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From Brinkley to Baghdad

Letters home from a citizen soldier.


March 29 Hello to the good people of Arkansas. My name is Sgt Herbert Lang and I am a member of the 39th Brigade. It is a great privilege to be a member of the Arkansas National Guard and to serve this great country. I am 46 years old and a native of Brinkley. I am the father of seven, and married to a very beautiful lady by the name of Chanel Lang. I apologize for taking so long to begin writing about our deployment to Iraq, but believe me when you become activated your life begins to move at an incredible pace. I am a chaplain assistant and this gives me a very unique opportunity to be in close contact with all areas of operations of this mission and the life of the soldier here. As a civilian I am a minister and member of Mount Olive Church in Brinkley, an employee of Riviana Foods and have a small copier business, Lang's Office Systems. Being called to active duty is truly not something most of us look forward to. Most of us have families, jobs and a lifestyle that demands our daily attention. To be taken away from that environment can be devastating for some. This is my second deployment in less than two years and if it were not for a strong Christian-based lifestyle, a wonderful wife and a supportive family and community I don't know how I could make it through. There are so many emotions as you leave your love ones behind. You ask yourself, "Will I be coming back?. Is this the right thing to do? How will my family survive? Who will actually help them while I am gone?" Once activated you see men become little boys because of the fear of this deployment. There is nothing nice about war. But for the most part these men and women step up and serve their country with pride and courage. Many will return to a broken marriage or broken relationship. Some will return home to find they no longer have jobs. Worst of all, some may never see the beauty of home again. I am in constant prayer that we will all return home safely. Our stay in Fort Hood was okay although many of the soldiers felt that it was drawn out. Our Christmas leave was bittersweet. We knew it was only temporary. After Fort Hood, it was on to Fort Polk, La., where we really begin to receive training that would help us with the deployment. We are still trying to figure out what Fort Hood was all about. After our training was complete, we were told we would have two days with our families before we left for Iraq, by way of Kuwait. We made arrangements, reservations and put down deposits to make their visits pleasant. Then we learned they did not have room for us in Kuwait. That allowed many of us to go home for 18 days. We had to cancel reservations, lose deposits and regroup. But, hey, we got 18 days to go home. Now it's time to take the plunge April 5, 2004 IN KUWAIT -- Hi Arkansas! Hi Sweetheart, Hi Roshelle, Hello to everyone in Brinkley and at Riviana Foods. (I've always wanted to do that). The flight over was not bad at all, in fact some of the guys got to fly first class. It was nice the way they did not let officers have all the first class seats. The food was decent and the movies were pretty good. The flight was about 14 hours long. We got a little jittery as we got closer to Kuwait knowing that there might be someone below taking pot shots. Six months and the 39th has not lost a soldier. Let's pray not one will lose his life over here. Please pray that prayer for us, Arkansas. Life in Kuwait is not all that bad. We have air-conditioned tents, electricity, trailer house showers, a mobile Burger King, a Subway a tent with phones to call home on, and a TV and recreation tent. If only we had a Wal-Mart tent, it would be just like home. Imagine this, Arkansas. The State Fair, only 10 times larger -- minus the rides and the good times. That's what this temporary base looks like. We will be here for a few days. After that we will be headed for Iraq. The morale so far is good. Everyone has settled down and faced the fact that we are going to Iraq. The weather here is not too bad. The temperature has been around the 90s in the day and 60s at night. We have even had a sprinkle or two of rain. We have mixed emotions about preparing to head north. We want to get there so that our mission can began and we can get out of here, but at the same time, you wonder if you'll make it. We know that the enemy knows we are coming and we know that if he can he will do whatever he can to take us out. We are trained and ready but it is hard to fight an enemy when you cannot tell him from a civilian. As we convoy north there is a good possibility that we will encounter enemy fire, not to mention explosive devices along the roads. We are adding armor to our vehicles, but we don't know if we'll have enough armor for all of them. This is one of the things that bothers me. We are called to war but we are not always properly equipped. As soldiers struggle to get whatever they can to protect themselves inside their vehicles, it is every man for himself. This is a position our soldiers should not be put in. It breaks down our team unity and causes resentment within the companies. All soldiers should have the same type of protection. There I've said it. Well, it's time to roll out. Someone in the Pentagon must have gotten a copy of my letter. They've put my vehicle in the convoy behind an 8,000-gallon fuel truck. Thanks a lot, Arkansas Times. Take care Arkansas. (Note: Reporting in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette indicates an initial shortage of armor for the 39th Brigade's vehicles appeared to have been solved shortly before departure. We plan more letters from Sgt. Lang from time to time.)

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