Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Month: March, 2009

An update to running aterm (or any other X app) rootless, without a DOS console on Cygwin

A while ago, I wrote up a quick guide about running X/Windows applications (specifically, aterm) without root windows on Windows, using Cygwin. Recently I tried to set it up again and I realized that some of the information is slightly out of date. I’m also endeavoring to write a better guide. I’m assuming that you have, at the very least, a decent understanding of building things from source. The process under Cygwin is pretty much the same as under any other *nix, but there are a few quirks. On the whole, it’s a whole lot easier than it used to be. This guide is primarily geared towards running aterm with a transparent background on a windows machine so that you can have a decent client for the Cygwin commandline, instead of the crappy Windows one.

I’m assuming that you already have Cygwin installed. If you don’t, you can get it from here. In addition to whatever other packages you have selected to customize your install, you also need development packages (gcc and friends), Xorg packages (headers, includes, and libraries), and a few graphics libraries (for aterm):

  • Devel
    • gcc-core
    • gcc-g++
    • libXaw3d-devel (for xv)
    • libjpeg-devel (for aterm)
    • libpng12-devel (for aterm)
  • Libs
    • jpeg (for aterm)
    • libXaw3d-devel
    • libXaw3d-7
    • libfreetype6
    • libjpeg-devel
    • libjpeg62 (for aterm)
    • libjpeg6b (for aterm)
    • libpng12 (for aterm)
    • libpng12-devel (for aterm)
    • libtiff5 (for aterm, xv)
    • zlib-devel (for aterm)
    • zlib0 (for aterm)
  • Utils
    • bzip2 (to handle .bz2 files)
  • X11
    • libX11-devel
    • xinit
    • xsetroot (if xv doesn’t work for you)

After Cygwin finishes installing those packages, grab the sources for libAfterImage, aterm, and xv. Unpack the sources perform the requisite steps to build and install from source (./configure, make, and make install should work if all goes well).

libAfterImage:

If you get “parse error before XErrorEvent” errors while building libAfterImage, make sure that you didn’t forget to select the X11 development package.

aterm:

gcc on Cygwin expects –rdynamic and not -rdynamic. If you’re seeing these errors, edit the Makefiles under src and src/graphics within the aterm source directory. Change the “-rdynamic” to “–rdynamic”. The changes should be on line 54 for both files.

xv:

Under the tiff directory within the xv sources, there is a file called RANLIB.csh. Edit this file and make sure that you ONLY have the following line in there:

ranlib $1 >& /dev/null

Otherwise the build process will fail. Additionally, you need to edit xv.h. This file lives right at the root of your xv source directory. If you do not perform the following change, you’ll get errors from gcc complaining that “sys_errlist has previously been defined”. Change line 119 of xv.h to:

/*extern char *sys_errlist[]; */    /* this too... */

What you’re doing is commenting out the definition for sys_errlist so that it doesn’t conflict with what has already been defined in the Cygwin header files. These changes should be the only ones you need to get xv compiling and running.

Now you need to set up two batch files. One to start up X rootlessly, and another to start up aterm. Before you do that, make sure you add C:\cygwin\usr\bin and C:\cygwin\X11R6\usr\bin to your PATH variable. You can do this by going to My Computer > Properties > Advanced > Environment Variables. If you don’t do this, you’ll get “cygwin1.dll not found” errors while trying to run these batch files. The X windows binaries used to live in C:\cygwin\usr\X11R6\bin, but have since been moved to C:\cygwin\usr\bin. Therefore, the start-up batch-file now looks like this:

xwin.bat:

C:\cygwin\usr\X11R6\bin\run.exe C:\cygwin\usr\bin\xwin.exe -multiwindow -clipboard -silent-dup-error
C:\cygwin\usr\X11R6\bin\run.exe C:\cygwin\usr\local\bin\xv.exe -display :0 -root -quit -be -max /cygdrive/c/Documents\ and\ Settings/vivin/My\ Documents/My\ Pictures/Wallpapers/01707_spectrumofthesky_1920x1200.jpg

The first line starts up the X windowing system. The second line sets the wallpaper using aterm. You now need another batch file to run aterm, and that looks like this:

aterm.bat

C:\cygwin\usr\X11R6\bin\run.exe C:\cygwin\bin\bash.exe --login -i -c "aterm -sh 80 -tr -trsb -fade 20 -tint gray -sb -st -sr -sl 1000 -tn xterm"

This file starts aterm with the background image at 50% brightness, transparent background, transparent scrollbar, 20% fading on losing focus, gray tint, scrollbar, trough-less scrollbar, scrollbar on the right, 1000 scrollback lines, and with xterm terminal emulation. Like I mentioned in my original guide. xv will sometimes fail to start with xwin. If that is the case, you can modify aterm.bat to look like this:

aterm.bat:

C:\cygwin\usr\X11R6\bin\run.exe C:\cygwin\bin\bash.exe --login -i -c "xv -display :0 -root -quit -be -max /cygdrive/c/Documents\ and\ Settings/vivin/My\ Documents/My\ Pictures/Wallpapers/01707_spectrumofthesky_1920x1200.jpg && aterm -sh 80 -tr -trsb -fade 20 -tint gray -sb -st -sr -sl 1000 -tn xterm"

Slightly inefficient, but it works. Now if you have a dual-monitor display, you’ll notice that the background image is stretched across both screens when you run aterm. This is probably not what you want. To fix this problem you need to change a few invocation options for xv. For this to work properly (meaning, not look crappy) both screens should be running at the same resolution:

xv -display :0 -root -quit -be -maxpect -rmode 1 /cygdrive/c/Documents\ and\ Settings/vivin/My\ Documents/My\ Pictures/Wallpapers/01707_spectrumofthesky_1920x1200.jpg

Notice the -maxpect and -rmode 1 options. -maxpect expands the image to fill the screen while maintaining the aspect ratio, while -rmode 1 sets the display mode on xv to tiled. So you should now have your wallpaper displaying on both screens now (under X) without being distorted.

Here’s what it looks like on my machine:

aterm running on XP under X with a dual-monitor setup

This is on a dual-monitor setup with both screens running at 1920×1200 resolution. I’ve set X’s background to be the same as my windows Wallpaper so that it looks cooler. Notice how the background image (inside aterm) is not stretched, but tiled across the two screens. That’s all there is to it. Seems like a bit of work, but I think it’s worth it. My main reason for going through all this trouble was to get a decent terminal running in windows. I guess I could have just used xterm, but aterm looks so much nicer, doesn’t it?

Apache2 and .htaccess with mod_rewrite on Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron)

Apparently the default settings for .htaccess files and URL rewrites in Ubuntu (8.04 anyway) is kinda jacked. Apache wasn’t seeing my .htaccess files, and even after setting up the configuration correctly, I was getting Internal Server (500) errors from .htaccess files.

The default setting for Apache2 on Ubuntu for .htaccess is “ignore it”. You need to enable it by going to /etc/apache2/sites-available/default and changing the AllowOverride directive, which you can find inside the <Directory> … </Directory> tags:

AllowOverride ALL

If you want to enable URL rewrites, you need to enable the mod_rewrite module as it is not enabled by default:

[11:31:14] [email protected] ~/Projects/www/skyblue
$ sudo a2enmod rewrite
Module rewrite installed; run /etc/init.d/apache2 force-reload to enable.

[11:31:20] [email protected] ~/Projects/www/skyblue
$ sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 force-reload
 * Reloading web server config apache2     

The Battlestar Galactica Series Finale was Frakking Awesome, ok?

I know the finale was broadcast last weekend, but I didn’t get to see it until a few days ago. If you haven’t seen it yet (or if you haven’t seen the series at all and are planning to start), don’t read any further because there are spoilers!

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica earned itself a place in my list of “All-time favorite Sci-Fi shows” (alongside Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek: DS9, Stargate SG-1, X-Files, and Doctor Who (2004)) pretty much after the first season. During its run it was arguably “the best show on television”. Although the series faltered a tiny bit during the 3rd season, I have never seen such a well-written show with fully-fleshed out characters, a gripping story line, complex existential, religious, militaristic, and moral themes, and gritty, exciting action. The success and superior quality of the show is further supported by the fact that it attracted an audience that traditionally doesn’t watch Sci-Fi. In fact, many of my friends who don’t usually watch Sci-Fi (to the extent that some of them actually dislike it) instantly liked the show despite its obvious Sci-Fi underpinnings. The themes of the show were especially valid in a post-9/11 world. Here is a (by no means comprehensive) list of issues that the series tried to address:

  • The effectiveness of armed insurgency or suicide bombing
  • Personal safety (or the illusion thereof) at the expense of personal freedom
  • Civilian versus Military rule
  • The importance of wearing the uniform, military service, and upholding the oath you swear when you sign up (an aspect that particularly appealed to me)
  • Divine intervention, divine providence, fate, and destiny
  • An examination of the human condition in the direst of circumstances (when the survival of humanity is at stake)
  • An attempt to answer the question of what it means to be Human

The series had a message that was so pertinent and so valid, that the cast was invited to a summit at the UN. To quote Robert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, “You’ve got people thinking about issues that we try and get people thinking about every day.”

Ok, now that I’ve done more than enough gushing about the show, let me go onto the finale. I know that this subject has already been beaten to death since the finale aired, but I want to put in my two cents. The finale was frakking awesome ok? A lot of people are complaining that the finale didn’t address every single question that they had, and that there are some loose ends. Some of them are even complaining that the finale was a little too long, and even that the enter finale was a cop-out resolved by deus ex machina. Ok, they’re entitled to their opinion… but really? Yes, there were some deus ex machina moments (like Starbuck realizing that the opening strains to Watchtower were actually FTL co-ordinates to our Earth) that require a leap of faith. But that’s the point. I mean, what explanation were you expecting for Head Six and Head Baltar? Are they angels or demons? Schizophrenic hallucinations? No one really knows, and that’s fine. The point is that there we don’t know everything and that there isn’t an answer for everything.

You could make the argument that the writers had too grandiose of a vision, and that they had too many plot points, leading to some that were apparently unresolved. But again, it’s a matter of opinion, and it is quite subjective. For example, consider Kara Thrace. What is she? An angel? I don’t know, and I’m fine with that. She was apparently born with a destiny and with a task to perform. From the series you can tell that all her life she has been searching for a purpose. Her entire life has been an existential crisis and a search for relevance and validation. This search is finally realized when she finally leads Humanity to a permanent home.

The weakest part, arguably, of the finale was after they find our Earth. The surviving population is apparently content to leave behind all their advanced technology and start a pastoral life on Earth. This didn’t completely sit well with me. I found it a little hard to believe. One could argue that the human population on the ships haven’t really been leading a good life for the past four years. They have essentially been refugees the whole time. I guess you could argue that wouldn’t want any reminders of those difficult four years and would want to start completely anew. But I still have a hard time believing that the entire population would agree to that. In fact, when it became obvious that they had arrived on a pre-historic (150,000 years ago to be exact) Earth, I imagined that the population would probably split into two camps: one hanging on the the advanced technology, and another abandoning it completely. There would presumably be no contact between the two, and the technological group, to minimize their impact on Earth’s indigenous population would perhaps retreat to an island that subsequently gets destroyed by a natural disaster. It seems like a neater conclusion to the story. But this wasn’t the case, and even still, I don’t think it ruins the overall message of the finale or the series.

Then you have the final few minutes where we find out that the colonials landed on an Earth 150,000 years in our past. Though the finale could have ended with the scene where Admiral Adama sits on the hill beside President Laura Roslyn’s grave, talking to her while looking at the sunset, I think the final sequence presents a clearer message about the cyclical nature of human history, and about death and rebirth. I also liked how they pointed out Hera’s significance to Humanity and Cylons in the end, when it is revealed that she is Mitochondrial Eve. Finally, I also liked the conversation between Head Six and Head Baltar at the end where they compare our current civilization to the past human civilizations on old Earth, Kobol, and the Twelve Colonies (playing into the whole “cylical nature of history”/”death-rebirth” concept) but also note that there is always a chance that humanity won’t chose a self-destructive path again. I know that some people found the ending montage of the robots to be a little cheesy, but I think it was pertinent in the sense that humanity has always advanced faster in technology than in social maturity (Lee Adama talks about the same thing during the finale) and that we really need to be careful. With that, the series finally ended on a cautionary, though optimistic note.

Well, that’s my two cents on the series finale. If I had to condense that into two words, I’d say it like I said before: Frakking Awesome!

How I Joined the Army, Went to War, and Came Back

This is an article that I originally wrote for Anjali, a publication from KHNA (Kerala Hindus of North America). I was asked to write an article describing my experiences in the Army and this is what I came up with. It eventually ended up being a lot longer than I planned.

How I Joined the Army, Went to War, and Came Back

About 8 years ago, I raised my right hand and took the oath of allegiance. I swore to follow and obey the lawful orders of my superiors, and to protect the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. I enlisted in the Arizona Army National Guard on December 19th, 2000. I was 19-years old at the time. Many people have asked me about my motivation for doing so; this was two-fold. Firstly, there was the issue of college tuition. The Guard offered to pay (at the time) 75% of my college tuition if I fulfilled my contract, and kept good grades. Secondly, I was attracted to the discipline of the Army, and I wanted to be part of something larger than myself.

After formally enlisting in December, I went to Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on the 26th of May, 2001. Basic Training is definitely something I look upon fondly (now), but at the time it was definitely a very difficult and trying experience. I was never the overtly physical type while growing up. Hence, the completely physical aspect of the Military was intimidating to me. I had also heard stories about the Drill Sergeants, how they were extremely strict and demanding, and continually in your face. Basic Training is a strenuous physical, mental, and emotional ordeal. For most people, it is the discipline and lack of freedom that is most difficult. The Drill Sergeants control every aspect of your day. You do everything according to a set time-table, and you learn the value of punctuality and discipline. To the uninitiated, seeing what a recruit experiences at the hands of a Drill Sergeant may seem frightening, or even cruel. Recruits have to sacrifice some of their individuality and personal freedoms, and this is terrifying to some people. What Basic Training teaches you (other than how to be a soldier) is how to be part of a team; to place the welfare and well-being of your brothers and sisters-in-arms (and by extension, the nation) above your own.

To be very frank, the strictness of Basic Training didn’t faze me. I went to an Indian School, growing up. I found many similarities between the school environment in an Indian school and the environment in Basic Training (excluding the weapons, explosive, and other bodily-harm-causing implements). Both environments have a strong focus on discipline and respect. In Basic Training, the Drill Sergeants are God. To do anything, you require their permission. You speak when spoken to. If you want to go to the bathroom, you raise your hand. If you speak out of turn, or do not do what you are told, you get punished. Does this sound familiar to any readers who have studied in an Indian School?

The day I graduated Basic Training was a very proud day for me. I had endured one of the toughest experiences of my life. I went from a scrawny 104-pound 19-year old to a 125-pound, US Army Soldier. I was confident, disciplined, and words like “Honor”, “Duty”, and “Loyalty” were more than just mere words to me; they actually meant something now.

Over the next few years, things weren’t all that exciting. I went to AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at Fort Lee, Virginia in 2002 to qualify for my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty), which was to be an “Automated Logistics and Supplies Specialist”. To be honest, I didn’t know what my job in the Army actually was when I enlisted. My conversation with my recruiter went something like this:

Recruiter: Well, so what do you do in College?
Me: I’m trying to get a degree in Computer Engineering.
Recruiter: Oh really? Well this has computers in it!
Me: Oh really? I’ll do that!

At the time, I was really naïve and perhaps should have put a little more thought into it, but in retrospect it’s interesting how that one little decision shaped the rest of my life. The description of my job isn’t that glamorous. I essentially maintain a supply chain so that the mechanics in the maintenance section can get the parts they need to fix the vehicles in our unit. To this end, I worked on an archaic piece of software that was written in the 80’s and subsequently updated over and over again. When I found out that this was what I was actually doing, I felt a little… deflated. But eventually I realized that I was an important part of the system, and my programming and computer engineering background eventually did help me excel at my job, especially when I got deployed.

The next few years in the Guard were pretty uneventful. I attended and performed my duties at drill one weekend every month, and two weeks in the summer for Annual Training. Of course, things changed after September 11th, 2001. Twice after that, I was almost deployed; once to Luke Air Force Base, and then to Iraq . Though I understood my obligations, I was extremely unnerved and frightened at the prospect of putting my college education on hold. Through an intricate series of events not of my design, I somehow fell through the cracks and managed not to get deployed. I was able to continue my college education and graduate in the spring of 2004. When I finally did have to go, I felt that I was ready.

In early 2005, I was told that I would be deploying to Iraq. Needless to say, my family wasn’t very thrilled. They were understandably scared and worried about my safety. Many of my friends asked me to figure out some way to get out of it (one of them kindly offered to break my legs, so I wouldn’t be able to go). If I had done what they had asked, I don’t think I would have been able to live with that decision. The truth of the matter is that no one wants to go to war. In fact, I vividly remember my Drill Sergeant talking about going to war. He once asked us to raise our hands if we wanted to go war. Of course, all of us raised our hands up. He said, “Really? Then all y’all are stupid! No one wants to go to war! No one wants to die! We go to war because it’s our duty!”. Trying to get out of going to Iraq seemed dishonorable to me. I would be turning my back on my comrades and I would be violating the oath I took when I enlisted. I understood, and knew that it would be a difficult and dangerous experience, but I decided to do it any way, because it was what I had to do. It was my duty.

I left Phoenix on the morning of the 30th of August, 2005. It was definitely one of the most heart-wrenching and saddest days of my life. I wasn’t sad for myself, but I was sad for my family and friends. I didn’t want them to worry about me and I even felt slightly guilty at the emotional turmoil I was putting them through. But even though they’d rather have me back home, they all understood why I was going and why I had to go. I spent three months in Ft. Lewis, Seattle where the whole unit underwent pre-mobilization training. We left for Kuwait on the 18th of November. We spent about two weeks there before we actually flew out to Baghdad, Iraq.

I realize that most people, when asked to make up a list of positive experiences, don’t put “war” on that list (unless you’re an arms dealer). My year in Iraq was definitely a stressful and difficult experience that fundamentally changed me in some ways. But in a gestalt sense it was a positive experience for me; in some way it has characterized and validated my service. Prior to my deployment, I often had the feeling that I was simply “going through the motions” of being a soldier. But there I was in Iraq, doing what I was trained to do, supporting my fellow soldiers, and getting the mission done.

For most people, politics and war are inextricably intertwined. War is, after all, an action which is the culmination of a series of events based on some sort of political policy. This really isn’t the case with soldiers (or any military person). Of course, this seems paradoxical, or even nonsensical. After all, we’re the ones who’re participating in the war, so shouldn’t we be aware of the politics of it as well? Not really. Politicians decide policy, and in the case of war policy, the military carries it out. I was well-aware of the hugely political overtones of the Iraq War. I was also well aware of the arguments for and against the war, and I had my own views on the matter. But when you’re lying awake in bed in the middle of the night, listening to incoming mortars exploding all around you, shaking your flimsy tin-can residence, politics becomes largely irrelevant. People often ask me about my political feelings about the war and I decline to answer. They often ask me my views because of my experience, but this is the very reason that I don’t answer. People assume that because of my experience, my views have an extra legitimacy to them because “I was there”. By extension, they also assume that my political views define the character of, or motivation for my service in Iraq. It is hard to explain how or why soldiers maintain this “wall” in their heads. It’s not an attempt at rationalization, rather it is necessary for us to function properly in a combat environment. Trying to decide whether throwing the grenade that is currently in your hand espouses and promotes a libertarian or neo-conservative political world-view, while bullets are flying at you from all directions, is probably detrimental to your combat effectiveness. Hence the need to completely render politics irrelevant. When people ask me why I went, and why I served there, I tell them that I did it because it was my duty; because I wanted to support my fellow soldiers and because I wanted to complete the mission. I owe no further explanation.

Like I had mentioned before, my experience in Iraq was definitely stressful. I missed my family and friends terribly. I realized the value of the simple things in life, like not being afraid of being hit by mortar (for instance), while lying in bed, watching South Park on TV. Finally, imagine spending a whole year with your baseline level of anxiety ratcheted up to about 10 times its normal level. When we first got there, I was startled by every incoming mortar, but I eventually got used to it. I was initially stationed at the Green Zone, and got to visit the major landmarks in the area, like the Crossed Sabers, Saddam’s Palace, and the Al-Rashid Hotel. However, our mission changed and I came back to join the rest of the unit at Camp Liberty, Baghdad.

Our unit’s mission in Iraq was varied. We would usually be transporting VIP’s, prisoners, or supplies to different places in and around Baghdad. My job mainly kept me on base (and my family was extremely relieved because of that). To be very honest, there were times that I wished I could go “outside the wire”, instead of stay on the base. It wasn’t because I was fatalistic or crazy, but I enjoyed the adrenaline rush and also felt like I was doing something more tangible. I was able to go out about 10 or 12 times during my tour in Iraq. If you ask me what it feels like to be in imminent danger, I can say that it’s definitely an odd feeling. While I realized that I was in extreme danger, I didn’t feel scared or frightened. Only extremely alert and focused, which I guess, is how you would want to feel in a combat environment.

I didn’t truly realize the importance of my MOS until my tour in Iraq. Since our unit’s mission consisted a lot of convoying, the maintenance team was extremely busy ensuring that the vehicles were in a fully mission-capable state. A vehicle that breaks down outside the wire is extremely vulnerable, and so we had a huge responsibility to ensure that this never happened. My job, as mentioned before, was to ensure that the maintenance team had access to the repair parts they required. Most people in my position simply use the software provided. However the software being archaic, and having been written a few short weeks before the invention of the wheel (I am being sarcastic, of course) was not very user friendly or intuitive. Tasks that should be simple took forever to complete. The interface was obtuse, and the designers had made some seriously brain-dead decisions. Reporting was even more tedious. Most other units there would painstakingly write up a report every morning manually and send it up to the TOC (Tactical Operations and Command). Not content with this state of affairs, I resolved to completely streamline our operations. I essentially wrote my own programs that automated a lot of the data entry and reporting. Tasks that normally took hours now took only a matter of seconds to complete. In addition, I was able to send out extremely accurate reports because I figured out how to interface with the Army software’s database. I never once in my life thought that I would be putting my degree to use in Iraq. I never created any of these enhancements in the expectation of some sort of reward. My driving force was to ensure that I did everything humanly possible to guarantee the safety of my friends and the success of their mission outside the wire. Towards the end of the tour, I was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for my efforts.

Due to the nature of my job, and the fact that I mostly stayed on base, I wasn’t able to interact very much with the Iraqi people, or catch that much of a glimpse into their lives outside the base. In my experience though, most of the Iraqi people I did meet were extremely friendly and hospitable, with a sincere desire to see their country succeed. This is not to say that all Iraqis liked us. More than once I saw people on the street make obscene gestures at the convoys as we drove by. That, and the IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) clued us into the fact that we weren’t universally liked. A lot of Iraqis actually worked on base and ran shops that sold different kinds of merchandise and also a whole lot of bootlegged DVD’s (one of the first Iraqis I met was a kid on the street who wanted to sell me DVD’s). They would arrive at the base in the morning and leave in the evening. They were required to have escorts at all times as well, and this was how I was able to meet a lot of them. The lower enlisted (I was specialist at the time and hadn’t been promoted to Sergeant yet) had to perform extra duty, and one of these was “escort duty” where you had to escort Iraqis or TCN’s (Third-Country Nationals) around the base. I can recall my first time performing escort duty as especially poignant. The person I had to escort was a 12-year old boy who helped the garbage truck collect garbage around the base. He spoke excellent English and I asked him why he didn’t go to school. He told me that his father had been killed when insurgents blew up a mosque he was praying at. Since he was the oldest member of the family, he had to quit school and earn money.

The year passed by quickly (although at the time it seemed to drag on forever). Soon, the unit that would replace us arrived on base and we quickly started training them. We had gone from counting-down months to counting-down days. Finally, the day of our departure arrived. We flew out of Iraq at the beginning of November. We stayed in Kuwait for two days before flying out to the United States. As the plane left the tarmac, everyone on the aircraft started cheering; we were glad to be finally leaving the Middle East.

The day I finally landed in Phoenix, Arizona was one of the happiest days of my life. My friends were there to greet me and I was relieved and ecstatic that I was finally back home. Getting back to civilian life took some work. My friends told me that I was a little more subdued, and quiet. My family complained that I wasn’t that social and didn’t want to talk. The truth was that I really didn’t feel like talking about anything, really. Sudden noises would startle me, and make me think of an incoming mortar attack. As the months went by, I finally got used to being a civilian again. For the most part, I was my old self, but with a host of new memories.

As I write this, I have less than a year left in the military. My ETS date (time of separation) is December 18th, 2009. When I am discharged, I will have served 9 years in the United States Army National Guard. I have decided not to re-enlist, even though I know that I will miss the Guard terribly. Even though there were difficult moments I had to deal with, I know I will miss the camaraderie and the discipline. I have decided to focus completely on my civilian career, and I feel that 9 years is a decently long stint in the Guard. Even though I will be out of the military in a year, it will forever be a part of me, and will also be something that defines me as a person. Joining the military was one of the most pivotal decisions of my life, and it has turned out to be a rich, rewarding, and wonderful experience all the way. It has helped me grow more as an individual, and has built up my confidence. It has taught me the meaning of the words Loyalty, Honor, Duty, and Courage. Even though I may not wear the uniform in a year, in my heart I know that I will always be a Soldier of the United States Army.

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