Editor’s note: As a special service for our readers, today we begin a series of dispatches from Allan Wall chronicling his transition from civilian life as he prepares to join his National Guard unit in Iraq. Allan will write for us as often as he is able in order to let our readers vicariously experience what people in his position are going through. We hope you will check regularly for Allan’s dispatches and encourage your friends and family to do likewise.
MEXICO – Well, it’s finally come to pass. My National Guard unit has been called up for Iraq duty.
We’re far from alone. Currently, about 40 percent of U.S. troops stationed in Iraq are National Guard or Reserve.
Ridiculed for years as “weekend warriors,” guardsmen and reservists are pulling their share of deployments in Iraq and elsewhere. And it puts them under plenty of pressure. U.S. law requires employers to hold jobs for them, but many guardsmen and reserves take pay cuts when deployed. And those who are self-employed are really in a bind. In any case, it places an enormous strain on family life.
In my case, things are complicated by the fact that I live and work in Mexico. That means that I am not covered by U.S. law. My employer in Mexico is not required to hold my job for a 2-year deployment. That means I’m losing my job and my Mexican work permit. And my family will lose the health insurance provided by my employer.
I have lived in Mexico since 1991, and it’s been a life-changing experience in so many ways. I have worked here in private schools, teaching English. It’s been a great way to learn more about the English language myself. That’s because, when you teach English to a non-native speaker, it forces you to see your native language through a foreign set of spectacles.
In my spare time, I’m a writer, and living here has afforded me no lack of material. Some of my articles concern Mexican culture, tourist attractions and my own experiences here in Mexico. Others concern U.S. immigration policy as it relates to Mexico. I invite you to check out my articles at my website and my VDARE.COM archive.
Mexico is also where I met my wife Lilia. I was teaching private English classes at the time. I was at the home of my students Alberto and Magda. When class was over one afternoon, Lilia showed up, and Magda introduced her, as Alberto’s cousin, as if she had just happened by. Years later, after we were married, I discovered it was no coincidence, Magda had told her to stop by so we could meet.
Lilia is a chemistry teacher (and a very good one). So one of the first questions I asked her when we met was “Do you know all the elements on the periodic table”? Romantic, eh? Well, we did have “chemistry,” we became friends and were eventually married. And we were later blessed with the arrival of two boys, David, age 5, and Raphael, age 2.
For me, the greatest heartache of my National guard call-up is the separation from my family. Certainly, the prospect of going to Iraq with the military is itself quite daunting. Just read the news about Najaf and Fallujah, and about the ongoing terrorist attacks. As the mission becomes clearer and nearer, that should loom larger. But that, too, is linked to the separation from my family. And that has to be a problem for every member of the military deploying to Iraq.
I was already in the Army National Guard when I moved to Mexico, and I stayed in the Guard ever since. I travel by bus to Texas, where I report for monthly drills and two-weeks of annual training. Sometimes, when my contract was up, I almost chose not to re-enlist, since it was often inconvenient and time-consuming . But I always wound up re-enlisting.
And so, here I am, called up for duty in Iraq.
When I learned of the deployment, I knew I had to get my personal affairs in order and spend time with my family. As far as the former goal, even at the time of this writing, it’s not complete. And I haven’t even packed yet!
The time I’ve spent with my family – both here and on vacation in the United States – has been great, but the shadow of deployment is constantly looming. But when you think of it, life itself is like that. We really don’t know when we’re going to go, so we should always be getting things in order and spending time with our families!
Lilia’s parents, my suegros (mother-in-law and father-in-law) have been very supportive. So have my dad and other family members. Also, my wife and I attend a church here in Mexico – I even teach a Bible class there (in Spanish, of course). Last Sunday we went up to the front and were prayed for. I appreciated that.
My employer has been good to me, even though not required to by Mexican law. A substitute is being hired for my classes. If there’s a change and I’m sent back by Sept. 30, I still have my job. If not, the substitute becomes my replacement. Under the circumstances, that’s fair.
My wife, Lilia, has been a great help and support in preparing for what’s ahead. We’re making plans to get through this deployment, all the time hoping that it’s cancelled! I know that when I’m gone, caring for our two active boys alone will be a big job for her.
I’ve explained to David that I’m going “for a bunch of days” and it’s really started to sink in. Today he was weeping and lamenting my departure. Said tomorrow would be “a big sad day.”
I don’t doubt it.