your prayers, hearts, and thoughts.
  • Specific offers of help and follow through like raking the eaves, decorating for Christmas, bringing over a dinner.
  • If there are no words, a hug speaks volumes.
  • Call and see what’s up and not asking the unanswerable “How are you?” Or leave a message without asking for a return call.
  • If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, tell your friend what to expect in the coming months in dealing with the loss.
  • Acknowledge the death of the loved one instead of pretending that nothing happened.
  • Gift certificates for pampering services like manicures, pedicures, masseuse services, day long spa visits. Your friend receives the gift of touch and feels better.
  • Ask him or her to go out to lunch, dinner, a movie, church, any outdoor activity.

I have the most heartfelt sympathy for my wife’s colleague. I want her to know and everyone else to know that we American Soldiers will carry on the fight and will always remember the sacrifice her husband made and that her loss will not be in vain. We who are left behind will try to help her during this awful time in her life. We soldiers and officers offer our most sincere gratitude for having had the opportunity of serving with her husband.

And to my fellow officer, God speed, sir. You are in a better place now and some day we will join you. In the meantime we will pick up our guns and get back to work. We will carry on with our duty and try to live up to the example you and the others that have fallen before us have set.

God bless you and your family.

CPT NightHawk



By now you may have heard of the suicide bombing attack that occurred in Tarin Kowt. No coalition forces were hurt. Sadly that is not the case with the local nationals. Included in the dead and wounded are children.

According to the Wahington Post, ten were killed and fifty wounded. I can tell you without reservation that some of the wounded eventually died. I know this because the PRT I am assigned to tried to save them. The same article mentioned that a Taliban spokesman called the Associated Press right after the attack claiming responsibility.

I wish I can tell you all the gritty details because the article I mentioned got some key points WRONG but I can’t due to operational security. It is true that the US Ambassador was visiting. I was with the entourage and he “wasn’t whisked into a small room for security” like the article said. Except for a last minute change in the morning, we carried on with our scheduled stops, met all the people that he wanted to meet, had lunch at the governor’s compound, and returned to the PRT without incident.

Those of us who were with the Ambassador missed all the excitement at the PRT. Some of the soldiers that were involved were a little emotionally tattered because of the sight of hurt kids. The medical team did their best to save who they could. Some of the wounded were airlifted to Kandahar.

After any big event the army likes to conduct an AAR (After Action Review) to try to improve how we do business. We conducted an AAR of how the PRT reacted to the influx of casualties. Overall the commander said everyone did a great job. We did come up with some ways to improve the process which will be implemented immediately. It was very evident to me during the AAR that emotions were still very raw.

We are American Soldiers. It hurts to see one of your buddies messed up or dead but we understand that in the profession of arms good people will die. What really gets us is seeing kids all mangled up. It gets us because the kids are innocent and because the killer was a coward, taking the easy way out and not living to deal with the consequences.

Some have argued that these suicide bombers are brave and courageous because they are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice. I disagree. Killing yourself in order to kill defenseless people is cowardly and reprehensible. When an American Soldier sacrifices his life, it is to save his buddies by jumping on a grenade or by standing his ground manning his position to the very end because his buddies counted on him.

The big difference between us and the enemy is that when we fight, we fight to live and so that others may live. We may die in the process, but we are living our fullest up to the very end. The enemy has a nihilistic mindset where ones life and the lives of others are cheap and without meaning.

It’s a helluva thing to see a hardcore infantryman with his emotions barely in check describing the day’s events. Later that night I received via e-mail pictures of my sons opening their Christmas presents. I about lost it right then and there. If those vile pieces of human excrement wanna fight, here I am, let’s leave the kids out of it.

CPT NightHawk