My name is Justin Snyder and I am from a small town in Texas called Terrell. I went to High School there where I graduated in 2000. My Mom and Dad, Bruce and Kim Snyder, still live there, although they worship at a church in Rockwall called Lake Shore Church. I currently live in Forney, Texas with my wife Dorenda and our three year old son, Austin.
When I got out of school I was not really sure what I wanted to do in life. I kinda took the path of least resistance and went on to College for two semesters but quickly decided that was not the right way for me to go. I really liked the small town atmosphere of Terrell and knew that was what I really wanted, so I quit school and went to work at the Wal-Mart distribution center located in Terrell. I had talked to some Army recruiters when I was in High School and those discussions were still fresh in my mind and I knew I wanted to also serve my country so I joined the Texas National Guard four days after I went to work for Wal-Mart. The Guard sent me to Basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina where I learned how to be a soldier, how to fight and win on the battlefield, and how to survive the horrors of war. When I finished those nine weeks, I was then sent to Fort Lee, Virginia, home of the Army Quartermaster Corps, where I attended eight weeks of specialized instruction for my assigned Army job.
You know how you pull up to the Gas Station and then get out of your car and fill it up with gasoline? Well that is what the Army trained me to do. Actually they trained me to do a lot more than that, but my basic job is called Petroleum Supply Specialist and, at times, I have filled up trucks, in fact I have filled up lots of trucks, with fuel.
Just like with your car, the Army really runs on gasoline and diesel fuel. Everything from Humvee vehicles to tanks to helicopters to boats require fuel to operate. And that is what my buddies and I were trained to do. Anything that has anything to do with the receipt, storage, shipment, or distribution of bulk or packaged petroleum based products falls into our area of responsibility.
After finishing these two schools I headed back to Texas where I continued work with my civilian job while at the same time attending my Guard unit drills on the weekends. This was really a good deal as I was establishing myself at both my job at Wal-Mart and with my buddies in the Guard unit in Dallas. We trained as a unit and we were prepared to be called to active duty at any time as we understood the demands on the active duty guys and the continued stress they and their families were under as they returned to Iraq or Afghanistan on repetitive tours of duty.
In October of 2004, I got the call to report to active duty. Unfortunately I was called up as an individual replacement and we did not deploy as a unit. In fact, I was attached to a Guard unit from Brownsville, but since we were all Texans, we at least spoke the same language. You know; “fixin” and “Dallas Cowboys” and “Bar B Q” and “Friday night football.”
We only had three weeks to get ready to go so the Army quickly put us through their short course on Iraq. Here we learned, with lots of personal motivation since we were soon going to war, all about interacting with Iraqi citizens; how to run and operate a convoy going through the desert from Kuwait to Baghdad; what to do when we were taking enemy fire; and all the little things that don’t seem like much until you know you need to know them to survive. Boy did we pay attention to those instructors.
They shipped us out and we ended up in Iraq doing all sorts of things. We guarded high value targets like ammunition dumps; did convoy security for the massive truck convoys coming from Kuwait into Iraq; provided forward base security for some of our smaller outposts; and then my favorite job, we went out and recovered U.S. vehicles that had been hit and damaged from Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). In this job, I went all over Iraq and got to see many of the historical sites that you read about in the Bible but seldom hear or see now as their importance seems to be overshadowed by the on going war activities.
I actually spent a year in Iraq and it was the most awesome experience of my life. When you are in a war with people you may or may not have known before, you suddenly find that these people quickly become some of your closest friends. The experiences we went through are hard to even describe to people who haven’t done it, so there is a common bond that develops that I think will keep us friends for life.
We had a chance to interact with lots of the Iraqis and I found them to be like the person back home; that is some of them were really nice and fun to be around while others spent their time trying to give us a hard time. They are in a terrible situation right now with the Sunnis and the Shiites fighting among themselves plus the out of country terrorists who are killing both Iraqis and the U.S. forces, but they see a better life and they want all the fighting to end so they can get on with their lives. We are really lucky that our war of independence was fought in the United States over 230 years ago and now we are enjoying our freedom. They still have to go through all of that before their country is really free.
I would like to say that while I was in Iraq I constantly prayed and asked for protection and courage from God. There were times when I know my prayers were answered. One time we passed by an IED device not knowing it was along side the road. Five minutes later it was detonated as another U.S. vehicle passed right by where we were. We saw lots of destroyed vehicles that were hit with one of these, but neither my buddies nor I were ever involved in any of these explosions. I know God was with us.
I also know there is a lot of controversy about the war and what we should do as a country. I sure don’t have the answers to what we should do, but I do know that we are making a difference in Iraq. These people have tasted freedom, and even though it is tough on them, they like what they have experienced and they want more. They sure don’t want to go back to the days of Saddam and I think they really appreciate what we are doing for them now. And, even though you probably don’t recognize it from the TV stories we see every night, things are getting better.
One thing I do know for sure is how great our service men and women who are fighting over there are. They are continuing to go through all sorts of hardships with extended tours, short time in the States before they have to go back, and continued separation from their families. “I just pray that everyone would keep our nations heroes and their families in their thoughts and prayers. I believe the families are the true heroes. May God be with our heroes.”
Jerry Hogan is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel who lives in Heath, TX. If you would like to see a friend or relative highlighted in this column, please contact Jerry at 214-394-4033 or firstname.lastname@example.org