Thursday, April 30, 2009


I was filling out my annual report to the state for The Middlebrook Company and noted in corporate records that there was another Mark Middlebrook in the State of Florida ...and on the board of the Florida Aquarium in Tampa no less.

And sometime in June, Mark Middlebrook no. 3 will be arriving back in Florida. How many more of us can there be in Florida?

BTW, if you ever do a Florida trip and are in the Tampa area, the Florida Aquarium is an extraordinary facility. Not Atlanta's but very Florida and very, very cool.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who knew?

The Army doesn't like SGT Mark's acceptance letter to the University of North Florida and has requested a new one. I find that beyond amazing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cool glider

From one of Mark's acquaintances.

The inscription:

To SGT Middlebrook

"Memories are for retirement!

That way you can have a beer with the kids and all the lies and war stories become believable. We have therefore taken a vote that you are not allowed to enjoy a memory of this place unless you have a beer or liquor on hand or until age 65, which ever comes first."

Monday, April 27, 2009

No surf? Try a pool instead.

Grand dog Bodie dropped by yesterday for a visit.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mark's neighborhood during the surge

BAGHDAD — Two suicide bombers struck outside the gates of the holiest Shiite site in Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 60 people and wounding scores more, according to preliminary reports from police officials.

The blasts came after the single deadliest day in Iraq in more than a year, and punctuated a deadly outburst of violence in recent weeks. In barely 24 hours, at least 140 people have died and 240 have been wounded.

Friday’s bombings occurred near the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, one of the twelve imams of Shiite Islam, in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad. Like some previous bombings, the attacks appeared to be aimed at Shiites.

I still have it bookmarked on Google Earth. Maybe it's time to get rid of those.

The rest of the story is here.

Military Appreciation Day

Every year my neighborhood, which has large number of retired Navy folks, holds a Military Appreciation Day at our park. At the event, they read an honor roll of names of those who have served or are serving. If you have a loved one that you would like placed on the list, let me know.

The event will be held Saturday, May 2.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

No news.

No orders. Pins and needles. It's the Army. Hurry up and wait and wait and wait and wait.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The pupsters

I know this is obnoxious, but I can't restrain myself :)

Glider is on the left. Just think how bad it will be when he finally arrives.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Soldiers Call for Army to Drop Berets

From Stars and Stripes via

April 18, 2009
Stars and Stripes|by Ashley Rowland

SEOUL — They’re hot, sweaty and do nothing to keep the sun out of your eyes during a long formation.

Those are just a few of the reasons the Army should stop making soldiers wear wool berets outdoors, a group of delegates said Friday at the 8th Army’s annual Army Family Action Plan conference.

"Everyone is affected by the beret," said Sgt. Brad Stuckey, spokesman for a group that studied family-support issues. "This is an issue that your average soldier feels very strongly about."

The group recommended that soldiers be required to wear lighter, cotton-nylon blend patrol caps instead. They block the sun, absorb sweat and are somewhat water resistant, Stuckey said.

Soldiers had a list of complaints about the black beret. Among them:

*It doesn’t match the Army Combat Uniform, which has no black in its pattern.

*It has to be shaved, washed and dried on a lampshade or hat stand to hold its shape.

*It can cost nearly twice as much as a patrol cap, and there’s no standard way to wear it.

"You have seven people wearing it seven different ways," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jon Butler.

He said people have complained about the beret since it became part of the uniform in 2001.

"It’s been brought up a lot, but it’s consistently shot down," he said. "If it’s an issue enough to keep being brought up, then there’s definitely something behind it."

8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Fil said at the end of the conference that all of the ideas presented were good ones.

"We’re going to have to think about the one on the beret," he said. "That’s a hard sell."

This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

Stars and Stripes has one of the widest distribution ranges of any newspaper in the world. Between the Pacific and European editions, Stars & Stripes services over 50 countries where there are bases, posts, service members, ships, or embassies.

Stars & Stripes Website

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday news and notes

Glider is growing up:

Two more weeks.

Summer B: Trying to register SGT. Mark for summer classes at the University of North has proven to be a bit of challenge from 6.5 hours away. However, the staff at UNF has been incredibly helpful in assisting an Iraq veteran prepare for school.

MLB: Major League Baseball has decided that Jacksonville, FL is not near Boston and has stopped blacking out the games here. I give MLB credit. It responded to my e-mails and fixed the problem. I subscribe to and can watch day games when I'm working (don't tell the boss). Infantry Dad: that's why the Sox have started slowly this year - the Jacksonville fans were disenfranchised.

Spring weather: It remains remarkably cool in Florida for this time of year. Normally summer starts the last week in March but we have had very, very strong winds for nearly two weeks...but it looks better today. Time for a walk on the beach.

Pops is back: ABNPOPPA is posting again after his wife passed away two weeks ago. He posted a wonderful tribute to his son Jacob who is in the same brigade of the 82nd Airborne as Mark. You can read it here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Big Picture

I woke up this morning with nothing to say....which is a rarity around here.

But then I found this - Documenting the U.S. war dead - over at Lolaberly's site. And now I am totally speechless.

God bless them all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Last day to file federal income tax.
15 days until new Airborne pup Glider arrives for a temporary stay in Ponte Vedra Beach.
16 days until the Florida Legislature ends...and normalcy returns to my job.
20 days until the Tournament Players Championship starts here.
44 days until hurricane season starts.
59 days left in the Army although not official.

Here's hoping for a normal, quiet and very boring summer. It's been four years and we are ready.

FYI, oldest son Mike had a close encounter with a bobcat Monday. See the photos at La Florida

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Winding down: Happy Easter

Gayle is attending two church services in Virginia this morning: one in Colonial Heights and another in Westover. That should cover her slackers down South who are out in North Florida's national parks and bird rookeries taking photographs of wildlife.

SGT Mark is in the Timucuan State and National Parks with his girl friend, while I'm down at the Alligator Farm, one of the most amazing bird rookeries in the nation. I am hopeful for good results for La Florida.

The Army seems a million miles away today and I cherish these days.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Winding down (continued)

Spent a couple hours with SGT Mark a sports bar watching the Masters. It's been a long time since we were able to do this and it was wonderful. I am thinking it's going to be fun having him around this summer.

Friday, April 10, 2009

tahoe v. malibu

I was having a chat with SGT Mark other day about some medical issues and I made the crack that I had sent the U.S. Army a brand new Chevy Tahoe four years ago and that I was getting back a broken down Malibu. He took immediate offense and said, "What the hell do you mean by that? I'm still a Tahoe. I've just got a few more miles on me."

Enough said. He's right.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Say what?

From the Fayetteville Observer on Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Ft. Bragg:

“I am absolutely confident the Iraqis are in a much better place to take care of their own nation,” Biden said. “It’s amazing to me as I go out into these battle spaces, how you just look at it like, ‘This is my job, sir. Mr. Vice President, or senator, this is my job,’ like you’re showing up to the bakery that morning to make sure the muffins get put out.

I know what he was trying to say but when my son was deployed to Iraq during the surge I didn't feel he was over there putting out muffins.

What a lot of politicians don't understand is the military parlance has changed over the years. When I was in the Army decades ago, when the day was done I would say that I was off duty. Now they say they are off work. Duty = work these days. But the tasks are the same.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Winding down: chapter 3

Coming soon: a SGT's new pup.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Changed forever

Madeleine is the founder of our Military Support Network. The following ran in U.S. Today.

My son's home from Iraq, but still I worry

Commentary By Madeleine Tavares

Three months have passed since my son's squadron of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment returned from Iraq. But my son is different from the "man cub" who went off to war 15 months before.

When he left for Iraq, my son was a well-trained but innocent 25-year-old. When he returned home, his walk was more confident, evidence I'm sure of the difficult tasks he had undertaken. But behind that ever-present wry smile was now a sad and soulful look. Oh, he was jubilant to be home, yet I'd see a level of detachment etched on his face, mixed with a sense of loss for friends who did not make this return journey.

The sad stories of his experience have come out very slowly, surfacing from somewhere deep in his soul. In sporadic intervals, he has confided to me his grief when his driver was lost to an IED in Balad. Or the time when he was packing up the effects of a fellow captain killed in combat and how he could still smell the personal scent of his friend in the room. Or the harrowing experience of rocket attacks on Christmas Day 2008, which killed a newly arrived ER surgeon.

Events like these were everyday occurrences for him and his fellow soldiers. And each day brought a new challenge. One day he'd be sleeping in the desert on the firing line with the howitzer guns of his field artillery battery. On another day he'd be talking business with local sheikhs as part of a civil affairs unit. Or capturing al-Qaeda insurgents from irrigation ditches.

Iraq has changed my son and others like him forever. He finds it hard to tolerate whining, and many little things are not as important as they once might have been. Families have been changed forever, too, as I was so profoundly reminded by accounts of the dedication ceremony last week of their regiment's Iraq war memorial at Fort Hood, Texas. Families of the fallen heroes, 15 from my son's squadron alone, came to honor their lost loved ones. It was a grim reminder of the realities of war. For 15 months, I had prayed that my family would not be asked to make that same sacrifice. Because my son's service is finished later this year, I am relieved beyond measure that his duty is done.

I am grateful as I listen at church each week to the reading of the military prayer list that his name is no longer there. While the fear for his safety has ebbed away, my vigilance is not yet over. For him, the war in Iraq is finished, but I now watch for the signs of emotional turmoil and a war within.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


On Tuesday, ABNMOMMA, a frequent visitor here, passed away. Her husband ABNPOPPA has a written a very touching tribute, which can be found here.

We've never met except through the Internet but her son Jacob and mine serve in the same combat brigade in the 82nd Airborne and were in Baghdad at the same time (they've never met either.)

POPS, our thoughts and prayers are with your family.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

General share their feelings on PTSD

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Army generals aren't known for talking about their feelings.
Brig. Gen. Gary S. Patton says he wants the military to change the way it views post-traumatic stress disorder.

But two high-ranking officers are doing just that, hoping that by going public they can remove the stigma that many soldiers say keeps them from getting help for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brig. General Gary S. Patton and Gen. Carter Ham have both sought counseling for the emotional trauma of their time in the Iraq war.

"One of our soldiers in that unit, Spec. Robert Unruh, took a gunshot wound to the torso, I was involved in medevacing him off the battlefield. And in a short period of time, he died before my eyes," Patton told CNN in an exclusive interview. "That's a memory [that] will stay with me the rest of my life."

Ham was the commander in Mosul when a suicide bomber blew up a mess tent. Twenty-two people died.

"The 21st of December, 2004, worst day of my life. Ever," Ham said. "To this day I still ask myself what should I have done differently, what could I have done as the commander responsible that would have perhaps saved the lives of those soldiers, sailors, civilians."

Both generals have been back from Iraq for years, but still deal with some of the symptoms of the stress they experienced.

"I felt like that what I was doing was not important because I had soldiers who were killed and a mission that had not yet been accomplished," Ham said. "It took a very amazingly supportive wife and in my case a great chaplain to kind of help me work my way through that."

Ham and his wife drove from Washington State to the District of Columbia right after he returned from combat.

"I probably said three words to her the whole way across the country. And it was 'Do you want to stop and get something to eat?' I mean, no discussion, no sharing of what happened," he explained.

Ham still can't talk to his wife about much of what he saw.

For Patton the stress hits him in the middle of the night.

"I've had sleep interruptions from loud noises. Of course there's no IEDs or rockets going off in my bedroom, but the brain has a funny way of remembering those things," Patton said. "Not only recreating the exact sound, but also the smell of the battlefield and the metallic taste you get in your mouth when you have that same incident on the battlefield."

The rest of the story can be found here.