12/26/2013 – Epilogue

Zach got married on September 28th, 20 days after returning from Afghanistan, to Jenny Huyett, a classmate from Houghton College. They started dating during the summer AFTER they graduated. Interesting how that worked out. I made a video for Zach & Jenny for Christmas. (Kudo’s to Mary Dougherty for the awesome wedding pictures – rock star!)

On a personal note, I was surprised at the emotion I experienced at the wedding. I can only explain it as the power of the Holy Spirit, indeed strongly present because of the prayers of you all during his deployment. THANK YOU!!!

9/16/2013

In case you hadn’t heard through the grapevine or other sources, Zach is back! He officially landed on US soil a week ago. Shortly before that, I had the chance to record a final Skype session with him on his 25th birthday, just a couple days before he left Afghanistan. (See the YouTube link here.) I was on a much-needed first vacation with Diane in 4 years when I got the call. We were on the road with my sister and brother-in-law, almost to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood (notably where there is miniscule cell phone coverage) when I got the call from an unknown number in Texas. “Is this Mr. Wise?” “Yes.” “This is Sargent so-and-so. Your soldier has left Afghanistan, sir.” Yes, tears came in that moment. Tears of joy. Above all, grateful that Zach had been spared and that his deployment had been successful.

Netnet, for those of you that were holding Zach and his unit up in your thoughts and prayers, know that they were effective. Here are a few data-points. (I call them God-incidents. I know it’s always hard to know for sure when you see the hand of God, but I like to err on the side of giving God the credit.)

  1. His Stryker vehicle ran over an IED, but it DIDN’T go off. It was found an hour later by the ANSF and blew up in place.
  2. A loaded, 50cal machine gun was accidentally exposed in an unsecured position over night at the Kandahar Airfield due to human error (not properly securing the Stryker drop-down gate which slowly descended through the night). It was not discovered by the enemy (but butts were chewed out in the morning for sure).
  3. The ANSF Commander credited Zach’s unit’s leadership as the most engaged unit of the 6 he had partnered with over the previous 3 years – more outside-the-wire patrols, more mentoring of local ANSF forces, more ‘bridges’ built with the surrounding population.
  4. The Arghandab Valley, as I understand it, a primary route for the opium trade, and thus used by the Taliban to fund operations, and thus a notoriously hot spot, is now safer than it has been for a long time. Of course, many previous units over the past several years have had a hand in this outcome as well.

I’m sure more stories will be forth-coming from Zach in the weeks and months ahead. But if you just add up the obvious in the aforementioned, no doubt much credit needs to be thrown your way.

Next up is Zach’s wedding to Jenny Huyett whom he became friends with at Houghton College. It is scheduled for 9/28 at White Chimneys in Lancaster, PA, the area where Jenny is from. We couldn’t be happier. Following that, Zach will be stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso. He has 5 years left and will likely make a career of it, Lord willing, of course. His current goal is to join a Ranger Battalion (The Tan Beret) which is a direct-action combat unit. He wants to do the hardest thing he can. Gotta give the dude respect for that, eh?

Thanks again. Signing off for now.

6/21/2013

It’s been way too long. Too much has happened. In the midst of all this, Mom & Dad decided to take advantage of the market and start moving towards what’s next by selling the house. It’s been a huge effort – physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and financially. But God has been extremely graceful to us and brought the perfect buyer, a family that has been persistently praying and looking for a house – FOR 6 YEARS. Nuf said, but there’s a lot more to that story.

Meanwhile, Zach has been in harms way numerous times. I can’t relay all the details, but one quick story:

Last Package to Wiz

Zach’s Stryker ran over an IED on patrol. But for some reason the IED did NOT go off. It was found about an hour later and blew up in place. Stryker’s are designed to repel IED, so, “Pretty big explosion but wouldn’t have effected a Stryker that much.” Either way, I count it as an answer to prayer.

Zach asked that due to the timing of his return, last packages should be shipped, if anyone has an interest. He mentioned that American Flags are going up and down on the flagpole on the Combat Outpost. They are flown for a few minutes, a picture is taken, and a memorial is made including the date, time, and location the flag was flown. Kind of puts things in perspective, you know?

He had a couple specific prayer requests. They need to stay unnamed in this public space, but they are important, one to him, and one to the unit. God knows what they are. If you feel so led, please say a quick prayer for the man and his unit. Thanks so much. It’s a big deal.

Memorial Day was tough. I must say, I didn’t expect this to be as hard as it has been. With 12 weeks left, it seems like an eternity, especially with the frequency of patrols increasing. I know he’s in God’s hands, and ultimately, that’s all that matters. I rest in the knowledge that so many are keeping him prayed-up before the Almighty God. I know that his grandfather on both sides, his great-grandfather, and so many others that have preceded him in warfare, are clearly watching out for him.  So when my mind wanders into “What-If” scenarios, I return to faith, hope, and love. And I know that Zach is doing likewise.

The Father’s Day Skype call was a balm to my soul as always. I love seeing Zach laugh. Gets me every time. And it was good to hear about the good they are doing for the regular Afghan citizens. Of course the hope is that the Afghan National Army will be able to sustain these advances in the face of centuries and generations of Islamic oppression by the Taliban and others that preceded them. So much barbaric, inhuman abuse…

Thanks again for your concern for Zach, his unit, and all of our men and women on the front lines.

Mike

4/05/2013

Great Skype session with Wiz yesterday. He also uploaded a great new picture from a recent patrol.

In case you wondered if Care Packages are put to good use. I’m guessing these strange little candies created a lot of good will.

“handing some skittles out. thanks to my long time brother ian gebbie for supplying me!

Out on patrol recently in a small nearby village, Zach’s unit took enemy fire. As the FSO, Wiz called in the Kiowa helo, “like hornets in the air, that will sting,” and the enemy retreated. No harm done. He reported that, “We found a few IED’s and blew them up… We pushed the enemy out.” It was mission accomplished as they disrupted Taliban operations.

3/26/2013

 

Zach updateA new update from Zach yesterday…

Zach update #2

3/08/2013

Wiz leading the troops

Wiz leading the troops
-from Houghton College days
Photo credit:
St. Bonaventure ROTC

News from Zach via Facebook:

A heads up..still doing well out here in Afghanistan accomplishing many jobs with the main ones being HQ PL [Platoon Leader] and Company FSO [Fire Support Officer]. Definitely a big load and juggling many balls all at the same time. Getting the job done though. Make sure you guys check out CBS nightly news tonight [I missed it - don't watch TV]. There may be a blurb about COP [Combat Outpost] Jannat where I am at. Should be interesting. Keep the prayers coming for the men and myself. Thanks to those who have sent packages!

His mailing address, if you feel so led:

1LT ZACH WISE

4-17 INF, COP JANNAT, FOB WALTON

APO AE 09367

He loves pictures. All the guys love sweets. Something to share with the Afghan kids when they’re out on patrol is a neat idea, too.

Thanks again for your concern for Zach, his unit, and all of our men and women on the front lines.

Mike

2/21/2013

A couple items to share from Zach:

via Facebook on 2/14:

“happy late valentine’s day to all. Saw a great lightning show in Afghanistan tonight. Stars are bright, and Christ is near. Awesome God.”

and via email:

“Things are pretty stressful up here but that is a good stress, you are right. I swear I am going to have nightmares of working in the TOC [tactical operations center] and hearing the phone ring rather than having rounds whiz by my head…”

Can anybody relate?!?!?

Good look at where Zach is…

Courage Company on Patrol near Kandahar, Afghanistan.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More pictures on the Unit’s Facebook page HERE.

Thanks again for your concern for Zach, his unit, and all of our men and women on the front lines.

Mike

2/04/2013

This from Zach via email on 2/1:

“Been a tough past few days with me at the new job. It is hard. But I am getting the hang of it. Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you… Keep me in your prayers.”

So there you have it. New mailing address:

1LT ZACH WISE

4-17 INF, COB JANNAT, FOB WALTON

APO AE 09367

Thanks again for your concern for Zach, his unit, and all of our men and women on the front lines.

Mike

Zach’s Mention on Facebook by a buddy

1/17/2013

This just in from Zach via email:

“James 4:7, and Philippians 4:6-7 will be verses for the next few days!! So here we go…

Well, I got the call. I am leaving here in less than a week. I got a call from my battalion XO [Executive Officer] and I am going down to Courage Company to be the FSO [Fire Support Officer - think howitzers and artillery] there. I will brief the guy who is coming to replace me tomorrow night as we make this transition. And then I will either hop on a convoy or get on a bird and fly probably to Battalion HQ, then from there go to Courage Company. I will need a LOT of prayer for this transition because 1. I haven’t done pretty much any hands-on FSO stuff in over a year and 2. We are not really doing any real legit missions, it is more of meeting with tribal leaders and learning stuff as we go. So the learning curve will be steep. Prolly no more than 4-5 hrs of sleep for the first few nights to a week so I will be tired out for sure. Pray that I can remain focused on my job and training my guys and not worry about other stuff.”

So the mailing address below is no longer in play – I will line it out. Hopefully stuff sent will be forwarded to him. I’ll share more as I hear.

Thanks again for your concern for Zach, his unit, and all of our men and women on the front lines.

Mike

12/29/2012

Mailing address for the next 2-3 months:Christmas Eve Phone Call

1LT Zachary Wise
HHC 4-17 IN, 1-1SBCT
TF CTRF
Camp Nathan Smith
APO AE 09367

Email and Facebook is cool, but nothing beats something in-hand to hold onto and pull out when you need it. Pictures, funny stories from your life, postcards, Joshua 1:9 cards he can share with comrades and Afghans – all sorts of stuff that would be appreciated and useful.

Here are some things Zach has asked for:

  • Pictures (of you doing stuff, regular life, or special pictures holding greeting signs, etc.)
  • Card (words of encouragement, perhaps also a few blank cards to use for replies)
  • Stamps (for replies)
  • Disposable razors (can never have enough)
  • Puppy Chow (the snack, not the dog food!…all kinds of varieties)
  • Jim Beam Barbecue Sauce (plastic bottles)
  • Sunflower seeds (regular)
  • 550 cord, mulit-cam color (I guess you can never have enough of this either)

Thanks again for your concern for Zach, his unit, and all of our men and women on the front lines.

Mike

12/22/2012

Wiz Facebook Skype from Manas

Wiz Facebook Skype

After a brief stop at the Manas Transit-station, Zach was scheduled to arrive in Kandahar today. Yesterday, as I was sitting at my desk working on a project, Zach Facebook messaged me. “Are you online?” I wasn’t on Facebook at the time, by my Smartphone pinged me (the benefits of properly using technology). So we all scrambled and huddled around the computer and had the blessed opportunity to spend a few minutes with him on Facebook video chat. He sounded great, just doing his job, excited to see the Himalayas rising in the distance, and greatly appreciative of all the thoughts and prayers.

We miss him greatly, but no more than any other parent whose child has moved away. We know that while he is in a war zone (one of his buddies just had his legs blown off when he stepped on a plate IED), we also know that he is, always has been, and always will be, in God’s hands.

Speaking of God, Diane, Kelle, and I just watched the most stunning documentary of the astronomy associated with “The Star of Bethlehem.” Absolutely amazing, compelling, and deeply comforting that the infinite God beyond the Universe cared so much for each of us that he would…

Thanks again for your concern for Zach, his unit, and all of our men and women on the front lines.

Mike

11/26/2012

Zach paid us a visit over Thanksgiving. Two important notes:

  1. Zach’s commanding officer has requested of the unit that they request of families and friends to NOT send packages and mail. The rationale is that they will add to logistical dangers in terms of getting the items to the unit.
  2. Internet access will also likely be spotty, unreliable, and therefore an infrequent, 10-minutes-only, update the Facebook page, type of situation. So if you send him an email – Zachary.S.Wise at gmail dot com – perhaps keep it short and set your expectation for a reply very low. (Perhaps a Read-Notification would be a good setting so that at least you know he got it.) But even a short email will be a huge blessing – just to know that people are thinking of him.
Zach Thumbs Up

Zach Thumbs Up

The Thanksgiving visit was incredibly bitter-sweet. Great news! Upon his arrival, Zach announced that he had been promoted to 1st Lt, so he was no longer a “Butter Bar”. Ha!

Diane and I were the verge of tears and choked up most of the time. But we held it together. I found it notable that Zach was able to see so many people and do so many things in such a short 96 hours. Really quite a blessing to him. I so appreciated his sister, Kelle, helping to make much of that happen. (I also found it notable that I threw my back out the morning after Zach arrived, which impacted my ability to participate. Still processing that…)

See all the Thanksgiving pictures HERE.

Thanks again for your concern for Zach, his unit, and all of our men and women on the front lines.

Mike

Zach Wise

11/15/2012

As many of you know, my son, Zach, will be deploying with the Army shortly.

I will be sure to update this page with new information as I receive it, of course within the bounds of security. Please subscribe to the email list on the right.

His Unit: http://www.dvidshub.net/units/1SBCT-1AD

Unit Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ReadyFirst

His request is for thoughts and prayers for his Unit as a whole.

His Email address: Zachary.S.Wise at gmail dot com

His regular mail address for care packages, notes, cards, etc. will be added after he is “in-country”.

On behalf of Zach and his unit, Thank You for your concern. It’s a big deal to him.

Mike