2 Mar 05
Dear Peyton and Friends,
Whew, I finally made it to my new friend, Casey’s house. What a long trip over it was and boy am I glad to be here. I left Pennsylvania last week and then flew on a really big airplane through Germany and then finally 2 days later I made it to Casey’s new home at Al Udeid Air Base in
Qatar is a country in the Middle East region of the world, also known as Southwest Asia. That means I have now seen two more continents. Casey told me there are 7 Continents in the world and he’s been to all of them. He said he would have a hard time getting me to Antarctica and Australia, but he’s going to show me all around Southwest and Central Asia, Africa and Europe. Casey said as long as Peyton says its OK for me to hang out with him and travel, he’ll show me every where they go. I can’t wait.
I got here yesterday and met Casey and then Casey introduced me to my newest friend Flyer. Flyer is Casey’s teddy bear and I think we’ll be great friends. He told me Casey’s already taken him all over the world the past six months, and I hope I get to see some of the same places. Scotland sounds like the prettiest country he’s seen so far, but I’ll just have to give you my opinion of it when I get there. Flyer said he hasn’t seen a
country prettier or made up of better people than back home in the Good Old United States of America, no where has even come close, and I believe him. He says that’s why they’re over here, to make sure everyone back home is safe and sound.
Anyway, I should probably tell you where I am. Qatar is a small country in the Middle East, just south and east of Saudi Arabia, right on the Persian Gulf. It’s very flat and windy here, not to mention dusty and it’s getting pretty warm out too. This whole part of the world is a desert and it doesn’t rain much at all. Casey told me the only snow I’ll see is way up in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Casey is a C-130 pilot in the Air Force and he’s over here for 3 months flying our soldiers and their supplies all around places like Iraq, Kuwait,
Africa and Afghanistan. They put all sorts of stuff in the back of their airplane and carry it all over the place, last night we even flew a
policeman and his dog.
Here’s a picture of me and Flyer. Tomorrow we’re going to fly and hopefully I’ll have more pictures to send everyone when we get back. We’re going to go eat at the chow hall now, I hope they have lots of lettuce and carrots. This is quite an adventure!
Everyone be good,
Felix the Bunny
8 Mar 2005
Dear Peyton and Friends,
Hello again to everyone back home. I’ve been here almost a week and I’m liking my new home. They have fresh vegetables every day at the DFAC. That’s an Air Force word for where we eat every day, its short for dining facility. Casey just calls it the chow hall. I’m glad I’m a vegetarian because most of the other food doesn’t look very good and Casey says he can’t wait to get home to his family and eat something that has some flavor to it.
I’ve gotten to fly with Casey and his crew 2 times now and both flights have been exciting. The first flight we took was right after I got here. Casey took me into Iraq at night to bring some British soldiers to one of the bases up there. When we arrived, the base was getting hit by a very big dust storm, you could barely see a hundred feet in front of you. I don’t know how they landed that airplane, but I’m glad they did. It’s so dark at
night over here because there are no street lights and not many cities. Since it’s so hard to see at night, Casey and his crew use night vision goggles, which are really cool. They look like a pair of binoculars that they attach to their helmet and then they look through them. Casey told me to look outside without them and I couldn’t see anything at all. Then he let me try on the goggles (they call them NVGs for short) and I could see
everything, except everything was green. It sure made it a lot easier to see everything though.
Our second flight last week was supposed to be back into Iraq, but we didn’t get to go. We were on our way there when one of the engines stopped working properly. No one on the crew seemed to mind though since they have 4 engines on the plane. Casey assured me that the C-130 flies just fine on 3 engines, and he proved it. They shut down the engine that was giving them problems and then landed in Kuwait to get it worked on.
So now I’ve gotten to see two more countries since I’ve been on this little adventure. Casey told me that his friend Rodger is going to Africa
tomorrow for a few days and that I might get to tag along with his crew.
I’m sorry I don’t have any more pictures of me to send home to everyone. It’s hard to take pictures at night, but as soon as we get some daytime flights I’ll send some from all the places we go. Casey did give me a couple of pictures from before I got here. One of them is of his airplane at night through the NVGs so you can see what it looks like. The other one is of Casey.
I hope everyone back home is doing well. Casey says they’re still getting snow back home. It’s very hot here today.
17 March 2005
Hello Again to Everyone,
What an exciting time it’s been over here. Casey has been keeping me pretty busy lately and I just haven’t been able to find time to write you all until today. Time really flies fast over here, and it’s been fun to see all the guys get excited to count down the days until they get to go home to their families. Casey says he only has 18 days left and they can’t go by fast enough as far as he’s concerned. Flyer seems pretty excited
too, he says he’s ready to get home and see his friend Hannah.
Last week Casey introduced me to his friend Rodger and his crew. They were all really nice and they took me down to Africa for 4 days. Those guys were really working hard each day, and it was so hot there. Casey wasn’t kidding when he told me that I’d get to see the world and places I never even knew existed.
The first day, we flew from Qatar to Djibouti on the westernmost point of the African continent, called the Horn of Africa. We were flying 23,000 feet above the ocean and I could see how it got its name because it looks like a big horn sticking out in the water.
When we got off the plane I felt like I was in an oven. The hot desert wind just blasted into the airplane as soon as the door opened and we spent the next 4 days sweating and swatting mosquitoes between our flights around the continent. YUCK!
Djibouti is the name of the city where our Marines have a base called Camp Lemonier. Casey calls it Camp Lemonade because all you want to do down there is drink a bottomless glass of cold lemonade because it’s so hot all the time. The Marines live in big tents down there, and we got a tent of our very own when we arrived. Rodger said the tents were just like the ones he and Casey lived in when they were deployed to Kyrgyzstan last year. They are supposed to stay pretty cool in the summer and warm in the winter, but I prefer the rooms back here at Al Udeid, they’re much nicer.
So anyway, the next day after we got to Djibouti, we had to fly a bunch of people to Ethiopia, which shares a border with Djibouti to the west. We flew in to the international airport at Addis Ababa and we had to get gas after we dropped our people and cargo off so we could fly back home. While the flight engineer was putting gas on the airplane, Rodger took me into the Duty Free shop to buy some coffee. I guess the coffee in Ethiopia is way better than the coffee at home. I wouldn’t know about that because I’m not a big coffee drinker, although I’m thinking about having a cup tonight because Casey said we’re going to be flying all night again.
When we got back from Ethiopia we went to our tents and fell right to sleep. It had been a long day and no one had much energy left to tour the base. Besides, we had to be up bright and early the next day’s mission to Kenya.
We woke up early the next morning and flew all the way to Mombassa, Kenya. I wanted to send some more pictures from our trip there, but I don’t think Rodger knew how to work Casey’s camera very well, and it was too big for me to wrap my paws around. So I only have one picture from our whole trip to Africa. I pasted it at the bottom for everyone to see. Fortunately, Casey has been taking plenty of pictures of me to share with everyone back home so I’ll send some of those in my next letter.
Anyway, because we had such a long day getting to Mombassa, the crew decided it would be best if we spent the night there. We got to stay in a really nice hotel and it was lots of fun. None of the guys liked any of the food because it was mostly vegetables and they said it tasted funny. I was happy as could be nibbling on all sorts of new stuff like turnips and other veggies I don’t remember how to pronounce or even spell.
When we were flying back the next day we heard Casey on the radios and said hi to him. He and his crew had to fly down to Djibouti for the day to drop off some generals and other important people. They had already been to the base and were on their way out when we were on our way in so we just missed meeting up with them. It was pretty neat to listen on the radio and recognize someone’s voice on the other end.
The next day we had to fly back to Al Udeid, which seemed to take forever. It was an interesting flight though because we got to fly over the Red Sea through Yemen and Saudi Arabia and then back in to Qatar.
When I got back here, Casey picked me up in Rodger’s room and we all hung out that night talking about our flights while we watched a movie. Mostly I just listened in as they did all the talking and I didn’t have much to add. Casey says I’m turning into a regular crew dog, I guess that’s a good thing because that’s what they call themselves.
The next day I was right back in the plane with Casey and his crew flying another mission into Iraq, but I’ll tell you about that one next time. I have to go take a nap because we’re going to fly again tonight, all night.
3 Apr 05
Hello again everybody!
I just looked back at the date of my last e mail home to everyone and it’s been two weeks since I’ve written you all. I have to apologize for that, but it’s been pretty busy around here the past couple weeks.
We’ve flown almost every other day since I got here and the time goes by quickly when you’re that busy. I can’t believe I’ve been here for over a month already and every day has been an adventure. Last night we had our last flight into Iraq and we flew into Fallujah to re-supply the Marines based there. It was the second time this week that we went in there and it was pretty cool to see what it looked like in real life. Casey told me the Marines have been really working hard to bring peace to that city and there are a lot of bad guys around there that don’t want to let us help the people who live there. It really gave me a good feeling about what it is everyone is doing over here.
Last week Casey took me to Baghdad for the first time and it wasn’t really like anything I expected. We didn’t get to see much other than the airport, but really that was enough for me. There are a lot of bad guys there too!
This has been such a great experience coming over here and seeing all of the history that is being made right before my eyes. I’ve been all over Iraq, to all the places you see on the news every night. I’ve gotten a good feel for what it is that the men and women over here have to go through to keep our country safe. These are the men and women who leave their families and friends and sacrifice their own lives to make sure all of us back home can go to sleep each night feeling proud that we are Americans. They are bringing peace and democracy to a country that has lived for many years under the rule of a very evil dictator, and hopefully someday those same people will be able to go to sleep each night proud that they live in a free country as well.
Casey told me that he and his crew have it easy over here compared to most of the soldiers, and if that’s the case I’d hate to see what it’s like
when it’s hard. He told me that they only have to come over here for 3 months at a time, but they’ve been flying soldiers into Iraq that are leaving home for 18 months to live in a tent. They have to eat, sleep and work in all the heat and dust everyday. I can tell you from my own experience that you just can’t get away from that stuff no matter how hard you try. As much as I’ve enjoyed my time over here, I’m looking forward to getting home and seeing everyone.
We get to fly the C-130 home on Tuesday and I’m going to get to see a few more places before we arrive back in Youngstown, Ohio on Friday. I can’t wait because it sounds like we’re going to get to see some cool countries, like Romania and Scotland and Canada, maybe even Germany
again. I won’t tell you about that until my next e mail home though.
Casey took some more pictures of me by the way. When we were flying at night he took a picture with the night vision goggles. We were flying over Baghdad when he took the picture. The next picture is in front of the airplane we flew into Baghdad the day before, and it’s my favorite
one because it reminds me of home. The airplane we flew is from Pittsburgh, and the crew chiefs who take care of it painted a flag from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the nose. They call that plane the Pirate Ship.
There is another picture that Kevin took of Casey and me driving a four wheeler onto the airplane in Balad. I told you these guys haul everything, and I thought I saw it all until Casey pulled up on a four wheeler and drove it around the airplane for a few circles before driving it right up on to the back of the plane.
The last picture is of Casey’s crew in Balad holding me in front of the flag that they bought me. I can’t wait to get back and show it to everyone.
In the picture, from left to right are Mike, Casey, Kevin, Archie, Dan and Don. Mike and Dan are the loadmasters, they’re the guys that make sure everything that we haul is loaded correctly and we’re safe to fly. They work really hard when we get on the ground because we’re always hauling so much stuff in and out of places. Archie is the flight engineer and he makes sure all the engines are running smoothly. He has to work pretty hard sometimes too, especially when we have a problem with an engine like we did when I first got here and we had to shut down three engines in a week. Don is the Navigator and he is the guy that tells Casey and Kevin where to go when they are flying the plane.
I’ve gotten to see a whole new world over here and it has made me proud to live in America and proud of all the men and women over here who are sacrificing so much for everyone back home. I’m glad to be coming home, just in time for the spring and nice weather but mostly just to be
back in America where life is good. Casey told me there is nothing in the world that compares to coming home from these deployments and
seeing the American Flag flying proudly in front of all the houses. He says it makes it all worthwhile. I can’t wait to see that.
I’ll write more when I get back home next week. I hope everyone is doing well and I can’t wait to see you all.
4 May 05
Hello Again Everyone!
It’s great to be home in this great country of ours. Casey wasn’t kidding around when he told me how much I would love to see America
after being away for a few months. It’s hard to believe I was over there so long, and what an adventure it was.
I’ve been home a couple of weeks now and Casey has been keeping me busy. He said after a long deployment like this the Air Force gives him two weeks of vacation days to spend time with family and just to unwind after being away for so long. Casey said that since I had been over there
with him I deserved the two weeks vacation too. I guess he didn’t know that bunny rabbits don’t have work or anything to take a vacation from, but I was happy to spend a couple more weeks with him. I was also looking forward to meeting his family and maybe getting to see a few more new places.
I’m getting ahead of myself though, because I have to tell you all about the trip home, which took us three days and I got to add some more countries to my list. We did a lot of flying in a short amount of time so we could all get home as soon as possible. We were supposed to leave on a
Wednesday, but the Air Force said it would be okay if we left at 10 o’clock the night before, which was fine with everyone because leaving early is always good.
We had two airplanes to fly home and that meant the two crews flying them were going to be in an air race to get everywhere first. I was with Casey’s crew of course and Rodger’s crew was in the other airplane. Rodger is the guy who took me all around Africa. It was pretty funny to see everyone rushing around trying to get ready before the other guys and when we landed in Constanta, Romania 7 hours later it was fun to sit on the freezing cold ramp and watch Rodger’s crew landing, because we were faster.
We didn’t get to see much of Romania unfortunately, just the airport. Casey said that Romania had the same Russian feel as Kyrgyzstan, just no mountains. It was cold and dark the whole hour and a half we were there. We had to get more gas to take us on to Scotland, which is what I was really looking forward to. The people in Romania were very friendly and they asked us in out of the cold to have fresh, hot coffee and tea while they put gas on our airplanes. I loved hearing their accents, they spoke English very well, it was just very different from I’ve ever heard.
One of my favorite parts of this adventure has been meeting all the people everywhere we go and hearing them talk. They all speak English, and they all speak it with a different accent. I’ve met so many people who sound different from us back home, they may dress different and
all of them look different, but they are all just people, no different on the inside than anyone of you in this classroom or any other person I’ve met. They all have families, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, best friends and husbands and wives that they love with all their hearts. They love fresh air and good food and things that make them happy and that make them laugh or smile. But they get sad and upset too, just like everyone we’ve ever met.
On this adventure I’ve met people from all over America, and that alone has shown me how different people can seem but still be from the same country. People from the north sound different from the people from the south, and people from the east sound different from those in the west. People from the south sound different from other people from the south. It changes with every state and sometimes every town you visit in America. And every other country I visited or met people from was just the same way. I met folks from Australia and England, Scotland,
Ireland, Canada, Africa, Iraq, Bahrain and from places I never visited. And that has been the best education about life I’ve ever gotten, that as different as people may appear on the outside, they are all usually filled with the same thoughts and feelings on the inside.
So anyway, I got a little carried away there, sorry. We took off from Romania and it was still dark out and very early in the morning. We took
off first because we were the first to land, and that meant we would be the first to arrive in Scotland too. The flight from Romania was another long and uneventful one, which was good. We’d been through enough eventful flights that I was happy to just sit back and relax the whole way home, which is what I did.
Scotland was beautiful, and talk about people who are hard to understand when they speak, the Scots had the thickest accents I’ve ever heard. I’m glad Casey was familiar with how they spoke because I couldn’t understand anything they said. It was cold and windy there, and it seemed
like they had all four seasons, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall all in one day. It was sunny and beautiful when we got there, and then it got cold and rainy, and then it snowed, and then it warmed up a little bit and then the whole process repeated itself. I’d never seen anything like it.
We were all pretty tired when we arrived in the town of Ayr, Scotland, and I would’ve been happy to just go to bed, but Casey said there would be time to sleep when we got home. It isn’t every day you have an all expenses paid trip to another country, especially one as beautiful as Scotland,
so we were going out to enjoy our time off, our time that wasn’t being spent in the desert. I supported that decision and we were off. We didn’t really do a whole lot of exploring of the countryside, just mostly walking through town and window shopping and mingling with the locals.
It was pretty fun and at the end of the day I was glad we didn’t just go to our rooms and sleep away the day like so many other guys did.
We took off the next day for Canada. We were getting close to home and I could tell everyone’s spirit was lifting higher and higher the further west and closer to the shores of America that we got. I asked Casey if we were going to be racing Rodger and his crew that day and he said no, they had taken off already and I began to suspect that we were only racing when our crew took off first.
We landed in St. John’s, Newfoundland which is just about as far east as you can get in an airplane and still be in North America. We were just happy to be in North America and didn’t care about how far east we were on the continent.
St. John’sis a beautiful town, right on the Atlantic Ocean. There was snow on the ground and as with the other stops we made, it was plenty cold when we got off the plane. I didn’t miss much about the desert, but I have to admit that the temperature was a whole lot better there than what we were coming home through.
Casey told me of a rule he likes to follow when traveling. Never eat in the hotel where you are staying, for two reasons, it gets you out of the hotel and it helps you to experience a little bit of the local culture, plus the food isn’t usually very good. He also told me that he was planning to break
the rule that night because they had eaten at this hotel’s restaurant and it was delicious. Since we were right on the water, the seafood there was fresh, and while as a bunny rabbit I don’t go for much other than lettuce and carrots, Casey and the other guys were really enjoying themselves. I never really understood much about this going crazy over the food, but like I said the food I like tastes pretty much the same around the world. Now I can back that statement up because I’ve almost been all the way around the world.
So anyway, we had a pretty relaxing evening in St. John’s, although we did walk around the town again. Casey says the best and worst part of this job happens at the same time. He gets to go to all the wonderful places around the world, but then only has a few hours to do anything before he has to go to sleep and get up and fly to the next new place.
The next day was Friday and we were going home. Everyone on the plane was excited and that 5 hour flight couldn’t go by fast enough. Casey was absolutely right about seeing the coastline of the United States and how it would make me feel, the only thing that made me happier was to see the American Flag flying high and proud overtop all of the family members that came out to greet us when we landed. There was so much cheering and hugging and happiness when we taxied clear of the runway, I could see why homecoming is such a special event. I saw the TV cameras, people with banners and signs welcoming us all home, and most important of all there were wives and kids, moms and dads, brothers and sisters all waiting with wide open arms for their loved ones to get off of the plane and back into their lives. It was wonderful and it showed me exactly why these men and women go over there and do what they do, to make sure the loved ones they come home to at the end of it all go to sleep each night safe and sound.
I’ll be home in a few days. Casey says there are a few things we have to wrap up at the base before he’ll let me go back home. One of them is flying to Martha’s Vineyard with him on Saturday, which will be kind of cool since neither one of us has ever been there before.
I hope everyone is doing well. I can’t wait to finally be back home and see everyone again. Take care and be good!