Taking a step back from sports here for a minute...I got this letter from a friend of my over in Iraq, and after talking with him through email I got his blessing to share some of what he wrote.
First the background:
My buddy Jeff joined the Army Reserves after high school, did his basic and AIT (advanced individual training) like most Soldiers, was a member of the 451st Civil Affairs Detachment. He put in his time and was honorable discharged. During those years he focused on his education and civilian career.
He finished community college and moved out on his own. He was working two jobs and was continuing with his higher education. He had nothing! His second job was just a temporary job, it was supposed to only last for one month. But, the company noticed him and hired him on permanently. Soon after, he said after making some contacts, his hard work paid off and they promoted him as an executive manager.
He worked really hard, met the right people and was in the right place at the right time. He became a workaholic! His new position allowed him the car he wanted to drive and to live comfortably.
He said "I began to neglect the balance in my life, something was missing, but I could never place it. I was never satisfied. The job, the money, I was always striving for something bigger and better." He went on to say "My lust for more started to push people away and I began to take things for granted."
Until an unexpected letter changed his life.
A letter arrived one day notifying him that he had been activated to go to Iraq. This letter came in the mail that would change everything. He had been in the inactive ready reserve, but was called up when his unit was activated. He didn't even know what the IRR was! In his eyes, in one day he lost everything just as fast as he'd gained it.
From executive manager, to a civil affairs specialist in the U.S. Army on his way to Iraq!
He said the most challenging aspect has been coming from a position of being in charge to becoming a specialist taking orders. But he understood it, and he knew his role.
His role for the past six months has been interacting with the Iraqi people. As a civil affairs specialist, his job is to visit with citizens on a daily basis assessing their needs and feelings. "It was a culture shock!" he said. "The level of poverty here is just beyond belief. Everything we take for granted back home, these people they wish and they dream about it."
Today he says his time in Iraq has had an impact on his life, and has affected him in a way he never thought it would. "We've been hit here a couple of times, and it's made me appreciate life." The deployment has brought him closer to his family and friends. But, he says it's hard at times trying to explain what life is like here in Iraq. "You try to tell them, but you can't describe what your eyes see over here."
He still views himself as a motivated, successful young man going in the same direction, upward. What he has seen and experienced in Iraq has taken the blinders off, made life just a lot more balanced. "I don't take things for granted any more." he said.
Jeff expects to be home soon in a few months and he said his experience here has helped him understand that balance in life is important.