Monthly Archives: July 2016

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flagThey met under the worst of situations, spent fifteen months together in a foreign war-torn country with constant danger, hot temperatures, lack of basic hygiene, and one can only believe the worst of personalities prevailing under constant harsh conditions. Yet, after learning of their experiences in their previous interview, Lieutenant and Hollywood are now married with children.

Most couples don’t encounter life-threatening danger, lack of sanitation, and harsh conditions until at least a ring is on her finger. So one has to wonder, how did they go from, “We’re not going to get along at all,” according to Hollywood’s first encounter with Lieutenant, to married with children?

 

LT: I was originally in a different company. I got called out of company command.

Hollywood: She was in a totally different unit.

LT: There were four transportation units in the state. So, I was a transportation officer.

JH: So let’s hear your story about how you two met. You were his superior weren’t you?

LT: Yes, I was a 1st lieutenant, then got promoted while deployed towards the end of it and made captain.

JH: What was your rank, Hollywood?

Hollywood: I was an E5 sergeant.

JH: I want to hear the story from both sides, about how the whole situation unfolded.

Hollywood: (Laughs hesitantly.)

JH: Hey, you said you’re honest and open, let’s go.

Hollywood: When we first met we were in Michigan, and we were on this bus ride up to Midland.

LT: I kept falling asleep on the bus, exhausted from the past couple days, and Jerry (The bus driver) would be like, “Hey LT, are we going the right way?” I’d wake up half out of it and be like, “Yup,” and go back to sleep.

Hollywood: This is when I realized, her and I were not going to get along.

LT: Because I was the strange new lieutenant on that bus.

Hollywood: I didn’t know her. There were twenty of us from Jackson, most of them knew her or had heard of her.

LT: Because my Dad had been there, my uncle had been there, my brother had been there.

JH: So, you had a known name around there, because of your family.

Hollywood: But I didn’t know her. So our first, well, before the bus ride to Midland, we were up at Grayling at this point. But, her parents had come up, and next thing I knew, they were telling her she could go home (To Jackson) for the night.

Side note: They had been called the day prior to activate (see previous article.) So, they had to go from Southern Michigan to Northern Michigan. Lieutenant’s parents came up as well. She was told once up there, she could go back home for the night.

JH: So, she’s your superior, but she gets to go home for a night?

Hollywood: That was the first time I had seen her, this was before the bus ride we just mentioned. I had two kids at home, I’m like, “Why does she get to go home?”

JH: Did you think there was any bias because she was a female along with seeing these other things?

Hollywood: No. That did not bother me. Females in the military and leadership have never bothered me.

LT: That’s a really smart answer.

(We all laugh.)

Hollywood: I mean, I don’t want to get beat by one—

JH: Okay, so she got to go home, all the way to Jackson from Grayling and you guys had to stay.

LT: Yeah, I got home at midnight and they got to come home the next day for the night.

Hollywood: I had two kids, I had to get everything in order.

JH: You had one day to go home, get your affairs in order, and explain to your little kids that you’d be gone for a long time?

Hollywood: Yeah. So, the next day we are on that bus, she’s trying to tell the driver where to go but kept falling asleep.

JH: But, did you make it there okay, without getting lost?

Hollywood: No. We got lost (He says with an admonishing look at LT.) I was with Butler like, “I don’t like her.”

JH: So, the guy that likes you the least on the bus, is the one that eventually ends up marrying you. That’s funny.

Hollywood: You know, it continued over in Iraq, too.

JH: Let’s hear the rest of it. Did you challenge her?

LT: (Jumps in without hesitation.) Daily!

JH: Was it because of that night and having a vendetta?

Hollywood: Probably, I think so.

JH: Do you have a high point in your story of divisiveness before you actually started getting along more?

LT: Well, it probably started in Wisconsin because I got in trouble for the stupid shit you and the platoon did.

Hollywood laughs, clearly appearing to know she’s right.

Hollywood: What had happened was—

JH: I know that story. When someone starts off with, “What happened was,” you already know you did wrong.

They proceed to tell me funny stories that will not be available for the article. But trust me, you wish they were, because they are hilarious.

LT: We left in January and got to Iraq, April 1st.

JH: So, you get to Iraq and the angst continues.

Hollywood: She cussed me out a couple times.

LT: When you’re talking 140 degree heat and then you’re inside a truck that puts off a lot of heat—so he decided to take his boots off and hang them on the outside mirror as we’re driving. So at a checkpoint, you’re always like a beacon to the other officers. He had no pants on either!

JH: (I laugh) No pants? Wow! Because you were new and of the first to drop with little plans, was this something that was more acceptable than it would be now?

Hollywood: Well, the vehicles have air conditioning now.

LT: That AC does not work worth a shit.

JH: Okay, but let’s say the AC breaks down, that same thing now…

Hollywood: You’d be in trouble.

LT: Again, it was like the wild wild west. He’d get in trouble when he did it, but now you’d be in very big trouble. But he never got wrote up for it on paper.

LT: They’d see it and ask him, “Who’s in charge of the convoy?” And he’d be like, “She’s down there in the Humvee.” And I’d get hit with someone all pissed off about improper uniform and I’d be like, “Yup, uh huh, I know who it is, truck 112” or whatever, “I’ll talk to him.”

Hollywood: He was not happy.

LT: I’d take the butt chewin’ and then they’d go away.

JH: But there was no strict discipline procedure back then that would’ve kept him from doing it again?

Hollywood: No.

JH: Was it because there were a lot bigger fish to fry in their eyes at that moment?

Hollywood: I’d just look at her and say, “What are you going to do, send me home?”

LT: I mean, yeah, we’d all ditch our blouses. There’d be lots of state of undress, but he was the only one foolish enough to ditch his pants and his boots.

LT: We’d land at some of these bases and some of them, they’d let Iraqis on. So then, you’re already a woman in pants, then you’d take off the vest because you’re sweating and then the brown t-shirt would be like glue with the salt stains. They just couldn’t stop staring. A blonde haired blue eyed girl stuck out like a sore thumb.

Hollywood: We tried to give her away for a couple goats, but—

LT: The Iraqi’s would zoom in on all the females but I was the only blonde haired blue eyed one in the platoon.

JH: I know there were educated people over there, and I hope this doesn’t sound ignorant because I know much of what many were allowed to learn was limited by Saddam’s regime, but in some of the more remote areas, was it like, had they not seen someone like you before, because women were always covered there? Did anyone ever saying anything, the Iraqi’s?

Hollywood: They wouldn’t talk to the females but they’d talk to us. They’d always ask, “Who is she?” And things like that. We’d tell them, “She’s in charge.”

They’d look at us and say, “She’s the boss?” and we’d be like, “Yeah, she’s in charge.” Then I’d say, “Go talk to her, she’s really nice.” Hollywood laughs.

LT: They thought I was too skinny.

JH: Like, in a bad way?

LT: Oh, yeah.

Hollywood: Here’s what people don’t understand, but from what I found and experienced there was, you’re on the road and you’d see the guy hanging back with the kids. You’d see them sitting around their houses outside with the kids.

JH: So, the women would have the kids and then be out working while the men stayed back with the kids?

LT: You’d see a truck go by and the back would be filled goats, animals, sheep or whatever other farm animals, and you’d see the women in the back with them. And then you’d see the kids and the guys all in the front seat of the haji truck.

JH: Would you see at least the kids that were girls up front or were they with the women in the back?

Hollywood: Generally, you’d just see the guys together and girls with their Moms. Hell, sometimes you’d see goats in the front of the truck with the men and the women would be in the back.

JH: You saw this with your own eyes?

LT: We’d see these crappy little Nissan trucks right, and they’d be overflowing with hay, and there’d be not one strap holding that hay in place. Then, you have a Mom and a kid sitting on top of it going about 80mph on a highway in Iraq. And it was Allah’s will if they die. You can google pictures of that. Hell, I have pictures of it.

JH: When you deployed the second time (LT), were you guys together?

Hollywood shook his head no, and LT shook her head yes. I laugh.

LT: We were married, but didn’t deploy together the next time. We had a couple kids at this point. I had left the military after the first deployment. When we came back from deployment I’m pissed off, I’m done, and I’m fed up. But, he pulled me back in.

Hollywood: I was her recruiter.

JH: What the heck, you recruited your wife back in?

Hollywood: I got a bonus. I was like yeah, girl, you gotta come back in.

JH: I cannot comprehend how hard it must’ve been to deploy the second time having two little ones at home. It had to have been brutal.

LT: My son was adamant he couldn’t turn five or start Kindergarten unless I was home. So, I had to come home on leave to make sure I was there when he turned five.

Hollywood: Oh that was horrible.

JH: You were home on leave long enough to see him turn five and go to Kindergarten?

LT: Well, I was home in August but not there for him to start.

Hollywood: The first day of school was awful. I finally got him calmed down to go to school. And I walk up and he just melts down.

LT: Yeah, fifteen months on the first deployment, twelve months on the second deployment.

JH: When did you actually become a couple?

LT: I was done after deployment and decided I was getting out. It was a long hard deployment.

JH: I am sure it was. Do you feel there was a difference because you were a female leader? Not to offend you. I’m not one to pull the female card, but sometimes it just happens. Did you feel this happened to you at all?

LT: I’m a very direct person.

Hollywood: Sometimes it’s tone too.

JH: But if you were a man do you feel it would have been different? The things you would say or orders you’d give?

LT: Oh yeah, there were times I’m sure it would have been received better.

JH: Do you concur with her?

Hollywood: Oh yeah, for sure.

LT: I mean don’t get me wrong, our company was very tight knit.

Hollywood: Sometimes people would think I was getting preferential treatment and I’d be like hey, I’m out here stirring shit every day.

JH: Well, maybe you should have been wearing your pants and boots (We all laugh). But, literally, you were stirring shit?

LT: He rose to the top of my shit list and I’d be like, Hollywood get out there and stir shit.

Hollywood: We’re standing out there and this guy is like, “You’re always getting away with stuff.” I’m like, “How am I always getting away with stuff, I’m out here stirring shit with you?”

JH: And stirring shit means…

Hollywood: We had to dispose of it, so back then we burned it. Everyone took turns burning shit each day from our port-a-potties that the unit had made.

LT: It was not fun duty….

Hollywood laughs and nods concurring.

LT: When we were on a mission we didn’t have access to showers. We would either not shower or make a makeshift shower. We pulled out our ponchos and made a makeshift shower in a circle with the girls and grabbed a couple of big bottles of water and said, “Here ya go. You done? Or need another?”

JH: It was probably easier for the guys.

Hollywood: Yeah, I’d just go wash up behind a truck. I didn’t care.

JH: These are the stories that especially, even college kids, I am almost forty, but these are the stories the kids that are on college campuses saying they need a safe space need to here. Really? Females making showers out of ponchos?

LT: I remember showering in a makeshift shower in the middle of a sandstorm too sometimes, so really how clean are you getting?

JH: How long would it be before you actually got to have an actual shower?

LT: When you went out on a mission you wouldn’t see a shower for a week. If we had enough water we’d do it on a mission but sometimes we didn’t so we wouldn’t shower for a week.

Hollywood: Generally we just slept on the truck too.

LT: You wouldn’t want to sleep on the ground with all the creepy crawlies.

JH: See, this is all second nature to you now. These are things you probably wouldn’t think to share with me had I not asked. These are the things people need to hear about that our military has had to endure.

Hollywood: When we first started over there we went for a long time, or it seemed like a long time that you had to wake up early in the morning and drink two or three bottles of water just because come noon-time you couldn’t, because we didn’t have ice, coolers.

LT: Nobody wanted to drink hot water. Or we’d do a science experiment. We’d take a sock and hang the bottle of water on the outside of the truck mirror and wet it. So, as you drove down the road it would cool the water enough so you could drink it.

Hollywood: But if you did that, the kids would run by and anything they saw on your truck they’d want to grab it. Or something like a piece of paper would blow out the window and they’d chase it.

JH: They were just desperate to have anything of a material nature or to have something from America?

Hollywood: I think it was more of, it could be of something of value I can sell. Anything. I remember one time I bought a soccer shirt a kid was wearing for $5.

JH: That must have been a pretty penny to him over there.

LT: Isn’t that what we paid them to come in and work for us for a day when we were at Anaconda?

Hollywood nods in affirmation.

LT: And hauling water into Iraq from Kuwait was a disaster. It really was. Because that water, even though you had it strapped down, it was so bumpy, roads were uneven, the tarp would even loosen the straps on the water, then the bottles would start leaking and falling. Then the kids are running to get the water in between our trucks on the convoy as we’re driving down the road.

JH: That sounds awful.

LT: It was a nightmare because just to do that it was a two day trip.

Hollywood: Even before anything, all that shit started, we were in Kuwait when the skud missiles were still going off. So I screwed up one time, and it took me only one time to learn that they had these bunkers set up, and when you heard the siren go off, you put your gas mask on and go run to these things.

LT: Oh I forgot about that.

Hollywood: Well, I was a pretty quick runner, so I take off for one of these, and the bunker is a Connex box, those steel ones that have doors on the front you see on ships. That was it. So I run into this damn bunker, and I’m one of the first ones to reach it. It’s a twenty footer, and I am in the back of the thing and it’s already about 130 degrees. So, here I am, all these people were in there and I am in my gas mask. I will never forget this guy’s faces. He was looking at me right through his gas mask. He couldn’t move. He was just sweating and he finally lost it. He started getting crazy. I finally said, “You gotta get this guy out of here.” I mean, he lost it.

But what’s funny is, I was in there and I didn’t see nobody I knew, nobody. And what’s crazy is after the fact, people would just scatter like rats after ‘all clear—all clear’, you’d go back to your tent and see people and be like, “Oh yeah, which one did you run to?”

JH: It seems as if it was just a pure survival situation.

Hollywood: But, I never really looked at it like that then when I was over, I don’t know why. I mean, you would see dumb shit, there were days I thought I was probably dying but…

JH: Do you have any advice to people deploying in the future?

LT: Even deploying in 2003 and then in 2008, I knew better what to expect. But, I would say anything we did back then wasn’t even remotely a lot of stuff you could apply to the next deployment.

Hollywood: I couldn’t, I’d have to sit down with the individual because what was frustrating was I had two kids, I didn’t forget about them and home, but I did. I just went there and thought, “I’m here, worry about here,” and what I had in front of me. Live day to day.

JH: So, you compartmentalized.

Hollywood: I mean it sucked, I didn’t want to be away from them. It was the dumb shit that sparked my complaining.

LT: (Mocking him) “Why do we have to do this? Why do we have to do it that way?”

JH: He was a constant questioner huh? Is he different now at home with the kids or do you still have the same back and forth? Or have the roles reversed?

Hollywood: The year she was gone, I would say was the best thing that could have happened for me.

LT: I’d agree.

Hollywood: Because all the way around I guess. I understand –

LT: I did a lot of the stuff before, and tried to lay it out before I left, to keep him organized and to minimize problems with the kids. But he’d get all pissed off and say, “We’ll be fine. This will be easy.”

JH: As a Mom too, you knew they were in a routine and you wanted to make it easier I imagine. Whereas, he probably felt, just because I don’t do it your way doesn’t mean it’s the wrong way. My husband and I used to have the same go ‘round.

Hollywood: Exactly. But it bonded us together.

JH: But when you came home, was there another transition because Dad’s been doing it this way for the past year?

Hollywood: No, I don’t think so.

LT: I remember you looking at me and saying, “Baby, I’m so glad you’re at home, if I don’t ever have to touch the laundry again that’d be awesome.” I said, “I’ll take the laundry.” And he had the kids working on doing dishes and chores.

JH: How old were they?

LT: Five and six. The kids were just glad someone was there to cook. He would grill, but if he didn’t grill out, it was peanut butter sandwiches, or pizza on Friday’s. The kids were so excited to have something different like casseroles or homemade macaroni and cheese. In fact, as soon as I got home it was December the 2nd, and they were like, “We don’t have any Christmas decorations up, there’s no tree, it doesn’t feel like Christmas.”

JH: Welcome home, right?

LT: I was surprised there weren’t still decorations up from the previous year.

Hollywood: I think it was Dad, he came over in February and was like, “When you going to take Christmas stuff down?”

LT: Your dad said food was pretty slim when I was gone. In fact, I remember you sending me an email asking me for a grocery list about five months into my deployment. I was like, “Seriously? I’ve been gone five months.” He was like, “Just assume we need everything, because we do.” So then I send it to him and he’s like, “What am I making with this?” Then he got pissed off at the bill.

Hollywood: This woman at Meijer looked at me like I was crazy. And of course the people behind me were like, this guy has two carts. And the bill was crazy, I said, “I’m never doing that again.”

LT: Of course I would send him a list but every Friday, I’d look at the account and there was always pizza.

And just like that, their story of deployment was over. To have the honor of visiting with this hilarious couple who have heroically served our country, was a time I won’t forget. I couldn’t help but think how much fun they must be to hang out with. We discussed a future reunion. Perhaps, someday I will have my own LT and Hollywood stories to tell.