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June 4th - Turning Calendar Pages, Road Trippin' with my Gal Pal, and June Snow

As I type this, there is snow falling from the sky. Yes, you read that correctly. It is June 4th and it is snowing. The joys of living in the Last Frontier! I'm giggling about it, because I know it's not going to stick around for 8 more months. In fact, it has already stopped and I see blue skies peeking through. Now if only the temperatures would climb out of the 30s. It's currently 39F. We should be back on track with warm weather by the end of this week, according to Weather Underground.

The 172nd SBCT lost two soldiers in the last five days. Specialist Jeremy M. Loveless, 25, of Estacada Oregon, was killed on Memorial Day while exiting his vehicle in the Mosul, Iraq, area. Jeremy leaves behind a wife and a 4-year-old daughter. On Wednesday, Sgt. Benjamin E. Mejia, 25, of Salem, Mass., died on FOB Marez, Iraq, of non-combat related causes. Sgt. Mejia was working out when he collapsed. Attempts to revive him failed. We are in the final weeks of this deployment. Redeployment can't come fast enough.

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June 11th - Wildflowers and Wildfires, with Truck Woes Tossed into the Mix

On Sunday, the day after our long roadtrip, both Rachael and I decided to do absolutely nothing. We didn't even do our daily 6-mile walk with the pups. A drive like that can really wear a person out.

On Monday, I went out into the garage to roll my trash bin out to the curb and noticed a puddle near the rear driver's side tire. I thought it was rain that had made its way under the garage door during the night. When I brought my trash can in later that afternoon, the puddle was still there. I looked under the truck, trying to see if there was something visibly leaking. I didn't see anything.

When the same puddle was a little bigger on Tuesday, I knew something was wrong. I decided to back my truck out of the garage so I could get a better look under it. When I started it up, I got an alarm message (and lots of loud dings and bells) telling me to service my brake system immediately. It was definitely an unexpected and scary surprise.

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Monday, June 19th - A little bit of this and a little bit of that...

Again, time has gotten away from me. I was without wheels for an entire week, because the bolt that the mechanic needed did not come until Tuesday afternoon. Thank goodness for fantastic friends. (Thanks, again, Rachael!)

I discovered something interesting about my canine furkid, Sedona. A few weeks ago, while doing our daily walk, a man who was on the running trail asked me if Sedona was an Elkhound. I had heard of the Elkhound breed, but had no clue what characteristics an Elkhound had.

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Thursday, June 22nd - WELCOME HOME, STEVE!!!
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I have my beloved home with me again! He arrived at about 11:30pm on Tuesday evening. I received a phonecall from my FRG (Family Readiness Group) leader at around 10am informing me that the plane was en route to Ireland for a stopover before continuing on to Eielson AFB here in Alaska. From that moment on, I had butterflies in my stomach in anticipation of having my husband home safe and sound.

At 10:45pm, I followed my friends Rachael and Susan to the AHA (Alert Holding Area) building, where the first group of our soldiers were scheduled to arrive. The place was already jam packed with wives, children, families, friends and the press. There were banners, balloons, flowers, signs, and the feeling of excitement enveloped all of us.

Once I found out which way the buses would be coming into the building, I made my way to that end of the seating area and stood near the band. I wanted Steve to see me as he filed into formation. The crowd was just buzzing with excitement and anticipation. Local news crews and photojournalists were there taking photos and interviewing some families.

All of a sudden we saw the buses pulling up outside the huge garage doors and the crowd erupted in a cheer and applause. Tears immediately flooded my eyes. I was shaking like a leaf and my stomach was doing flipflops. I took some photos of the bus arrival, and the soldiers getting off of the bus, but haven't downloaded them yet. There were four buses and they lined up in a row and threw open the doors. One by one, camouflaged bodies climbed off and assembled in a group. The crowd was going nuts! Our soldiers were a mere 20 yards from us, close enough to actually see, but far enough away that we couldn't pick our loved ones out of the sea of uniforms.

There was a haphazard lining up and march to the area where formation would be held (front and center), and no one even cared that everyone was out of step and moving at different paces. I'm sure all these soldiers wanted to get at us, as much as we wanted to get at them. There was a brief formation, and a two-minute speech which no one could hear because the sound system left a lot to be desired - and because no one was paying attention anyway.

Then I heard the word "dismissed" and the group broke up into bodies running everywhere. It was like an ant hill had erupted. I scanned the crowd, looking for Steve but couldn't find him. All around me people were hugging and kissing, and I stood there with Rachael and Susan saying, "Do you see him??!!!!" and "I can't see him!!!!".

All of a sudden, from across the room, and from behind the crowd, I saw him zig-zagging between hugging bodies, and running toward me. I dropped my purse at my feet and closed the few yards between us. That first moment when our arms went around each other was magical. Knowing he was finally home for good added so much emotion to the reunion. Tears fell from both our eyes and we held each other tighter than ever.

After a few minutes of hugging and kissing, we turned to Rachael and Susan (who were taking photos) and Steve hugged the both of them as they welcomed him home. I felt so bad for them. Here I was celebrating one of the most joyful days of my life, and they didn't have their husbands home. Rachael started crying, which made me cry harder. That moment just tore at my heart. I wish that all of our soldiers would have come home together. I wish that all of us were standing there smiling and crying with joy, and holding onto our men. It was a very bittersweet event.

When we got home (around midnight or so - I don't remember), we were both wide awake with happiness. We popped a bottle of champagne and toasted our reunion and our future. We stayed up until 2am, before falling into a blissfully deep sleep. We woke up a little after 8am (the constant daylight was messing with Steve's internal clock), and I got my first cup of coffee brought to me. :) I really missed that! At 10am, Steve went with me when I walked with Rachael and the furkids. I don't think he'll be doing that again. His ankle was really sore afterward (he's got pins in his ankle and is a bit out of shape as far as walking long distances). But it was good to get out walking, and I intend to keep up my schedule with Rachael.

We came home and watched a movie. The last thing I remember was cuddling on the sofa with Steve. He nudged me awake and we went up to bed for an afternoon nap. (I never nap in the afternoon!) It was 2pm. We didn't wake up again until 6pm. His exhaustion was from jet lag. Mine was from relief. What a joy to doze off with his body wrapped around mine. We planned to go downtown for the Midnight Sun Celebration - Summer Solstice, but were still so groggy, we decided to pass. It's the first time I missed the festival since we got here, but I think I had a good reason this time.

This morning, Steve made omelets and bagels for breakfast (I'm so happy to have the cook home!). We ran a few errands. He had a footlocker waiting at the post office for pickup. We needed to go by the bank and get him an ATM card, because he doesn't remember where he stored the one he was issued before the deployment. (It's somewhere in the house) .

Steve is going back to work tomorrow. Normally we're supposed to have 72 hours off after a deployment, but there is much to be done in preparation for the return of the rest of the Brigade. He'll be working long hours too. It's a very small sacrifice to make. I'm fortunate to have him safe in my bed at night. I can't wait until my friends have their husbands home too.

I am so glad this is finally over for us. I am so thankful that he came home alive. I continue to pray for all of our troops, that they may return safe and sound to their families. Your continued support is appreciated.

I'm a very happy woman.

Saturday, June 24th - Photos from Homecoming (and more). Happier than Ever!

The past three days have been so restful for both of us, despite the fact that Steve had to report to work on Friday for re-integration briefings, medical screenings, and other 'stuff' of military importance. It wouldn't have mattered to me if he had to work a 16 hour day. Just knowing that he is home and safe is enough to keep us both smiling.

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Monday, June 26th - After 11 years... A NEW CAR!!!

Well, I did it! I bought a new car. This is a big deal for me, since I'm a "drive 'em till they die" kind of girl. My 1995 Nissan Sentra isn't giving me warm and fuzzies anymore, and up here it's really important that I have a reliable car. She still runs, but she's starting to nickel and dime us to death. Now that Steve is home, and has taken back his truck, it was time to make the purchase.

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© 2006 Susan L Stevenson