Last month I wrote about looking forward to the New Year. This year promises to be pretty good for Andy Roark fans (and yes me too). The Off-Islander will be coming out in paperback sometime late summer or early fall depending upon your glass half full, half empty point of view. Then in the fall the sequel, Back Bay Blues will be out. Amazon sent me an e-mail to tell me I might be interested in the Back Bay Blues. I am. I am. I am currently writing the third Andy Roark novel which if it sees the light of day won't be until 2021.
People seem to like The Off-Islander and it is very cool when I get messages from people who liked the book enough to reach out to me. That is one of the coolest parts about this whole thing. That and going to signings and actually meeting people and interacting. Everyone has questions and everyone seems to find some aspect of the books that they like or that sticks out in their minds.
I write in my office which is pleasantly cluttered with books, pictures and the mementos of a part time military career in the Army Reserve. It would appear that I also have an unhealthy fascination with odd hats. On one wall is a framed picture of my team and I from our all expenses paid trip to Iraq in 2003.
It is a pretty cool picture taken in a staging area (Army for parking lot) at dawn at the air base in Talil. The team, George, Ben, Raff and me are standing arms across each others' shoulders, smiling, no two of us in the same uniform. I have a cigarillo in my hand and bad mustache V.1.0 is barely noticeable.
The Army at the start of the war felt our contribution was so important that we were flown into Northern Iraq, or as we later came to call it, Iraqi Kurdistan. When it came time to leave our home away from home on the Turkish border we were to drive all the way to Kuwait. While I can not claim that we are the only ones to have done it I am fairly sure we are some of the only soldiers in the U.S. Army to have driven the entire length of Iraq from one of the Northern most points into Kuwait in the south.
It started out leaving our Team house in Zakho and there were a few inches of snow on the ground. That was the start of a ride that we looked forward to even though it was filled with tension. The post war period was heating up and we were driving right down the MSR (Main Supply Route, Army talk for a highway). We stopped at bases along the way. We had a break down on the outskirts of Baghdad and eventually made our way to Talil. Where we spent the night.
We woke up the next morning and before breakfast we had a passing troop take a picture of us. We had made through a year and now we only had to drive a few hours to Kuwait. Our deployment was coming to an end and we were that much closer to home and normalcy.
I have a lot of memories from that trip. Many from that February in particular. Most people will never have the experience of deploying or going off to war. Most in the military will not experience being part of a small team in huge Army. For me, the team leader, it was a fantastic experience. I worked with three outstanding NCO's and all around great guys. The picture of those three guys and me hangs behind my desk, the men in it look over my left shoulder as I write. It is good motivation to get it right, otherwise I will hear George my Team Sergeant say sarcastically (as he was known to); "Way to dazzle them with your brilliance sir." That is pretty good motivation to get it right.
SO-47 February 2004, George, Ben, me and Raff.