Editor’s note: As a special service for our readers, WND is running a series of dispatches from Allan Wall chronicling his transition from civilian life as he prepares to fight with 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.
TEXAS – On Aug. 14, 2004, I left my home in Mexico to report to my National Guard unit in Texas.
I drove the family in our vehicle to the bus station. There were four of us – myself, my wife Lilia, and our two sons. David is 5 and Raphael is 2. In fact, Aug. 14 was his birthday. I was leaving on my little boy’s birthday.
It was night already, and the two boys went to sleep before we arrived at the bus station. But when I opened the doors to kiss them goodbye, they suddenly awoke.
I left my wife and two boys outside, entered the bus station, and boarded my bus.
I have traveled these Mexican buses for years, because that is how I have gone to my monthly National Guard drills for all the time (12 years) I have resided in Mexico. Since most of this traveling is at night, I sleep for most of the trips. But I sometimes awake and see a bus station we have arrived at. By now, I know what the particular bus stations in each town we stop at look like. So that tells me what town I’m in.
This trip was pretty typical, as these trips go. I might point out that the Mexican cross-country buses are nice – more luxurious for example, than a Greyhound.
I arrived the following morning, Aug. 15, at a bus station in a Mexican border town, as I regularly do when I go to drill. I walked to the border. Before crossing, sitting on the banks of the Rio Grande, I wrote my wife Lilia a letter, so I could mail it to her after crossing the border. Then I walked across the bridge over the Rio Grande, entering the United States.
After mailing the letter, I reported to my National Guard unit, located in this Texas border town. Of course, I had reported there many times before for regular drills. But this time was different. It was for deployment to Iraq.
On that day, Aug. 15, we prepared equipment to leave the following day. That afternoon, a ceremony was held, the community’s way of giving us a sendoff. The mayor and other municipal officials spoke, and attendance was higher than expected. There were family members of guardsmen, friends, veterans and even some former unit members. The support from the community was impressive. This is helpful to a National Guard unit, which has strong local roots.
I slept in the armory that night, as I do for regular drills there. Most of the guardsmen went home for one more night with their families. But in my case, I had already bidden goodbye to mine.
The next day, Aug. 16, our National Guard unit departed the armory. Some guardsmen were in a chartered bus, some in military vehicles and some in private vehicles. I rode in a two-and-a-half ton Army truck. There were also family members present, standing in front of the armory to see their guardsmen off.
We traveled from the border town to a military camp in Texas. The guardsmen reporting to the military camp hail from several armories and companies, so, upon arrival, we were reorganized into new platoons. From there we received our temporary housing, in the billets. These are the small buildings where we often stay on some weekend drills when we train at this particular training camp. But this time, it’s not a weekend drill. It’s a deployment to Iraq.
The following day, Aug. 17, we ran together for a few miles. Many of us are out of shape, and some fell out. I didn’t fall out, but I was hurting, I have to admit. Later in the day we had training outdoors, classes conducted by guardsmen on various military topics. I had been tasked to give a class, and did so, several times.
Today, Aug. 18, we had a PT test – the standard Army battery of three events: pushups, situps and a two-mile run. I didn’t make my required two-mile run time, I was about five minutes over, in fact. And I wasn’t the last to finish! But no problem. With the constant training we’re set to go through in the next few months, I have no doubt I’ll pass it in the future. We should have no problem getting in shape.
Later, our task force was assembled in a movie theater-auditorium. We were briefed on various topics relating to our deployment.
I have been able to speak with my wife and children on the telephone in the evenings, which has been helpful. We’re running up a phone bill, but it’s important to keep in contact.
And my deployment has only just begun …