Deployment: Week 8 & 9

"Z, tell me a story."

I used to play this game with Zach almost every day on the phone while he was in the States. It's my favorite. Zach pretends like it's not his favorite, but it secretly is.

Sometimes he goes back into the archives and pulls out a "once upon a time, there was a girl who loved Skittles..." or some other random story from our early days of dating.

Other times, he completely makes up a story, like "once upon a time, we drove all the way to Alaska..."

Let's be honest---the majority of the time, he changes the subject enough to distract me and manages to get off the phone without telling a story. Hmph.

Anyway, it's been over two months since we've seen each other, so I asked him to tell me a story while we were emailing this week. This was the response I received:
Once upon a time, there was a boy who joined the USMC and got deployed. His princess stood by him even when he was gone. Even when he was deployed, she loved him, and everything she did was amazing and perfect. She was so strong and patient through everything, and little does she know---because he doesn't tell her a lot---but he is so so so so proud of her.

I may be biased, but I think that's one of the best stories I've ever read :)

To top it off, I received flowers at the camp office less than 24 hours later. Ladies and gentlemen, let it be known that this is the VERY FIRST time in 3+ years that Zacharie Jones has not spoiled a surprise. He always gets super excited and tells me whenever he is sending ANYTHING. I love that boy.

Yep, we did get our first official half-a-heart hand picture: from Afghanistan to Fincastle, Virginia.

As far as the deployment goes, the Lieutenant Colonel sent out his monthly email this week. Here's an excerpt (that does not violate OPSEC in any way, shape, or form, because it's actually the most generic email possible):
This past month has been a significant one for Task Force 1/9... I genuinely wish you could see them everyday as I do and marvel at their tolerance for a difficult mission and harsh conditions. The months of hard training and education that went into preparation has certainly paid dividends...

[Afghanistan] is rural and contains mostly farmlands, dotted by clusters of mud compounds that are used as homes as well as storage and work areas... Livestock is prevalent and it's common to see young children herding the family's goats, sheep, or cows along the narrow roads that line the canal system. The wheat harvest just finished and the corn is already shoulder high. They also produce delicious watermelon here.

The overwhelming majority of the population are simple farmers who want nothing more than to raise their families in peace. They can be generous to a fault and enjoy sharing a cup of tea (chai) and telling stories. Your Marines live and work amongst the population... [They] are all doing well and I'm proud of them; they have earned an excellent reputation in very short order.

Zacharie may claim to be so proud of me, but seriously---I am SO proud of him! No matter how many days in a row it gets above 120 degrees or how many nights in a week he stands guard duty at the armory, he remains the most positive person I know. It's crazy to think that 9 weeks have passed already!

This week, Zach is doing a LOT of traveling outside the FOB, checking in with all the other companies scattered throughout the region. He's already made it safely to his first destination, but there's still a lot of movement in the days ahead, so say an extra prayer or two this week if you think about it :) Thank you, again, for all of your love & support, letters & packages, prayers, sweet comments, and words of encouragement. Y'all are the best, and we love sharing our journey with each of you.