By: Brad Bartow

The First Three Hours I remember it all so vividly. It was a brisk start to an early Texas morning in March, and I knew it was going to be a long day. I had been here before, and it was all happening again – just hours before my second tour to Iraq. I was stop-lossed, which is a term used among military members to describe the involuntary extension of a service member’s active-duty service under the enlistment contract, in order to retain them beyond their initial term of service for use in combat situations. Several of my buddies were also scheduled to be out of the Army just before this deployment; only, we didn’t make the cut-off date. The contracts were extended, and it was time to go. I could hear the weapon numbers being called out of the armory in the background, as everyone was soaking up their last seconds with their loved ones. Everything outside was wet from the dew, and the sun felt good on my skin. I can’t say the same for my uniform in that moment, considering my circumstances, but I always felt a sense of pride when I had it on. I stood a little straighter when I wore it, you know – chest out, chin up; almost like I was a couple inches taller when I had it on. My wife, Nichol, had found the only thing in her car to keep her warm at the time, which oddly enough was an orange and pink beach towel. Anxiously, I remember looking at the clock and thinking that it seemed to be going twice its normal speed, knowing the second Nichol was out of my sight, time would nearly come to a stop for the next 12 months.

See more in this weeks Boone County Journal