Thursday, June 12, 2014

For The Moment, Quirky Consumerism Triumphs Over Stories Of War...


Blog Utopia Photo

The mass media reports by the end of 2016, if all goes as planned, the US will have a military force in Afghanistan of just under 10,000 troops. This announcement, though it's an aspiration, prediction, and subject to serious revision, has an impact on this blog.

At last! On the horizon I see a broad target date when I would be willing to begin publishing most of the photos I have and tell most of my stories about Afghanistan.  

But not until then because...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Staples Rewards Program Rocks, I'll Be Drinking Off My Rewards Points For Days...

Photo, blog post by John Hoff

There are very few customer "loyalty rewards" programs I like or make use of; the majority want way too much loyalty in exchange for too little reward. But the office supply chain called Staples may have won me over.

I'm a fanatical recycler in a lot of ways. I'm not a perfect recycler, but somehow that only increases my fanaticism. As one result of my recycling fanaticism, I've gotten in the habit of turning empty ink cartridges over to Staples simply because this is a way to properly recycle the cartridges. 

I never really thought much about regaining some actual value...

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One Soldier's Girlfriend Overcomes The Idea "There's A Bullet Out There With Your Name On It"

Photo, blog post by John Hoff

The girlfriend of a soldier who deployed with me to Afghanistan told me a story the other day, and it was such a cool story I decided to share it in the last hours of 2013.

Every soldier has heard that saying "There's a bullet out there with your name on it." The expression, as near as I can tell, means...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Messed Up Ending To "Deadwood" Series Ruined My Day In Afghanistan, What Was Up WIth THAT?



Polish vehicles mired down in mud at Combat Outpost Arian, blog
post by John Hoff

I don't know if the people who make movies actually understand the importance of movies. Movies are an effective anti-depressant when you are feeling down. Movies are a distraction to take your mind off the daily horrors of reality and hit the "reset" button on your brain. The best movies educate as well as entertain, perhaps even stimulate interest in new subject matter or some interesting historical era other than our own...

Or movies can be completely stupid. Like what happened with the end of the HBO series "Deadwood." (See "Will HBO's Deadwood Ever Get A Proper Ending?")

So there I was at Combat Outpost Arian, and the omnipresent reality of our lives was MUD. If one day hell was flooded by freezing mud and then...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Marrying The Army In Roseville, Minnesota...



YouTube embed with thanks to Megan Goodmundson,
blog post by John Hoff

So, after a 15 year break in military service, and in the midst of an economy so tough that dozens of random individuals are walking around right now with my sold-away blood plasma coursing through their veins, I enlisted in the army National Guard in February of 2010.

Swearing in to the American military is a little bit like getting married...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Coming Back To The Army After A 15-Year Break In Service...

Photo, blog post by John Hoff

Telling the story of my recent deployment to Afghanistan, I can't really START in Afghanistan. I suppose if I were to tell everything, I'd have to begin with my father at the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, and how his own military career influenced me.

But that's too far back...

The short story is that I joined the army in 1990, right after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. I never deployed overseas but, after training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and Fort Sam Houston, Texas, I was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. I was there until 1994, working on a military psychiatric ward.

I say again, WORKING on a military psychiatric ward, but there's an old joke:

What's the difference between a psych tech and a psych patient?

Answer...

Home In One Piece, Thank God...

Photo, blog post by John Hoff


Finally, I am home from Afghanistan with thousands of pictures and stories, not all of which I can publish or tell while our soldiers are fighting overseas. But many of the pictures can be published, many of the stories can be told, and will be in the coming days, weeks, months...and possibly years.

Pictured above, "de-mobilizing" soldiers at Camp Shelby, Mississippi have arrived back from Afghanistan. They will need several days to get medical and dental checkups, to fill out numerous forms, to turn in all their issued equipment, to get briefings on the various benefits they now enjoy as combat veterans including the Post-911 GI Bill to pay for schooling. Not all the soldiers will leave Camp Shelby for home. A significant number (more than usual with demobilizing units) will need medical attention for issues aggravated by their service, everything from torn tendons to rabies shots. For this, they will go to "MTUs" (Medical Transition Units) to heal up or get discharged as disabled vets. With a limited amount of MTU space, many will end up many hundreds, even thousands of miles from their homes.

But that comes later. At the end of each long day of "demob" at Camp Shelby many soldiers board an "MWR" bus. (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) They are only allowed to...