Saturday, February 02, 2013

SGT Saffar Arjmandi (1977 - 2006) -- part 03

Monday was the eighth anniversary of the death of SGT Saffar Arjmandi, of whom I wrote a couple of times while I was deployed before.  This year, for some reason, my grief moved to the front burner and I felt soul-scalded again.  It wasn't like that last year, or the year before. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him, and miss him.  And though the poignancy of recall aches a bit, always, the intensity of grief this week caught me off guard, again.

Grief is like that.

Some years back I shared a snippet from the spiritual legacy of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, murdered by the Nazis just not long before Hitler's suicide and the end of the War in Europe.  I found myself this week back with Bonhoeffer:

Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love. And it would be wrong to try to find a substitute. We must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time, it is a great consolation, for the gap -- as long as it remains unfilled -- preserves the bond between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap: God does not fill it, but on the contrary, keeps it empty, and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The gap gaped this week.

On Monday, a former ROTC Cadet classmate of Saffar posted some paragraphs on facebook from an email I'd sent out the Saturday morning of Saffar's death.  I'd been up all night on the red-eye from California to Dayton, which I'd booked Friday afternoon hoping against hope to be able to tell Saffar one last time that I loved him.  Instead, literally as the boarding door was closing, I heard Kristen's step-father telling me that Saffar had just died.

I don't usually sleep on aircraft, and I spent that cold and dark flight trying to remember to breathe.  I clung to the wonder and awe I'd felt for so long at the fact that our paths had ever crossed in the first place.  By rights we never should have become friends, and certainly not family.

I'd forgotten about sending the email that Lindsey quoted in her facebook post, and I finally managed the herculean effort needed to open up the mail archive and recover that email I'd sent on the morning of 28FEB06.  I moved around on autopilot that morning, and it seems now, from the distance of the better part of a decade, that I experienced a non-alcohol-induced blackout for several days following Saffar's death.

Now that I've been in the military a while, I cringe at how I phrased some of what I'd written, but hey! I wasn't in the military at that point, and I'd only a week earlier met with Catholic-priest-recruiters from the Army for the first time....  Here's what I wrote to Saffar's friends that morning:
     My thanks to CPT Sam, MD, for letting you all know of Saffar's death in the early hours of 28 January 2006.  I received the phone call from Kristen's step-dad literally as the door of the plane was being closed, so I called Sam to ask him to pass that information on to you.  I never sleep on planes anyway, so with no movie on board, I had lots of time to pray and cry and give thanks to God for Saffar's all-too-short presence in my life.  It's now 0630 EST and I'm stuck in the Detroit airport for 2.5 hours until my flight to Dayton. 
     Ever since I heard the news of Saffar's death, a line from one of the prayers I pray often at Mass has been running through my head:  "When we were lost, and could not find the way to you, you loved us more than ever."  That is, of course, one way to translate the Greek text from the Gospel of John, which more literally might be translated "you loved us to the end" -- i.e., to the 'nth' degree. 
     When I first met Saffar, he was perhaps the most virulent anti-religionist I'd ever encountered, and that's saying something!  He was "over" it.  He wanted nothing to do with it, or so he said. 
     But I found out that he would go to  Mass in Bellarmine Chapel, every so often, and even more so, once he got to know Fr. Bischoff ("Father B"). 
     That seemed just a bit odd for someone so against organized religion, but I didn't mention that fact to him. 
     When he broke his neck, and suffered so much pain and indignity consequent to all the medical poking and prodding and sawing and poisoning, I had occasion to speak with him about death and dying and faith and grief and fear and sadness. Not a whole lot had changed in his outlook, but he knew he needed more than he had, especially when the Army discharged him from ROTC, perhaps the biggest blow of all.  Fortunately, Kristen stood by him, even though they'd known each other barely a year (368 days, to be exact) when he was told he had cancer.  Her love and loyalty, combined with his Airborne Ranger mentality, enabled him to endure privations and pain beyond telling. 
     I suspect it was through the love that Kristen showed him that he began to open to the possibility of there being an even greater love possible and present in his life. 
     Imagine my surprise when, after he'd been seemingly cancer-free for a year, he told me that he and Kristen were participating in the RCIA group (for people seeking to be baptized as Roman Catholics) at UD, where his mentor had made him a "Ranger Rosary" which Saffar delighted in!  I didn't really say much, because I didn't want to put any pressure on them about becoming Catholic, but I must say, I was pretty jazzed. 
     They'd asked me to participate in their wedding, scheduled for October, 2005, and I'd told them that would be a bit difficult to arrange, since neither of them was Catholic, but we'd work something out.  I flew to Dayton for Saffar's 28th birthday last May, arriving fairly late the night before his actual birthday.  All day that Friday, both he and Kristen kept apologizing for how "out of it" they were.  Only the next day, when he and I took their dog Macie for a long walk, did he tell me that earlier on the day I arrived, the doctors had told them that not only were his tumors back, but they were so close to his spinal column that he probably only had a month at most to live.  I was flabbergasted. 
     (An aside:  in typical 'rangersaffar' fashion, he outlived their prognosis by a bit more than seven months.) 
     He also confided in me that he had come to experience the presence of God in his life, through Jesus, and that was helping him feel at peace, even in the face of possible paralysis, should the tumors squeeze his spinal cord.  I was never so much in awe of him and his courage and strength as at that moment. 
     I twisted their arms to get them to move up their wedding from October to June, even though I would not be able to be there because of a commitment with the Jesuits I simply could not break. 
     When I spoke with Saffar on the phone the morning of the wedding, I'd never heard him so happy.  So many of you, from XU, from the Army, and from UD were able to participate in one way or another, it buoyed his spirits tremendously.  Afterwards, he mentioned to me in particular how much it meant to me that so many ROTC buddies came, from all over the world, on such short notice.  I felt bereft at missing the celebration, but was grateful they'd gone through with putting together a wedding in just two weeks' time. 
     I was able to see them in Dayton in July, after my 30-day silent retreat ended, and then not again until after I got back from Thailand.  When I saw him in October (the weekend the wedding had been planned) I was taken aback at how bloated he was from the steroids he was taking.  He was clearly much weaker than he'd been, and was having more and more trouble swallowing, as a result of the tumors in his neck.
     I found out at midnight on a Friday night that he and Kristen were being baptized at UD on that Sunday, and was fortunate enough to get a ticket on the red-eye Saturday night.  I showed up at their apartment without having told them I was coming, and since Kristen was in the basement when I arrived, Saffar wouldn't answer the door, and was getting pretty annoyed at the fact that whoever was there wouldn't stop pounding on the door.  I saw tears well up in his eyes when he finally saw that it was I.  Kristen's jaw dropped.  I had to fly right back to San Francisco immediately after the Mass, because I had a grant renewal due, so I didn't even get to go out to lunch with them.  I'm so grateful for credit cards!  I wouldn't have missed that occasion for the world.  Much to my chagrin, I was unable to get back for Saffar's Thesis Defense.  Not surprisingly, he kicked butt. I'm told more people came to his Defense than anyone could remember seeing at a Master's Defense.
     Two weeks later I found out on a Tuesday that he would be graduating on the following Saturday, so I was again able to get a last-minute ticket and get there for that event.  When I arrived, it was very -- very -- late at night, and Saffar was in incredible respiratory distress.  I was terrified for him, at the gurgling in his lungs which was so loud it woke me up at one point.  Ranger-like, he refused to go to the Emergency Room, but rather insisted that he was going to walk through his Commencement.
     It was quite the comedy of errors, the two of us:  Saffar in a wheelchair, and me in my priest outfit, wearing Saffar's combat boots!  (I'd neglected to pack shoes that would survive the ice and snow, and it turns out Saffar and I have almost the same size feet.  Go figure.)  We took him directly from his Commencement to the hospital, and he was there through the holidays until he was released to hospice, and then to home. 
     After the hospice doc told him two weeks ago there was nothing more that could be done, Saffar asked, "Does this mean I'm a goner?"  She answered, "Yes." 
     I grabbed another red-eye at the last minute, and showed up to a house full of laughter, what with Mason and his Dad, along with Boogro and Looney, not to mention Lindsey and others who dropped in.  It was a great celebration.  I finally had the opportunity to say Mass for them, and when I went to give Saffar communion by placing a drop of the consecrated wine on his tongue, only then did I realize that his tongue was a mass of scabs -- I knew he hadn't been able to eat or drink anything by mouth for a month, but I had no idea what it had done to his tongue.  I'd never heard him complain of that, at all.  He truly embodied the Ranger spirit.  Kristen has become every bit the Ranger, according to Saffar himself in an email to me not long before he died, too, given what she's been through. 
     When I was alone with him on that Sunday, just before I left, he told me he was ready to go.  He said he knew God's love for him was real, and that he was not afraid.  I told him that letting go was perhaps the most courageous thing he could do, and that if it was time for him to go, it was OK by me, and that I'd do my best to look after Kristen for him. 
     I kissed him on the head and told him I loved him, and that he'd been the best son I could ever imagine having. 
     He said, "You de man, Fatha."  I said, "No, *you're* de man, Saffar."  He said, "No, you're de man." 
     I was very much hoping to be able to tell him that again, but that's not the way it worked out.
     I'm grateful to God for bringing Saffar into my life, and through Saffar, Kristen.  He and I spoke four or five times a week (or more) for the better part of the past three years.  I shall miss him more than I can articulate.  I'm very grateful he's no longer in pain.  I'm grateful he's now with "the Lord he loved" as Sam put it in his note to you.  Let's all pray for Kristen. 
     Saffar has taught me a lot about life, and about dying, and about loving.  For years he'd always end his email notes to me with and abbreviation, and for years I didn't understand, and was too proud to ask him. Boy can I be dense sometimes!  I *finally* just got it just a couple of days ago. 
     Saffar has really done it this time, for me, and I suspect for all of us:  RLTW. 

Tim Meier, sj  

God bless you all.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Friday, February 01, 2013

Some prayer requests

I just spoke with my cousin Gail (well, she's actually married to my first cousin Mike, but I consider her to be in every way my cousin, as well), and it seems Mike has been admitted to the V.A.  This is a very, very, very good thing, and his being there borders on the miraculous.  Please keep those (deliciously subversive) prayers, good thoughts, etc., coming!

Secondly, I found out today that Mrs. MSG McG, the patient and delightful wife of my erstwhile Chaplain Assistant in Iraq, has had some serious oral surgery today, and is in a great deal of pain.  If you could remember her (and her husband, MSG McG) in your prayers, I'd really appreciate it.

Last, but not least - at least for now! - please remember my parents in your prayers.  My last two deployments occasioned a great deal of stress in their lives, and the news of this third deployment has occasioned proportionately more.  They've been incredibly supportive of me in whatever I've done -- in particular, this latest season of my life in which I joined the military in my dotage -- so I figure I'll attempt to enlist you, gentle readers, to be their spiritual battle buddies while I'm riding off into the sunrise yet again.

Many, many thanks to you for your kindnesses!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Thursday, January 31, 2013


I'm taking a class that is required by the Army, and I do not know who's grading my papers, etc., that I submit online.

A couple of weeks ago, I turned in an essay exam covering four questions, with a limit of two, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12 (=font style and size), pages per answer.  Given the Army's (unfortunately, all too necessary) concern over plagiarism, answers were expected to cite references when appropriate.

I submitted my exam which indeed had exactly two pages per answer, and probably way too many endnotes for such an endeavor.  However, so much of my life has been characterized by, "anything worth doing is worth overdoing," I suppose it's not a surprise I ended up with sixty-some citations from among 31 listed references.  Sigh.

Here's what the person grading the exam had to say in response:

"Yours is perhaps the best paper I've read for this lesson. Content, format, and notes are truly excellent. I would tell you, however, that you really are not expected to have such extensive documentation for every test or essay. That said, I very much enjoyed your answers."
I did receive 100 points out of the 100 possible.

And to think this stuff is not even close to subject matter that I'm remotely interested in.

Blessings and peace to one and all,
Fr. Tim, SJ
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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spectacular sunsets

For the three winters I've been here since getting home from Iraq and Kosovo, I've been grateful for the mildness of the weather (usually), though I suspect I feel the cold more acutely than I once did, and for the often breathtaking sunsets.

No wonder the ancients deified Beauty!  Ain't creation grand?  Hooray for God!!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dribs and drabs

I've actually spoken with one person who will be deployed to the same place, and I think I was able to answer many of his questions (since I've been there once before, and he and his people have not), but I came away from the conversation with more questions than I'd had beforehand.

I've also had emails from two people who are associated with the unit I'm supposed to mobilize and deploy with, but they're so high-ranking they're not in a position to be concerned with the particulars of the process of my getting from here to there.

So, dribs and drabs.  The clock is ticking, and soon it will be two weeks with knowing about the deployment, but without anything significant happening to advance my preparations.


Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Monday, January 28, 2013

A waking nightmare

The Colonel's cat, Buddy, tends to be very sweet and interactive, and I'm very aware that I will miss him when I mobilize and deploy.

He's a very beautiful animal, and while it's taken some getting used to, having him sleep on my bed, I've grown fond of him demanding to be snuggled with before we both drift off into never-never land.  He he is in quiet repose on my bed, atop his "blankey".  (It's actually a terry cloth bath robe which used to belong to the Colonel, but now belongs to his cat.)

What could be sweeter?

How's this for a nightmare upon waking??

I *woke up* to this!!


This was on MY BED!!  He did this while I was SLEEPING!

I got rid of the carcass and feathers, and I dumped that red thing into the washing machine, dialed in the hottest water possible, and added way too much ammonia, I suppose.

I then washed all the sheets and pillow cases and bedspread, even though I'd just done that days before.


Maybe I won't miss the cat that much, after all.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Remembering to breathe

Relative to my upcoming deployment, it's been ten days now since I found out I'm being sent back to Southeastern Europe, and I still have had no contact with anyone who's been able to tell me what I'll be doing, exactly, and how things will work along the way of getting there.

On top of that, a week ago yesterday I received a letter from the California Guard saying that because *they* cannot find their paperwork concerning the $10K "signing  bonus"  I was paid (the shortage of Chaplains Army-wide had prompted this largesse, but in other military operational specialty (MOS) classifications, the bonuses were much, much larger), they're going to recoup their money from me.

After the Charlie Foxtrot that was my accessions process, my having been deployed twice, having moved twice, and having changed storage facilities twice, I cannot find my copies of that paperwork either.

Last Saturday night, before the retreat in Malibu, I was ready to tell the Guard Bureau to have fun in Kosovo without me, but I managed to remember what my friends who go to lots of AA and Al-Anon meetings keep telling me, and which I now repeat pretty incessantly to others: Remember to breathe!

Subsequent to having remembered that direction, and more pointedly after having engaged that practice, I did not act rashly and in rage.

But it sure can seem like an attractive option nonetheless.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Like the dewfall

"Like the dewfall" is a phrase from the mostly unfortunate reworking of the official texts used during the celebration of public worship in my religious tradition.  Sigh.

We had some mostly-light rains while I was on retreat, and in the midst of lulls in the heaviest of the rain, the light was quite splendid for taking photos, so I availed myself of the opportunity.

The Franciscan Retreat House in Malibu is lovely even in the rain  -- and I'll take a rainy late-January day in Malibu over a sunny late-January day in just about any other part of the country (and especially the Midwest, where I'm from!).

After the rainy day on Thursday, I was grateful for a sunny drive home Friday afternoon.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Friday, January 25, 2013

How can I keep from singing?

Though I majored in music (and biology) when I was in college, and though I've flirted with voice lessons from time to time, it's taken me a long time to get used to singing in public.  This year at the retreat I've taken it upon myself to anchor the a cappella congregational singing at Mass.  I've also managed an a cappella solo meditation each time, as well.

I suspect because I'm so grateful to be with my tribe, especially given the imminence of yet another deployment, and the fact that it's been so many years since I've been with these guys in this place, I can't help but sing.

Friends of mine who go to a lot of AA and Al-Anon meetings (and there seem to be quite a number of them here) keep encouraging me to live in the present moment, which often seems so easy a goal, at least on paper.  However, in the crunch times, and in particular when my broken brain tries to get the better of me (or the best of me, I suppose), I find it all too easy to lose track of the "now" and get lost in the "now what?" -- inevitably leading to scads of completely optional unmanageability.

With so much to do before shipping out, and days rushing by with no further elucidation of what's needed by when and in what place, I'm having to work at staying in the "now."

Funny how I feel much more like singing when I'm capable of accomplishing *that* mission.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

MIchael and Gail

My first cousin Mike was a spook with the Air Force during the Vietnam conflict.  Years after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from that theater of operations, Mike's courageous and honorable service occasioned consequences that have been difficult and painful.

As if that weren't bad enough, his health has deteriorated significantly over the past couple of years.

I left the retreat briefly yesterday to drive down the coast to visit him and his lovely wife Gail. I'd hoped to do that in November, but wound up getting the upper respiratory crud which has been epidemic around the country, so I didn't go anywhere, much to my chagrin.

Shortly after I was supposed to have been down there visiting the two of them, Michael suffered another cerebrovascular accident, which this time has seriously impaired his mobility.  Consequently, the stress in his life, and in Gail's, seems to have increased exponentially.

If you're a person who prays, please do me the favor of praying for Gail and Mike, OK?

(As Mike is not much for praying, himself, I fell somewhat deliciously subversive in this request.)


Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

With beauty suffused

This place, in the hills of Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the distance, lifts my spirits whenever I visit (which is definitely not often enough).  The hospitality of the Friars welcomes gently; the food has gotten better and better over the years -- both delicious AND healthy; and no matter what time of year I show up here, there are always flowers to beckon me to flights of gratitude and awe that soften even *my* curmudgeonliness.

When I was in Iraq and Kosovo, the search for unexpected and undeserved beauty kept my spirit alive through some very long days and trying times.

What a gift to be able to revel in so much beauty for (several) days on end!!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

7. God’s Grandeur

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89).  Poems.  1918.

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. 

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. 

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Monday, January 21, 2013


I'll be spending this week with brother priests, on retreat in a spectacularly beautiful place.  I've not been able to be with them since January 2006.  Something Army-related has always taken precedence to keep me away from here.  (In fact, I suspect I'm supposed to be somewhere else, but perhaps because I didn't go out of my way to investigate that possibility, I don't have any orders to that effect, so hooray!!  I'm able to be here in Malibu, instead.  Playing hooky.)

This is the vista that greeted me as I walked from my car up to the dining room upon my arrival.

It's going to be a great week!!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Twilight time

Sunsets during the winter here can be spectacular, though these photos don't quite do justice to the actual experience.

One of the best aspects of the winter here in California is that it doesn't often snow here; I will miss that aspect of being here, once I'm back to winter in Kosovo.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Two birds and a hand

The other day I groggily brewed my morning shot(s) of espresso, and I noticed Buddy the cat hunkered down on the floor of the kitchen in his stalking pose.  Not only was it still fairly dark (I'd started up the espresso maker without turning on the kitchen lights), I didn't have my glasses on, so I could barely make out a small dark something on the floor in front of him.

"Not again!" I complained to the cat.

Sure enough, it was a hummingbird he'd caught, and brought into the house to "enjoy."  Sigh.

Buddy must like me an awful lot to be sharing so many of his treasures with me lately (to include partially-consumed woodrat brains, replete with attached bloody woodrat carcasses).

I wasn't sure how badly injured (if at all) the hummingbird was, so I gently picked it up and deposited it back outdoors, hoping against hope it would be OK.

About 90 minutes later, after I'd gotten home from a 7 a.m. meeting I usually frequent weekday mornings, when I walked into my bedroom, I heard a very loud buzzing noise.

You guessed it!  Another hummingbird.

Undaunted by his early setback at my hands, Buddy went and got himself another prize, but this one had gotten away from him on its own. It was, however, trapped now in my room.

The bird seemed to be in great shape, flying around my room near the ceiling, and then coming to rest back on the top of my Black Forest cuckoo clock, again and again.  I opened the door to the outside, and tried to coax the bird back into what I hoped would be cat-free liberation, but the bird seemed incapable of finding its way out.

It took about five minutes, but I finally encouraged the tiny creature to leave.  No hands, this time.

I'm too often like that hummingbird, I suppose.  I get myself into situations from which there's an easy way out, but then am blind to that option, or incapable of choosing it on my own.

Fortunately for me, there are lots of spiritual people in my A.O. (area of operations) who can bring some light into my darkness, point me in the right direction, and then give me a swift kick in the tush to get me going, if I can't seem to manage it on my own.

It still creeps me out that Buddy has taken to bringing so many of his trophies into the house, and indeed, into my bedroom.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Friday, January 18, 2013

Traveling with Tutankhamen

I do a lot of driving in the course of my being an Army Chaplain these days.

Unfortunately, on the Thursday after Christmas I had to drive to Mojave, CA (as in "Mojave Desert") to do the funeral of a very young Soldier who died after an apparent heart attack a few hours after he'd finished a round of chemotherapy to treat the cancer which had been found unexpectedly while surgeons were doing emergency surgery to repair the damage my friend had suffered during a melee at the correctional institution where he'd gotten a job (finally) after returning from our deployment to Kosovo in 2010.

He was 23 years old.

That was about 3.5 hours of driving each way, though it seemed so much longer because of the massive burden of grief it represented for so many people, including me.  I had met SPC Taeza during the train-up for  Kosovo in the summer of 2009, and he'd come to Mass often during our mobilization/deployment.

I was listening to "The Emperors of Rome" (a 36-lecture course), there and back.

Not all that long ago a young Soldier friend of mine asked me to come up and hang out with a bunch of her friends who are trying to stay sober one day at time, so that was about 3.5 hours total driving.

That Soldier's life before the military makes Steven King movies look like Winnie the Pooh.

After a long day of work, and especially with the late hour at which I began my drive home, I was grateful to be listening to "The Life and Music of Brahms" (eight, 45-minute lectures), in part because of my longtime love of his music, and in part because the lecturer, Dr. Robert Greenberg, is a real hoot.

Each time I travel up to Oakland, CA, to celebrate Mass with my Jesuit brothers in the Jesuit Community there, it's about 3 hours each way, iff (that's "if and only if," in mathematics-speak) there's no traffic.  At times it's taken me 5 hours one-way.  I try to get up there once a month, if at all possible.

(Wow, just in writing that, the reality of going overseas again for an extended time -- far away from my Community and my family and my Army buddies and my civilian friends -- just inundated me, occasioning an audible gasp of air.  Weird in its suddenness and intensity....)

Last month, I went up to Oakland both for St. Lucy's Day and for a cameo appearance on Christmas Day; both times I drove up and back on the same day, and both times I was listening to "The Emperors of Rome" (see above).

I do a lot of driving in the course of my being an Army Chaplain these days.

I'm so grateful my friend Dan (physician, musician, gourmet chef, sculptor, painter, photographer -- and one of the most generous and gentle human beings I've ever met) introduced me to the universe of university-level lecture courses offered for sale by The Teaching Company!

When I lived on my own for a couple of years after returning to Stanford following my stint in Cincinnati from 1999-2002, Teaching Company courses really occupied my attention when I was home alone, night after night.  I found they were great listening while I was driving, too.  Since I've been working full-time as a Chaplain in the 28 months since my last deployments ended, I've lost count of how many of those lectures I've listened to while on the road.

Even ten years out from doing laboratory research, and I'm still a complete nerd.

I just finished listening to "Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt" taught by Professor Bob Brier (he's the guy who mummified a human cadaver (filmed by National Geographic) -- in 1994, the first time that had been successfully completed since probably the beginning of the Common Era).  I must admit, I couldn't remember ever hearing of Kings Narmer or Sneferu before, and I had never linked Queen Nefertiti with the "Apostate Pharaoh" Akhenaten.

So much for paying attention for the previous half-century.  Perhaps I'm not such a nerd.  Or perhaps just a bad one.

Dr. Brier presented 12 lectures of 30 minutes each, and I found myself wishing there were at least 30 more when I finished the last lecture this morning on my way to work.

Nope, nerd!  Complete nerd.

I'm grateful beyond words to be able to share with so many of my Soldiers even a small part of their life's journey, even and especially when those sojourns take them (and me) into painful, scary, lonely, and isolated places.

I love my Soldiers, and I love my job.

I'm also filled with gratitude that for more than three decades now I've had friends who go to a lot of Al-Anon meetings sharing with me how much less-needlessly-stressful their lives are when they remember that "messiah" is not part of their job description, when they remember to "let God, and let go," and that grief is not a mental illness, even though it so often and so intensely *feels* like one.

The Great Courses, from The Teaching Company have allowed me to stay awake and alert when I'm driving to -- and especially, from -- emotionally wrenching or otherwise demanding ministry opportunities.

Now I'm listening to "Great Battles of the Ancient World."

(I figure I'd better keep trying to learn something about this "soldiering" thing, so perhaps someday I can get past the impulse to say, "... but I play one on TV!")

If you've a minute, and are of a mind, please send thoughts, prayers, light, good wishes, or whatever is your custom, to/for the family, friends, and military buddies of SPC Jerald Taeza, who died eight days before Christmas, and whose funeral we conducted on 27DEC12. Likewise, if you could remember my other Soldier, whom I've nicknamed "Victoria" because she's no longer -- and never again will be -- a victim, I'd appreciate that, too.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Back in the saddle again?

Well, I found out this morning that the deployment back to Kosovo, which I heard about last night, is in fact etched in stone, and I'll be mobilizing in March 2013 and BOG (boots on the ground) back in Southeastern Europe not long thereafter.  Who knew?

So I guess I'll be back to trying to post a little something with some degree of regularity again, for whatever that is worth.

Since there's so little time between now and when I mobilize, I'll probably have to keep blog posts very short until I get settled in to where I'm going.  I have *way* too much to get done, on many different levels, before I bid California good-bye again.

In the meantime, gentle readers, buckle your seat belts, because it's going to be a bumpy ride:  I'm back. 

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Sequoiadendron giganteum

When my parents came out to California for my graduation from my PhD program in molecular neurobiology a dozen years ago, I took them with me to visit Muir Woods National Monument across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. One of the last old-growth forests of coastal redwoods in California, Muir Woods has been protected from logging and commercial development since 1905.

We certainly didn't have trees like that in Michigan when I was young!

Anyway, I bought my parents a souvenir tree from the gift shop there. Now this sapling was not that of a coastal redwood, but rather of a giant sequoia. What had caught my attention was the claim that seqouias could grow in any climate in the United States, as long as the young tree got established well enough to begin with.

My Dad took this as a challenge, and planted the thing in a five-gallon paint can he'd filled with dirt.

For at least three years he grew the tree in that pot, dutifully bringing the plant indoors in the winter so it wouldn't get damaged by the cold, and then lugging it back outside once spring came. He eventually planted the young tree behind their house there in Michigan, on the edge of the woods onto which their property backs.

It was about six inches tall when they got it, and about a foot and a half tall when he planted it in the ground.

A dozen years later now the sequoia's trunk is several inches in diameter, and reaches almost as high as the roof of the house.

Because it had been planted along the border of the woods, the tree's branches tended to form on the side of the trunk away from those other trees, rather than being perfectly symmetrical. (I suspect this is not the first sequoia to have gotten its start in life that way!)

Dad was afraid the thing might fall over because of its lopsided growth pattern so he braced it up, and kept adding height to the top of the brace as the years progressed.

Now that my parents are going to be moving away, I'm sad that I'll not be able to monitor the fate of my once-tiny sapling anymore. At least according to the instructions which came with the plant when we got it, the tree has the potential to live hundreds of years, if not thousands.


One can see the typical coniferous leaf patterns of my Dad's Sequoiadendron giganteum in the photo above, if one looks closely. For only having been in the ground for nine years, the tree has grown at an astounding rate!

I just love botany!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Monday, August 02, 2010



Like music to my ears, Khao Niao Ma Muang is one of my favorite phrases in Thai.

This is because it's one of my favorite food groups (Sticky Rice with Mango), and something I've been craving for the past two years. For reasons I don't now remember, I didn't get to a Thai restaurant while I was home on leave during my Iraq experience, nor afterward.

So no ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง for Tim during that time!

However, one of the first things I did upon my arrival home was to take myself out to a Thai restaurant for lunch, and order some ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง for dessert. Heaven!

Truth be told, the mango wasn't as spectacular as some I'd had in Thailand over the past ten years, but that didn't much matter. The combination of sticky rice, coconut milk, and mango was enough to delight my palate anyway.

So much so, in fact, that I had ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง twice more over the next five days.


I'm glad to be home!!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Sunday, August 01, 2010



For a while now, especially since leaving the demobilization station and returning to 'civilization', I've had a persistent sense of how odd it is to be home again after two years on Active Duty.

It all seems vaguely dreamlike.

Dreamlike to be back here, and dreamlike to have been gone at all.

Very odd.

I'm telling people I feel not unlike Rip Van Winkle, as I struggle to remember directions to places I frequented with great regularity before I left on my latest two-year adventure.


Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Feast of St. Ignatius

Two years ago today, then-SFC McG and I left Summer Camp - South by van on our way to Iraq. We were up at zero-dark-thirty in order to be ready for our pick-up (which was late), and then had an eight-hour ride to the airport, an eight-hour stay at the airport, an eight-hour plane ride followed by a several-hour layover, and another four-hour plane ride before we got to Kuwait.

Fortunately for all concerned, then-SFC McG was a miracle-worker, and we left Kuwait for Iraq only 14 hours after we'd arrived -- avoiding the stay at the much-dreaded Camp Buehring altogether. Hooray!

Today I have a small get-together with friends from high school and college at my parents' place, as they get ready to move south to be nearer my brother-in-law and sister.

When I look back over the past thirty-one 31sts of July, it's pretty amazing to reflect upon the many and varied places I've been in the U.S. and outside the country as I've observed the feast of the founder of the Society of Jesus.

I sure am glad to be back in the States this year!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Friday, July 30, 2010

The comforts of home....

After being gone, effectively, for twenty-five months, it's really great to be back in the States and able to wear civilian clothes. There *is* something to be said for not having to ask, any time I change my attire, "Will this make me look fat?"

When wearing the Army Combat Uniform (ACUs), I know it will!

I'd brought along civvies with me to Iraq, and to Kosovo, but had almost no opportunity to wear them, seeing as the edict from 'on high' came down that only Army uniforms could be worn. This was as true while we were training in the States as it was Down Range.

(This, of couse, assumes the willing suspension of disbelief necessary to see Kosovo as being "Down Range" in any real sense....

Unfortunately for me, as regards my haberdashery, however, since the Jesuits gave away my room while I was away and all the rest of my civilian clothes are locked away in cold storage, it's going to be a while before I have any real clothing options to choose from. I'll make the best of it, though!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Worth a thousand words

20 July 2010

'Nuff said!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010


There was a song from the mid-80s that I liked (lyrics by Bernard Ighner, though I can't remember who the female vocalist was) which came to mind as my plane landed in California after being released from the demobilization process in Indiana:

Everything must change
Nothing stays the same
Everyone must change
No one stays the same

The young become the old
And mysteries do unfold
Cause that's the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged

It's a very evocative, lyrical piece, as I remember it. Suffused with sadness and not a little regret, the song conveys a message of hope, which is probably why I liked it the first time I heard it.

I was reminded of that song as my plane was taxiing to the jetway at the San Jose Airport. The first time I flew in there, in 1990, the place was a veritable 'Hooterville' -- and the first time I'd ever seen or used "skystairs" to disembark an aircraft.

Eventually another terminal was built, so that there were both the "A" terminal (the new one) and the "C" terminal. I guess they had plans to build a "B" terminal, but over the course of the next 15 years, it never materialized.

I began referring to it, almost immediately, as the "D-minus" terminal. "C" was far too generous a grade!

Imagine my surprise, then, upon landing and seeing that the "C" terminal has been razed, and both the new International and "B" terminals (I guess) are open for business. Moreover, there's now a huge new, multi-story parking structure, and bridges and tunnels that didn't exist a few years ago.

The place actually looks like a real airport now.

Who knew?

Everything must change....

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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To sleep--perchance to dream

I've not mastered the art of sleeping in a barracks.

This is probably due to the fact that I joined the Army at such an advanced age (some would call it my "dotage"), and since that time not quite four years ago, I've been fortunate not to have to endure that trial very often.

Don't get me wrong -- I love my Soldiers and am glad to spend time with them and to do whatever they have to do. The ministry of presence which we Army Chaplains perform seems to help Soldiers significantly, and I'm honored to be able to do it.

But after 30 years of living on my own, essentially -- with my own room all to myself, however small a space that might be -- I've still not managed to accustom myself to multiple occupancy.

While I was on the Iraq mission, I shared a room with then-SFC McG for a month as we were training up, and a few days as we went through DEMOB. That wasn't *too* bad, though it did take some getting used to, and I didn't sleep all that well. Once in Iraq, I shared my hooch with another Chaplain for three weeks upon arrival, and then with my boss Chaplain for two weeks before he left country to return to the U.S.A.

Not my idea of a great time, but I managed.

But the lead-up to my Kosovo mission was something else. The first three weeks saw seven other people in the room. Then in the Midwest, there were eighteen others. Finally, in Germany, there were thirty-one. I basically did not get a good night's sleep for three months.


One of the best parts about being home is that I'll have space to myself at night!

Now, if I can only get my sleep cycle to correspond with the time zone I'm in....

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

There's no place like home

I arrived home in California last night!

Many thanks to the California Guard Chaplain and his wife and children, along with six members of the California State Military Reserve Chaplaincy, who met me at the airport! My friend Mary, representing friends from church, was there as well.

I'm especially grateful to Top, the first First Sergeant who attempted to square me away upon my joining the Army, who collected me and my gear at the airport. I was glad that he could go with me to Elaine's house, where Elaine had made her spectacular grilled cheese sandwiches for the two of us and my good friend Elizabeth, who joined us there.

There's no place like home!

Gratias tibi Domine.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Parting Shots

The Unit Ministry Teams of KFOR-12 (and I) welcomed our replacements enthusiastically a couple of weeks ago. Shortly before four of the five of us flew out of here on our way home, we all gathered for a group photo. (One of the incoming Chaplain Assistants was ill, and is not pictured.)

The Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants from KFOR-12 are to the left of the photo, while KFOR-13 UMTs are on the right.

Afterward, one of our Chaplains and and one of the Chaplain Assistants demonstrated why people from non-liturgical religious traditions should not attempt liturgical dance.

Or something.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Parting Gifts

I've mentioned my buddies from the Ukrainian Army in previous blog posts. One of those guys, MSG S, speaks English quite well, while most of his comrades speak no English at all. MSG S and a couple of the Officers in his unit (plus one other Sergeant) came twice a week to the on-Post English classes which were coordinated by the Aviation Battalion, and which I took over once I arrived on scene with them (after my Battalion left).

Quite a number of times I wound up meeting with MSG S outside of class, because he was so intent upon learning as much English as he could, as well as he could.

Not long before I left for home, MSG S brought his Company Commander to my room, and we sat around and chatted for a couple of hours. (Actually, MSG S did most of the talking, as his Commander felt insecure about his command of English. I encouraged him to take the risk of making mistakes, since that's the best way to master a foreign language, at least in my experience.)

Several times MSG S came over at night to watch a movie with me. I gave him the "com" (the remote) so he could stop the movie whenever he felt the need to ask for clarification. I'd often tell him to stop it so I could explain some idiomatic phrase or other. Those evenings were quite enjoyable.

Several times he'd show up and have one of his young Soldiers with him, who'd watch the movie with us, but without understanding the language. So MSG S would hit "pause" every so often, just to make sure his friend knew the subtleties of what was going on.

This of course presumes that a movie such as "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" *has* subtleties....

The night I was *supposed* to begin the journey home at 0200, MSG S and his friend knocked at my door. I'd already given away the TV and DVD player (to him! along with a sleeping bag, some DVDs, a teapot, and some other stuff), so I was surprised to see them. They said they weren't going to stay, but that they had the young Sergeant had something for me.

They're all part of the Ukrainian Army Airborne Corps, and SGT B had sewn me a flag that their Airborne troops all fly. On top of their having given me a complete Ukrainian Army Paratrooper's uniform (replete with my name sewn on it, as well as Captain's rank), this was a very generous and thoughtful gesture on their part.

I can't wait to display it in my new office when I start work at the end of my terminal leave!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Saturday, July 24, 2010


It had been raining not long before we arrived back at Summer Camp - North, but while our gear was being off-loaded and collected, the rains abated. My duffel bag and ruck sack managed to get a pretty good coating of mud in the process, but that's just par for the course.

The beds in this place are still as hammock-y as they were last summer, but I was grateful to snag a lower bunk this time. (With my knees as sore as they've been for the past few months, I was grateful not to have to clamber up to a top bunk.) My back rebelled against the lack of support, but I was counting on it being only for a few days, so I tried not to dwell on how uncomfortable I was.

After all, this was a *lot* better in terms of living conditions than they once were, and could just as well have been. It was *so* good to be Stateside!!

We had to report for the loathsome out-processing briefings at 0700, so I showed up at the DFAC for breakfast at 0615. I figured I was doing pretty well, given that I hadn't often even eaten breakfast while in Iraq or in Kosovo.

I saw a few of my Aviation buddies in the DFAC. They were dressed in civilian attire, and ready to board the buses home to Kentucky. I felt sad that I'd not be able to wish them all well as they left for home (finally!), because I had to attend briefings at the times their buses were leaving.

Oh well.

Our briefings (finance, VA, JAG -- I can't even remember them all at this point!) droned on and on and on, until it was time for lunch. I was able to meet up with a friend of mine who had been on med hold there at Summer Camp - North for a couple of weeks before we arrived, and I took him to lunch at the All-Ranks Club. (A bit pricey, but it was nice to be eating anything back home in the U.S. of A!)

My friend has recently become someone who goes to a lot of AA meetings, and it was a relief to be back in the presence of folks like him! I learned that he had some friends he wanted to introduce to me, so that sounded like fun, too.

The briefings resumed and consumed most of the afternoon and early evening. Truth be told, there was some interesting and important information put forward, and I'll be taking some of the stuff from the Veterans Administration back to give to my Dad, who's a Korean-War-era Army veteran.

Demobilization (DEMOB) involves a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, but if I remember to breathe, I've found (both at Summer Camp - South, after Iraq, and now here) that what needs to get done gets done according to a rhythm and timetable other than my own, and I have a much better time if I just go with the flow.

Of course, if it weren't 'sauna time', it would seem to flow a lot better, I'd bet! It has been ghastly hot and humid since we arrived.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Friday, July 23, 2010


The airport from which we were to fly home is not really set up to handle large crowds efficiently (or even medium-sized groups, for that matter). The "sterile" area has seating for about sixty people; we were about 100 more than that.

I waited in the outer waiting area as long as I could. There are about 120 seats there.

(How do you spell "bottleneck"?)

Not only were we not permitted to take liquids onto the plane, we couldn't even bring fresh fruit from the DFAC with us. My orange was impounded, much to my chagrin. They missed the fact that my trail mix was not in an unopened, factory-packed condition (I'd made it myself), so at least I got to keep it with me, and nosh on it over the course of the next 18 hours or so.

The final wait for the plane seemed interminable, but we actually got underway not too long after the 1330 time we'd been briefed earlier that morning. Because the aircraft was smaller than originally projected (the repairs on the one we should have been flying on had not been completed, so we were sent a different airframe altogether), we were somewhat more squeezed for space on board the plane, and there was a rumor that we might have to make two -- or perhaps three -- stops on our way to the States.

The first leg of the flight took us only as far as Leipzig, Germany. This is becoming somewhat familiar to me, as I've stopped there on my way to and from Iraq, and now on the way home from Kosovo. The layover of two hours just about matched the amount of time it had taken us to get there.

Back on the plane, it was a relief (and a bit of a downer) to hear that we were flying non-stop to Indianapolis. At least we'd be Stateside when we next touched down, but the bummer was that the flight would be 9.5 hours long.


My arthritic knees don't do well in confined spaces for extended lengths of time.

But at least we were almost back!

I tried to sleep, but seeing as about the only time I can sleep in a moving vehicle is if I'm driving, I wound up watching the four movies they had to offer.

The food which was served was actually very tasty. (Why can't U.S.-based carriers do at least as well??)

I called my parents at 202113JUL10 (9:13 p.m., 20 July 2010) as we landed at the Indianapolis airport.

By the time I got to bed that night, it was already 0030 the next morning.

But at least we were back in the States!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

All Aboard!

We wound up having to collect all our gear (after it had been inspected by Customs agents, loaded onto trucks, and locked up, starting at 0200) on Monday morning, since the plane we were scheduled to board had reported mechanical trouble and was supposedly being serviced in some other country. Sigh.

It had been a long, sleepless night, and I'd thrown the key to my (single) room through the window of the very nice person who'd let me stay in my billet after the rest of the Mustangs had left. Fortunately, a kind and generous Senior NCO invited me to use one of the beds in the room he'd been occupying, so I was able to stow my stuff, get some food, and attempt some shut-eye later in the day.

I'd not had to walk to the truck with my gear (two of the Chaplain Assistants came to pick me up in the van), but the distance from my room to the road did a number on my knees, none the less! However, my temporary lodging in Mid Town was about twice as far from the truck than I'd had to walk, so it was a project to schlep my duffel bag, ruck sack, and day pack to that room and back!

Friends of mine who go to a lot of AA meetings talk about how they "trudge the road of happy destiny," but I suspect they have something altogether different in mind.

It was great to be able to see my Ukrainian Army friends one more time, and to see how they'd set up the TV and DVD player I'd bequeathed them. They live six men to a room, so I had it really easy, what with being alone in half the space they had!

We were given something of a reprieve, in that we didn't have to report again (with all our gear, of course) until 0615, rather than at 0200. I got there at 0545, and was amazed at how many others had gotten there before me.

I guess a lot of us were really ready to go home!

The Customs inspection went very, very smoothly, and all the bags got loaded on the trucks rather expeditiously. Then it was a matter of waiting around to board the buses for the hour-long trip to the airport. Fortunately, we got underway without much ado, and were off to the airport.

More later!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Well, if all had gone as planned, I'd have been back in the States a couple of days already at this point.

CONUS, in Army-speak.

That's "CONtinental United States" for everyone else.

I'm still not sure how to use the acronym in a sentence, because it seems as though it ought to take a definite article ("the CONUS"). I've never heard that phrase used, however.

In any event, after more than two years of being mobilized/deployed, and after having watched the two units for whom I served as Chaplain leave ahead of me, I was really looking forward to being back in the States according to schedule!

However, this is the Army, and as I'd been telling people rather consistently, "just stay in the present moment -- don't live in a future that may never happen."

It seems the plane which was originally scheduled to have picked us up developed some sort of mechanical problem, and had to land in a country other than Kosovo for repairs.

We found this out after having schlepped our bags to the staging area (for me, this was at some significant distance, and my duffel, ruck, and day pack weighed over 140 pounds -- *that* did a number on my knees and left ankle as I was-- very slowly -- making my way across the ever-present gravel!) at 0200, enduring the Customs inspection which started at 0300, being told we were "on hold" at 0400, and finally having been apprised at 0545 that we'd have to collect our luggage and repeat the drill 24 hours later.


We later learned that the delay would be an additional 4.5 hours longer than that.

It was a *huge* disappointment to me that all this meant I wouldn't be able to see my Aviators one more time before they departed for New York, Kentucky, Virginia, and South Carolina.


But it is what it is, and by not having dwelt in a future which can now never happen, I seemed not to have experienced as much Angst as some of those around me who'd approached the situation differently.

I guess my friends who go to a lot of those AA and Al-Anon meetings are on to something, because they've been telling me, for three decades now (one day at a time), that I might just want to try living in the moment....

No matter what it took to get here, it's good to be CONUS!

Even if I'm not quite home yet.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Flight time wrap-up

I had less than a third of the missions via air here in Kosovo than I did in Iraq, and most of the missions I flew here were simply TF AVN taskings, and didn't have anything directly to do with Religious Support Operations.

(One could make the case, none the less, that since one of the missions of Army Chaplains is a 'ministry of presence', I was conducting that mission each time I flew. That might be stretching it, however.)

Ever since coming into the Army, and especially once I took my first ride on a Blackhawk (as terrified as I felt that day in Iraq), I'd wanted to work with an Aviation unit. Now that I had the opportunity, I thought I'd avail myself of every chance I got to be with Aviators as they did what Aviators do.

Before the 25MAY10, I'd never used night vision goggles before, as I may have mentioned. Now that my flying with TF Aviation is over, I've logged 31.8 hours of NVG time. Not bad for six weeks, eh?

Moreover, I've got a total of 41.1 hours of daylight flying (some of which probably could count as "night, unaided", but I decided not to differentiate, seeing as this really doesn't count for anything real).

That means, then, that I'll go home with a grand total of 72.9 hours of flying around Kosovo in helicopters.

There was at least one pilot here who didn't have that much time over the course of the deployment, let alone over six or seven weeks.

What a blast!

I love my job.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Alone again....

My Aviators all left for the States recently.

Talk about déjà vu all over again!

For the second time in ten weeks I found myself watching everyone else in the unit I've been supporting leave -- without me.

Now, it's true that I've only been with Task Force Aviation for a relatively short time, but I've spent most of my waking moments with them during that time. So I've gotten to know a lot of them, and some of them, pretty well.

I'm very happy for them that they'll soon be home with loved ones and friends! I was just hoping to be able to be there while they experienced the flood of emotions which comes with going home after being away, in foreign countries, for so long.

But it was not to be.

So I'm back to feeling the grief which attends any and all loss. At least it's not completely unexpected -- I was told a couple of days prior to their departure that I'd be going with another group, very few of whom I know as well as I do the guys and gals in TF AVN.

Oh well. I'm sure in some (probably parallel) universe this all makes sense. I was unable to be with my Mustangs as they went through the demobilization process, too. Being here while they were there was a great sadness for me then, as this is now.

But this too shall pass!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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