Thursday, July 29, 2010

Recognizing That I Volunteered........

Wow. I have to keep reminding myself that Lou has graduated Ranger School. That date, July 16th, was something I looked for and never really expected to get here. And now its been 2 weeks! The official countdown clicker on my blog is superfluous now, but I left it up until tonight. Its a good feeling! Graduation was wonderful!
Lou's parents, brother Jess and sister Corrie came down to spend the weekend and help us celebrate this momentous occasion- which we accomplished mostly by eating more food in 3 days than most people think possible, unless of course, they've been living with Louis John Crist. In which case, they just shake their heads and say,"You should have seen him eat........." and reminisce on the good ol' days when as a teenager he polished off 2 pizzas and 4 steaks at a single sitting. I like to tell unbelievers about our dating days. Lou would come for breakfast on his way to drill with the Guard. I'd cook him: 12 eggs, 4 sausages, 1/2 lb. bacon, and fried potatoes. He'd eat: 12 eggs, 4 sausages, 1/2 lb. bacon, and fried potatoes. After we got married and he didn't think each meal was going to be the last one I served him, he slowed down and began eating a more respectable amount of food. Now its typically: 5 eggs and 3 sausages.  There are rarely any leftovers in our house. 
 Back to graduation~we went out to Victory Pond at 9am the morning of graduation. They actually didn't open the gate to allow seating in the bleachers until 9:30 but we were still "late" by some standards, as 50-60 people were already standing in line waiting. We bought all the possibly applicable Ranger gear we could at the "Ranger Sale" tent-which included mugs, t-shirts,bumper stickers, etc.etc.etc. (I've always enjoyed writing that ever since I saw Yul Brynner in "The King and I". ) At 10 am the show began-and what a show! The RIs put on their own hour-long version of Ranger School training, leaving out the starvation/sleep deprivation/bullying/16 mile road march sections-as it would make it far too boring and long.
Taking a ride down the zipline-piece of cake.
Afraid of heights? Try the 4 man helicopter lift.
Simple boat landing on the placid shores of Victory Pond. The students did this in the alligator/snake infested swamps of Florida.
Fighting over the last M(eals)R(eady to)E(at). It happens.
I didn't get a picture-but the most memorable part of graduation was the RI tossing a ball of C-4 into the graduation crowd, while simultaneously triggering an explosion behind the bleachers.....a bit of scrambling went on at that moment! Never mind that he had just finished explaining the properties of C-4. Lesson #147: C-4 must have both pressure and extreme heat in order to detonate. You can find this information and many more details about the modeling clay look-a-like by clicking the link.
And finally~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~the ceremony began! There were several military speakers, who all understood that the crowd was sitting patiently in 100 degree weather NOT because they expected to hear brilliant rhetoric, but because they were proud of their Ranger. Speaking of which-there is mine below with a BIG SMILE on his face!
So, in order to accommodate the families the speakers were short & sweet. And with that, the families were invited to come down to the field and pin on their soldier's Ranger tab. And away we all went-quite the melee as each of us were looking at 120 men dressed identically milling on the field. Name tapes are not helpful in crowds! I remember while Lou was away, every time I saw a blonde head in a uniform my heart jumped, until I remembered that the possibility of it BEING Lou was 0-100,000 (or however many blonde soldiers there are at Fort Benning at the moment). 
Pinning was an emotional time for me-but some of the drama was taken out of the moment by the "pin" being an actual safety pin. Difficult to stick through a patch and uniform, I had to concentrate on not stabbing myself or Lou and thus saved myself the trouble of sobbing hysterically during the proceeding. Instead I think I just giggled hysterically. Much more mature response. 
Wow! I'm so proud of Lou! The commander announced that only 22% of the men who started Ranger School completed it without recycling a phase. Lou was in that group. 30 lbs lighter, bug chewed and bitten, callused to the point of calluses between EACH toe, but alive and well and unhurt. And very thankful! We began the fattening of the calf immediately and as of today Lou is weighing in at 190 lbs. (he came back at 170) and sleeping like a baby as I write this!
Thank you dear friends for all your calls, prayers, and love that you showed during this time~its over now and we are thrilled to be back together again! 
In the two weeks since graduation,  I've traveled to and from Nebraska and Lou has been enrolled in Airborne School....I'm going to have to get busy updating you on life in July before August is over! Much love!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Field Training Exercises & Care Package Dreams

Wow, I needed that. I just woke up from a nap that lasted well over the respectable amount of time, but now I feel human again! Its not like I've been working construction on 185's 3 mile stretch between lower Columbus & Benning, or even packing boxes like my friends who are PCSing this week. I haven't even been out running every day. I think I'm just plain ol' unexplainably tired. But, that's all a thing of the past now! Prepare to be inundated with all the Ranger School news you can take- enjoy it because there are only 11 (count them) days until Louis is home/graduation. Wow! I'm having a hard time believing it myself! Gotta remember to start picking up the trail of pizza boxes and chip bags from the kitchen to the bedroom, lol. Actually, its on days like this that I'm overwhelmed with a a sense of God's goodness in our lives. How he has seen Lou through this experience without injury or (lasting) sickness. How he protects him and gives him his "go", although I'm sure the RI counseling Lou little realizes that! And yet, even if God chose to have Lou experience a phase twice through recycling, that doesn't make him any less of a good God or a Father to us. "For we know, that ALL things work together for good to those that love God, that are the called according to his purpose." Easy to forget when things are going "my way" but hard to live when life plans get snarled. So, I'm thankful for the Lou in my life, but even more so for the God who gives me "every good gift", including my husband. 
 Then-in NICU with Dad Crist after being delivered prematurely
Now- before Ranger School. 6 foot tall, 195 lbs.
Lou's letters describing the two FTXs were markedly different, but arrived days apart so I spent the in-between time wondering about the "go".
 (not dated-postmarked June 21st)
Hey Baby! Well, the first 5 days of our mountain FTX is over and it went ok. It was a smoker and that's the biggest under-exaggeration ever! Soul-searching, 100+ lbs up mountains for 5-6 hours a day! rough stuff. I got a no-go on my patrol (this was a huge source of stress for Lou, as his going on to phase 3 depending on getting a "go" on one of two patrols. The 2nd patrol didn't take place until week two. Every soldier wants to get their "go" out of the way as soon as possible, because then, unless they do something truly idiotic-such as catching the forest on fire or catching their RI on fire, you know, stuff like that, they are pretty much set to graduate the phase) and like in Darby I made some mistakes but the platoon leader was all messed up so we all got no-go's. Must admit I'm very disappointed! But we got a day off, food, sleep and we are dry so I'm pretty optomistic about the next 5 days. It rained a lot and we never dried out, it's like a rain forest. Its so beautiful but its so miserable also, its such a shame I'll never want to ever come near this place-tee hee! Its hard to put all the fun stuff we did in the 5 days down especially when you're so delirious. OK. The first day we did Bay Planning just like in Darby. Shed with maps & chalk boards. Then we moved out all day up the mountain and hit the objective around dinner and then attempted to set up a patrol base to no avail. We slept about 30 min. and ate in 10 in the PITCH black at 0300. Not cool! Then we got up, fixed the patrol base ate about an hour later (0430), started planning (0600) and left for mission (1000) and then hit Objective around (1900) and then moved to patrol base around 2300. In between we do equipment layouts, water supply and all sorts of stuff.
So that was about what we do all 5 days, its a killer cause its all in the mountains and through the brush and creeks. You're hungry and very tired. Lots of funny stuff happens though. D___ battle buddy was next to me and D____ pulling security and a bird pooped on his head, we were crying (laughing) so hard! You got to know that we get this from RIs, the terrain and all the rain. When a bird actually did it, we cried laughing.
Anyway, we just got to go to the PX and I have $1 to my name-teehee. (poor guy, his tyrannical wife only gave him $20 to take to Mountains :)) Can't wait to get a care package (they only give them to the guys at the end of each phase, so for 21 days they all imagine what they're going to get in the
package! ) 
Chocolate chip cookies? Money? (and yes, the above went into the package, along with enough junk food to kill a normal human being upon impact)
 All my love Baby! Hope I get to see you.
(next letter written in the same day-before the last FTX)
Well, I got to run we are starting our next 5 day FTX. I got the radio and am the RTO (radio telephone operator). Hopefully I get my go. Pray for your man. Oh yes, I also got an ingrown toenail cut out. I'll tell you what, you don't know pain til you been through this school! The guys was nuts- Chinese toenail torturer. Anyway he just went to town! And I debated on whether or not to use up my one cry for Ranger school. (Its a standing joke that you get one cry-especially in the mountain phase, due to the physical exertion and frustration from trying to navigate in the mountains, in the dark, with 100 lbs on your back!) The nail dug in, pretty dead, you know me its got to be pretty bad for me to go to sick call. Well all my love to my baby and the best wife ever!!
I miss you so much! I love your letters, they are such an encouragement to me. Honestly, I have a hard time finding time to read them but I love to. You're such a blessing to me and my motivation. My motivation when me and S____ are debating as to whether or not you eat the ferns or moss on a rock, or one of the 8 snakes. Teehee! I miss you! 
And I miss you too! But, wait til he gets home and finds his wife's latest projects scattered throughout the house! 
The bedroom set is progressing nicely, I've managed to put another coat of paint on it and am now in the "knobs" phase. Searching for the perfect knobs at a bargain price can be a hobby, did you know?
In the meantime, on Friday my application for my Georgia license disapeared from the Board of Nursing website so I'm taking that as a good sign that they have finally approved my application, $150 and 1.5 months after submitting it. Hmm, I was supposed to be working while he was gone, but now it appears that I will be starting orientation AFTER he graduates Ranger School. Such is life! We army newbies think that the Army life is so uncertain and changeable, and it is, but at least in the army you can be certain of one thing- CHANGE! And now I'm off to bed, as I'm planning on getting up at 6 to go run with friends, one of whom is pcs-ing this week to Fort Drum, NY. Yes, change is in the air in Georgia.