There's something jarring about picking up the phone and hearing my friend Drew on the other end calling from Iraq in a connection so crystal clear, it sounds like he's in the next room..
He called on Sunday for the second time since he deployed in August. I don't know why it's so jarring; maybe because you I don't expect him to be able to call, much less have time to do it.
He phoned at about 1 a.m. his time.
"My days are incredibly busy," he said. "I usually go to sleep at about 1, get up at about four and do it all over again."
When he knows he's going to not be sleeping and he has a free moment, he calls.
We talked about the Bucs and the Gators. He hadn't seen any of the games but he had heard about the results.
His wife, Susan, and their boys were back home dealing with the Hawaiian earthquake mess. They'd been without power and phone. He called to make sure they were okay.
"I told her I was worried about them," Drew says. "She said, 'You're worried about US?!?!?"
He says he's doing well. He has his good days and his bad days. The weather was good for about a week. Then the rainstorms started.
"You can't believe how good our equipment is," he said.
Soldiers today have the best equipment possible, Drew says. The vehicles are built to incredible standards. In other wars, the soldiers would be losing their eyesight and hearing in similar attacks. In this one, they have protective goggles and ear plugs to protect them.
"Other than getting sprayed in the face, they're doing okay," he says.
His battallion has lost a half-dozen soldiers since deployment, including Drew's security chief, who was killed after their convoy was hit by an RPG and then attacked with small arms fire. Drew escaped uninjured.
Drew recently was on the cover of Stars and Stripes newspaper in what has to be one of the most moving photos I've seen in years. It was taken during a ceremony honoring one of his fallen soldiers:
Drew said he thought the photo was very moving and beautiful while also immensely painful. His main complaint:
"Frickin' Barbara Streisand is on the cover up in the corner!" he said.
What I wouldn't give to see Babs and Drew in a room together.
Drew says he's constantly impressed by the commitment and determination of his troops.
One who recently was injured was sent to Walter Reed medical center to recouperate. Drew called to check on him and the soldier said that he was getting ready for his third and final operation to repair his arm.
The soldier told Drew that he was trying to get better as soon as he could. "That's good," Drew told him. "That's what you should be doing."
Then the soldier said, "They're saying that they're not going to be sending me back."
That's right, Drew told him.
"You've gotta do everything you can to get me back there," he told Drew.
"This kid is 18," Drew told me. "I'm amazed by them every single day."
Posted by Jeff at October 16, 2006 08:15 AM