14 October 2008

Bad news may travel fast, but good news lights up the wire

A few days ago, I mentioned a recent revelation that troops' phone calls home were monitored by our intelligence community. I was pleased to receive such varied and heartfelt commentary on the matter. As many of you pointed out, It has long been known that the military monitors its own service members' communications, be they written or video teleconference. The most heartwarming comment I received via personal email. My dear friend of 15 years who sent it to me was kind enough to allow me to pass it on:

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At Christmas, 1969 M***** sent me a telegram on Project Hope shipboard in Tunisia that we had finally managed to get pregnant and at that with twins. I had been away from home since early November and had unhappily left M***** feeling quite queasy and we were not then sure about the pregnancy. I just had to talk to her!! Phones were not very good then in North Africa but the radio man on the ship patched together ham radio operators across the Mediterranean and Atlantic to allow a brief chat. Now ham radio operators are very professional but as the message of our conversation sank in around the planet M***** and I began to hear "AHHHH" in many accents. Frankly I was so glad to talk to her I really did not care who heard!! I did not get home until April and our pregnancy was well along. That was our only call. The twins were 38 this summer but I certainly still remember that call!!

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(Learn more about my friend's mission here:
Here is an account from the Project: (source: National Museum of American History, "Project Hope", Washington, DC)
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Voyage 8, to Tunisia August 1969-August 1970

"Thursday was a very busy day in the OR. Five of the six operations scheduled in the 3 operating rooms made for much activity. At 8:00 am, in Room 1, little Sabir Bentlassen, age 7, had a delicate brain operation by Dr. W. James Gardner and his Tunisian counterpart, Dr. Bettaieb. . . . The operation was to correct insensitivity in the left side of his body. At the same time in Room 2, a young woman underwent plastic surgery. Though only 34, she seemed twice that age due to past extensive burns."

Ship's Report

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In 15 years of knowing him, he has never mentioned this heroic and generous work to me. Through numerous medical missions, on some of which he sent me, I have learned what he taught me to be true: Surgery varies greatly from place to place, but people are the same. Once you have seen surgery in several places around the world, you learn what is the common denominator at the core of surgery, what is merely local custom.)


Baby J said...

I don't think anyone listened in but I had a similar conversation with my husband. The only difference was that I was the one in the Iraqi desert and he was at home.

I learnt some important lesson on that deployment "don't rely on issue pregnancy tests" and "mother's normally right". Son is none the worse from having deployed in utero.

Baby J said...

oops sorry - that's the baby blog obviously I'm his mother.

Chris said...

What an exciting message to send home, and what a start for a baby! By the way, in my experience, mother is ALWAYS right!

Take care, Chris

Prasopchok said...


Make your notebook fast.