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It's time once more for me to reflect upon the happenings of the past year in the White House. No, of course, I don't mean the U. S. President's House, but my family. We spent the 2003 New Year in the usual, quiet way, just the way I like it. Hey! Why change a good routine?
After all the stress of preparing to leave for the Captain Career Course (C3) for Chaplains at Ft. Jackson, SC, I was truly worn out by the time the New Year had begun. I started my leave on 10 January, and signed into Ft. Jackson on 15 January. I began the course on 16 January, and graduated on 6 June 2003. My classmates and I also had to take a break in the middle to attend the Combined Arms Service and Support School (CAS3, pronounced CASS cubed) at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. That was an experience I hope never to repeat!
While it was very stressful being separated from my wife, Ellen, and son, Josh, during those months, though not nearly as bad as when I was a world away in Korea, as I was in 1998-1999, we survived. I was permitted to return to Ft. Benning for my follow-on assignment so that Josh could remain in and graduate from the same school. Now, if he can just pass the math part of the Georgia High School Graduation Exam, that's all that's standing between him and graduation. Please say a special prayer for him over the next few months that God's will shall prevail for him.
Because I was so busy with C3 the first half of the year, time for me has seemed literally to fly. I can scarcely recall anything from that part of the year. I managed to come home to visit Ellen and Josh a few times, especially on important days like Easter and Mother's Day, though I missed my and Josh's birthdays, because I was away at CAS3.
The War in Iraq began just before we finished CAS3, so we followed every report with keen interest, not knowing whether we might have to join them upon graduation. Of course, a few from my class did have to join their new units in Iraq soon after graduation. When we were finally finished with C3, it was truly wonderful for me to be able to take 26 days of leave between graduation from C3 and when I reported back to Ft. Benning. I arrived just in time to welcome home the 3D Brigade of the 3D Infantry Division, as I was assigned to the 2-69th Armor Battalion in the 3D Brigade.
As it turns out, 2-69th Armor was the lead unit in taking Baghdad. To my great satisfaction, these men have remained quite well composed, despite losing three of their own during and immediately following the war, and despite many of them now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Though I have had a fair amount of counseling to do, I am nonetheless surprised the counseling load has not been much greater. I thank God they are doing so well.
The remainder of this year has been spent in getting better acquainted with the men in my unit and living out the mundane details of life. However, two happy highlights were, first, learning that I would be a grandpa in March 2004, and second, helping Ellen's Granny Kelly (her maternal grandmother) celebrate her 90th birthday in September. I also thoroughly enjoyed attending the White Family Reunion at the end of June. It was the first time in many years I've seen some of my kinfolk. I hope I can do that again in 2004.
Of course, there were some sad events this year, too. Early in the year, my mother's last surviving brother died most unexpectedly from an aneurism, then only a few weeks after Granny Kelly's 90th birthday celebration, she died in early November. I was asked to be a pall bearer, and while I was standing beside the casket with the other pall bearers waiting for the graveside service to begin, I looked up into the western sky toward the afternoon sun and saw the most brilliant example of a cloud with a silver lining I've ever seen. If only I could have photgraphed it for you to see! It was so beautiful, so poignant, and so coincidental that I believe it must have been an unspoken message from God that, despite the sorrow of death, there was great rejoicing in Heaven. Although Granny's absence made Thanksgiving and Christmas a bit lonelier, this year's Thanksgiving observance was still a wonderful time of fellowship with family.
Christmas, on the other hand, will go down in my personal history as perhaps the worst ever, because Ellen, Josh, and I were all sick. We were unable to visit with family until the day after Christmas. Ellen has been sick with some sort of unshakeable bug since the day after Thanksgiving, though she is somewhat better now. Josh was sick for a few days leading up to Christmas Eve, but as for me, I was taking some newly prescribed medication which had some terrible side effects and left me feeling like I was going to die on the night before Christmas Eve, and it lasted through Christmas Day! Although I stopped taking the medication the night before Christmas Eve, when I felt the worst, it still took a few days to get the stuff out of my system. I plan to see my doctor about it next week when everyone returns to regular duty. Although I'm feeling some better, I'm still feeling some of the effects, I think.
Aside from trying to pass the Georgia High School Graduation Exam, Josh has also been very active this year in his extracurricular activities of Beta Club and Advanced Mixed Chorus. His school's annual Christmas program, which included all the different choruses, the different band groups, and the stringed orchestra, was phenomenal, as usual. I hope I can get a copy of their performances on DVD, since this is Josh's senior year and final performance with them.
The year for Ellen was filled with supporting Josh in his extracurricular activities and with participating in the Chorus Boosters, the Senior Class Parents meetings, and both the Chaplains' Spouses and Officers' Spouses meetings. All of that kept her rather busy throughout the year.
Well, that wraps up the year 2003 in the life of the White Family. As I finish this writing, there is just a little less than two hours left until the New Year. You'll have to wait until this time next year, God willing, to hear how we celebrated, but I'll give you a hint: it's pretty quiet around here right now. ;-)
I hope your year in 2003 has been as blessed as ours, and I wish you all a very Blessed New Year in 2004. Until next year, as Dickins' Tiny Tim would say, "God bless us, everyone!!"