Can't Wait to Be Home...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Day 410: Mission Complete

My journey has finally come to a much anticipated end. And with 10 fingers, 10 toes, 4 limbs, and my life intact I have nothing more important to say than, "Thank you Lord!" Not only for my life that He has so mercifully preserved, but also for the life lessons and the opportunity to use this deployment as a way to encourage and inspire those who may be going through their own version of a "deployment". Knowing that there were family and friends following closely along with me as I journeyed "through the sand" assured me that I was sent there with a purpose much greater than what the Army had in mind for me.

I cannot end this journey without saying "Thank you" to those people whose prayers, support, and love have allowed to me to maintain my sanity these last 13 months.

To Gemma, Max, and Maya - to my most precious gifts that God has given me. Thank you for your strength, support, love, and the amazing ability to adapt to a life without me physically in it. Every second of every webcam minute and every crumb of every carefully packaged cookie that was ever sent to me reminded me of how blessed I really am, and how much God was truly watching over me.

To Mom and Dad - thank you for your unwavering support, as even in your quiet, humble ways your love speaks volumes to me. To Mom and Dad Miranda, a special thanks for your watch and care over Gemma and the children. I will never forget your generosity and thoughtful prayers this past year.

To my Family - I wish I could personally thank all of you, but that would take a while and frankly I'm exhausted. But really, every thoughtful word that was spoken, written on a card, typed on a Facebook message or blog comment, or expressed to me via a care package was an uplifting moment that would energize me for days. Thank you.

To my Friends - It was a joy to stay in touch with and reconnect with so many of you. By the way, you are all directly responsible for my Facebook addiction. Your timely words of encouragement through e-mail or even the occasional "Like It" in response to my status changes on FB made for a more pleasant day. Thanks:)

As I sign off and maneuver my way back into the "real world" I pray that this small life snippet of what I have been through has allowed us to grow closer as family & friends. You have followed me through times of great fear, frustration, pride, happiness, sadness, loneliness, impatience, courage, and accomplishment. In sharing a time in my life when I was most vulnerable, I was reminded that through dependence on others, there is great strength. Thank you all for being a source of that strength. Thank you for seeing me "through the sand".

"Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions,with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."
I Corinthians 12:9,10 NASB

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 406: Gear Drop

I wanted to share one of the most exhilarating days of the whole deployment...GEAR TURN IN DAY! I finally returned all the combat army stuff that was given to me, the knives, canteens, gas masks, gloves, shirts, pants, cold weather clothing, extreme cold weather clothing, wet weather clothing, extreme wet weather clothing, extreme cold & wet weather clothing, fire retardant uniforms, body armor, boots, gloves, goggles, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, hiking packs, duffle bags...EVERYTHING! Check out some of the action.

An overview shot of the whole process

So excited to give it all back!

...I know that 500 dollar flashlight is in here somewhere!?!

Found It! That was close...

With a huge sigh of relief, and a few days from being reunited with Gemma and the kiddos, I'm as high as a kite on marijuana. At this point I'm trying to relax and enjoy the downtime. The journey is almost over and I know many of you are right there alongside me for the finish...

I hope many of you have been encouraged or touched by the deployment stories as it was only in knowing that I had family and friends supporting me did I make it through. I also hope that you have been blessed by the Scriptural references as they possess great power and wisdom essential to our daily existence. I know they kept me alive!

In sharing my experiences and bringing this exciting life chapter to a close, I now realize that trials are a fact of life and not an arbitrary run of bad luck. Trials hit us often when we least expect it and usually at a time no where near impeccable. My advice is to embrace it. Know that these seemingly life-altering, energy-depleting, earth-shattering events are mere inconveniences when you look at the big scheme of things. God allows trials for the purpose of maturing us, and to prepare us for a life that pales in comparison to this one.

"For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
II Corinthians 4:17,18 NASB

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 403: Transition

Welcome to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, home to the Warrior Transition Program (WTP). Being deployed in an army uniform provides many challenges to a Navy sailor as we often have felt like fish out of I've still got it! In an effort to ease the transition back to Navy life as I knew it 12 months ago, this 5 day program was set up to help us sailors relax and reflect on our deployment and how to use our experiences as a way to enhance the lives of our friends, families, and fellow Sailors. Workshops on post-deployment stress, adjustment issues, and reintegration tips are just some of the topics covered. Sounds like fun. It also serves as scheduled, mandatory "me" time in preparation for the onslaught of social gatherings, kiddo activities, and "honey do" errands that are waiting for me.

Here are the highlights of my INTENSE schedule that I have been subject to thus far:

Day 1:

Flight arrives from Afghanistan
2 hour bus ride to Camp Arifjan
Discovery of Free Milkshakes
Did I mention FREE milkshakes
Shopping for work out gear that doesn't say "US Navy" on it
Table Tennis
WiFi internet at Starbucks
Table Tennis

Day 2:

Cleaning my Pistol and Rifle
Weapons Inspection #1
Re-Cleaning of my Pistol and Rifle
Inspection #2
Re-Re-Cleaning of my Pistol and Rifle
Asking someone who knows what they are doing to help clean my Pistol and Rifle
Inspection #3
Catching highlights of the US Open
Working Out
More window shopping
More Internet at Starbucks

Day 3:

Gear Turn-In - Yay!
Weapons Turn-In - Double Yay!!
Powerpoint Presentations/Workshop
Internet Time
Hit the Gym

Day 4:

Interactive Workshops - sharing of deployment experiences
Down Time
Medical Outprocessing - make sure I don't have PTSD
Post Office errands

Day 5:

Guam or Bust!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 401: Happy Birthday Maya!

If you were to ask me what the most significant, life-changing event I had experienced this past year would have nothing to do with my career, deployment adventures, awards, or promotions. But, it would have everything to do with the most precious baby girl that came into my life on August 28, 2008 just several weeks before I had to leave for Afghanistan.

Through pictures and the technological miracle of web cam, I have been able to watch my little girl reach her developmental milestones this past year all culminating with the celebration of her first birthday. From her first smile, to watching her crawl, then sit up, eat solid food, and eventually walk...I have been blessed with the experience of being a proud papa despite being thousands of miles away.

I still recall the moment I held her in the airport when I came home for R&R, and watching her as she looked into my eyes trying to recognize me. She didn't cry, she didn't even ask for mommy, she just stared at me as if she knew I was someone that she could trust. One of those daddy moments:)

Knowing that I will be able to hold her again in a matter of days has made this birthday that much more special for me.

Maya, I love you so much. Daddy's deployment is almost over and I'll be able to be with you for so many more birthdays to come. I hope to help you grow into a beautiful young lady who will fear God and love others. Happy 1st Birthday!

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth."
3 John 1:4 KJV

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 398: Home Bound

My bags are packed and I have finally left Camp Clark. I thought this day would never come, but low and behold I am now in Kabul which is the first stop in a series of several outprocessing venues. Just to be able to sit and relax in a place where indirect fire attacks are much less frequent has afforded me the opportunity to take a huge sigh of relief!

My Ride Out of Clark

From here I'll be heading to Bagram Air Field, stop #2, and then on to Kuwait where the Navy has scheduled some much needed decompression time before we are reintegrated back into the world that I had left behind. I'll be sure to let you in on the fun when I get there!

Bags are Packed, Bagram or Bust!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 393: Election Day

Today, was Afghanistan's election day. In a country that has been struggling to be an independent, self-sustaining nation, and a government that is trying to give the power to the people, there is an obvious importance in the success of this national election. For us Americans, a typical election day is a short walk or drive to a local polling place, votes are cast electronically, you get a nice sticker that says "I Voted", and we are back home in time for dinner. Here in Afghanistan, people cast their vote at the risk of losing their life as anti-Afghan forces will stop at nothing to instill fear in the people and defy the Afghan government through direct attacks on districts where voting is taking place.

An Afghan Police Officer stands watch at a polling place

President Karzai on the campaign trail

Local polling place monitors, moving ballot boxes

For us Americans forward deployed in Afghanistan, we also are on high alert during election day as American bases are also targeted during this critical period. And what do you the last 24 hours, we've been attacked 3 times! Glad to report that no one was hurt, but it just reminds me that there is still much to be done.

Our Election Day Bunker

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!"
Psalm 91:1,2 NASB

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 391: Promotion

I've experienced various milestones in my lifetime, my first day of college, completing internship, my first day as an unsupervised doctor, watching Gemma walk down the aisle, and becoming a father . In the military, we often experience similar achievements such as receiving a personal award/medal, earning a sterling evaluation, or a rank promotion. Today, I was blessed with a 2-fer. On the brink of completing my first deployment, my boss comes up to me during dinner and congratulates me on my promotion to the rank Lieutenant Commander! I thought it would be special to share this experience with my family and friends who have been following me on this long journey.

I, Michael G Mercado, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, and without mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.