At some point during the month of March 2009, we reached the half-way point through our deployment. I don’t know exactly, because the army won’t tell us exactly when we get to leave, of course.
I started pre-mobilization training on September 13, 2008. The training had two short breaks, but basically lasted until November 2008. I arrived in Iraq two days before Thanksgiving. So I’ve now spent close to four months in Balad. Some active component folks spend 15 months — in Balad!
The good thing is that I still get my 15 days “R & R” (rest and recreation, or leave). That will happen in early summer, which will be good because my children will be out of school. I’m very fortunate. Mostly because I have a good wife and everything at home is well cared for. My two children are doing fine, and my wife’s parents live with her so that they can help take care of the children. In my line of work, I see many other family situations that are much worse than mine. Sometimes I see upwards of ten new divorce cases in a single day, and many of these cases involve small children who do not have a stable home environment, and whose parents just want to fight over everything.
So overall I’d say I’m pretty lucky. It is hard to be away from my family, and I hope to never have to do this again for that reason. But it will be over soon, and I’m halfway there. I do not keep track of days or mark them off on a calendar. There is a saying in Iraq: “Don’t count the days, make the days count.” And this is true. Sometimes I feel the hand of God in bringing me here.
Normally the army puts in new attorneys into this job, who have no experience. So I’m different because I have a great deal of knowledge and good business sense that may be lacking in the brand new attorneys who are normally doing legal assistance. There have been several situations where I’ve been able to give advice on a specific issue that was just right, which few other army attorneys would know about. For example, there was a guy who was losing his house to foreclosure and wanted to know what to do. The loan was $250K, and the house was worth under $175K. I told him to walk away from the house and take advantage of the single-action rule in his state that prohibits home mortgage lenders from suing the borrower. This was exactly the right advice, and two other military attorneys before me had told him the wrong advice (i.e., keep paying and try to work something out with the lender). I know a bit about immigration law, and have been very helpful to dozens of soldiers who had green cards and came to me trying to get their US Citizenship. One time a guy visited me. His wife had a small child and was 7 months pregnant, and needed his mother-in-law to get a visa to come to the US to help during the birth of the new baby. It just so happened I was in the same situation four years ago, and in my computer files I had the exact letter he needed to solve his situation and get the visa.
I do several other things also, and keep pretty busy. I’m the military magistrate, for our region of Iraq, and handle all the military search authorization requests. And I also handle all claims for this part of Iraq. Whenever a US truck runs over some house, I pay the Iraqi for his claim. So I’m proud of the good work I do for soldiers and airmen, and sometimes sailors and marines, here in Balad.
The weather is warming up a bit now, but it is still chilly at nights. And lately there have been quite a few DUSTSTORMS:
This is an actual picture that was taken recently at a nearby base. The duststorms are becoming less frequent, thank goodness!
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