I have received several letters from him since he started the Swamp Phase, but he mostly talks about how much he misses home and everything he wants to eat when he gets back! He wants to grill hamburgers the first night he’s home and then put a huge pig shoulder on at 0300 (3:00 a.m.) until the next evening. He mentions food on average, about every other sentence. The poor boy is hungry!! He apparently has perfected the art of dumpster diving for left over food after people are finished eating. This slightly worries me because there is a huge dumpster across the street from our house for all the construction that’s going on around us, so I guess if I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t find Johnny, he’ll either be in the dumpster looking for food, or sleeping on the ground in the backyard. The “adjustment & recovery period” should be interesting! His mood and motivation took an 180˚ turn once he got his GO from the Mountain Phase. He says he can kind of see the end in sight, just barely though because it still seems so far off.
WILDLIFE & REPTILES
“I’m sitting in a class waiting for the Battalion Commander to come in and I see 9 wooden boxes with locks on them and signs on them that read ‘DANGER VENOMOUS SNAKES’. In the background I hear rattles. I can’t wait for these guys to pull the snakes out! Well, the snakes were cool. Some huge while other were small. And a small gator. I touched them all of course. Except one that was hissing and mad!”
In another letter he says, “Let’s talk about wildlife for just a second: Within the first hour of being close to the woods yesterday, I saw a coral snake & black racer and I probably saw about a dozen banana spiders (HUGE). Then I went to get my ruck sack after a mission and had 3 wolf spiders on it over a quarter in size. It was quite disturbing."
One day they did “Close Quarters Combat” training in urban areas. This basically means fighting in houses, buildings and towns. They use rope bridges to cross large bodies of water and he said they stay wet the majority of the time either from the swamps or because it rains every day.
If it starts lightening, they go into “lightening lockdown” which means they stop all training and get in groups of 3-4 and sit in an open field until the lightening has stopped.
They are currently in the field for a 9-day FTX (field-training exercise). This is where Johnny will get at least 1 mission where he has to plan, lead and execute a group of guys in order to get his GO. They will be living out in the swamps the entire time.
PHYSICAL & MENTAL SIDE-EFFECTS
Physically he is doing alright. He says he has loss a great deal of strength and his pants are very baggy on him (not if he keeps up the dumpster diving though!). He has poison ivy AGAIN, but went to the medic right away this time. His big toes are still numb – they have been since the first phase and his hands and fingers crack open really bad so the medic gave him lanolin for that. He has already said he will need MAJOR foot care when he gets home, apparently they are in bad shape. The mosquitoes and sand gnats are really bad down there, so his neck and face (the only skin that is uncovered) looks like he has chicken pox.
He said they have a term to describe the feelings guys have while at
THOUGHTS ON 9/11/08
He wrote one letter on 9/11 and says, “It doesn’t seem that long ago that the towers were attacked. But being here and sacrificing my/our time for a greater cause kind of motivates me. It reminds me what this country represents. I hope that even though we are apart today and suffering because of the separation, that we can feel good about what we are doing and going through.”
And here is a hilarious story (to me anyways) about his encounter with a cup of coffee the other day! These are Johnny’s words:
“A RI (Ranger Instructor) just came into the barracks for our OPORD and he had a cup of coffee. Neuert & I joked about who would be the decoy while the other took the coffee from him. Well, you know I just had to at least smell it. Anyways, I get closer for a better smell. About that time he goes to take a sip. My eyes follow the coffee to his mouth and back down. He looks at me and offers me a sip, I smile and deny it. Then before I know it Neuert is behind me asking, ‘Are you serious?’ See, RI’s often joke like that. They will offer you something they know you want and you get super excited about it and say yes, and then they laugh and/or cuss at you. So the RI answered Neuert and said, ‘Yeah, I’m not a jerk.’ Before I know it I’ve got a hot cup of coffee to my lips tasting the delicious flavors of coffee bean and International Delight (creamer)! Two more sips of joy for me for a total of 3 sips/gulps. Temperature was not an issue during this mission, quantity was. You know I have been craving coffee for well, since Day 1 of Pre-Ranger! So it was awesome!”
He is very scared/nervous about getting recycled again. He said he was burned once with a recycle and it was devastating, so he can’t help but be a little scared. Please pray that he will not recycle! And he asked specifically for prayer for his knowledge, strength and endurance both physically and mentally and that he would be able to execute missions successfully.