Thoughts, prayers mean a lot

Editor’s Note: The following article was written on March 8, 2003, in Southern Turkey prior to the start of the war against Iraq. It is reprinted here by permission of the Columbiana Sentry.

It’s Saturday evening, about 6 p.m. here. That means it’s about 10 a.m. in Columbiana.

When I finish this letter, I will go to my barracks (actually, it’s a racquetball court in a vacated fitness center on Incerlik Air Force Base in Southern Turkey) and start packing my duffle bags and rucksack.

Day after tomorrow, my team and I will start an 11-hour convoy to a base camp from which we will split into smaller teams to go to different places in Turkey and a neighboring country. Where we are now, it is usually mid-30s in the morning with highs in the upper 40s.

The last report I received on our base camp said there is more than a foot of snow on the ground, with lows in the teens and highs in the upper-20s.

Thanks, Mom, for the &uot;long johns&uot;you gave me at Christmas.

The buildup of troops and equipment continues, and Alabama Guardsmen and Reservists are arriving in the European and Middle Eastern theaters by the hundreds.

I have even been reunited with a couple of guys I served with in the Persian Gulf War.

I wonder if it’s Gulf War Syndrome that’s caused the three of us to gain a little weight and lose a lot of our hair? I didn’t think so, either.

Where I am now is the air base from which Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch originate. These are the military air operations that enforce the &uot;No Fly&uot; zones over Iraq.

Every night I’ve been here (16 nights so far), fighter jets thunder off the runway with afterburners glowing, en route to patrol the skies and monitor enemy activity on the ground below.

What you see on CNN, Fox, MSNBC and other news channels is the result of many, many hours of intelligence reports, generals’ staff efforts, covert special operations and plain old educated &uot;hunches&uot; that are ongoing around the clock.

The excitement and amazement I experienced when I first got here has slowly been replaced with focus on our mission, concern for our fellow troops and all too often, fatigue.

But we all have to be in place and ready to go if and when the &uot;shooting war&uot; begins.

Our unit, the 200th Materiel Management Center, has the exclusive responsibility for insuring that all subsistence (food, water, MREs), fuel (diesel fuel for armored vehicles and &uot;hummers,&uot; gasoline for generators, jet fuel for attack helicopters), ammunition (PATRIOT missiles, bullets for individual rifles and pistols, rounds for M1 Abrams Tanks and M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles), barrier materiel (sandbags for defensive positions, barbed wire and razor wire for enemy prisoners of war camps) and major weapons systems (tanks, machine guns, multiple-launch rocket systems, anti-tank weapons, grenade launchers, etc.) get to the troops who need them, where they need them and when they need them.

It’s a pretty big challenge, but the soldiers with me were handpicked because they are the best in their field. Please pray for these men and me as we continue our mission.

Being away from home, I’ve come to value any reminder of our city and county. I want to thank all the great friends who have emailed me and written letters to remind me of how proud and patriotic our community is.

My son’s classmates and teacher, my church’s various prayer, Bible study and youth groups, friends, fellow mayors and schoolchildren from all over the country all have written to give their support and prayers. I can never thank you enough for the pride and strength you have given me.

I also want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Strickland for making a contribution to the Columbiana Flag Fund in honor of me. I hear that Columbiana is standing tall with flags and ribbons for our military and our country. Know that each flag and ribbon that waves makes a difference both in our city and county, and halfway across the world.

Each ribbon and flag is more than just fabric that will eventually fade. They are reminders of individual prayers for safety, for success and for a rapid return home for all of us.

God willing, we won’t let you down.

As always, I ask you to keep us in your daily prayers and do your part to show everyone else that we know how blessed we are to live in these United States. God bless all of you