“The Last Journey”
#1 Running on Empty
For those of you that know
me, most of you will not be surprised that I’m on the go one more
It’s been a while since
I’ve been “back in the saddle” so to speak, with camera and
PPE gear in tow as well as enough supplies that could fit into one backpack to
last a couple months or longer. It will
have been three years this coming October since I was here last, right here in
Honestly, I’m thankful
to have this one final opportunity to walk the trails in
The hardest part of doing
these journeys is just the shear fact of putting it together and getting
everyone on the same page just to let me have access to get to the war zone.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been working for the Department of
Commerce, US Census Bureau, with my wife Candi, in
As I saw my job situation
winding down, I began inquiring with contacts in the USMC and Army about
embedding with the troops once again.
They all remembered me and in short order, arrangements were being made
on my end to prepare the lengthy ordeal of paperwork to be able to pull one
more journey off. This is the part that
almost always breaks me in half and causes me to almost give up for shear lack
of patience. However, when the burden is
so strong, such as the one I have now to be among the troops in
Eventually, I got the Army to
issue me orders, embedding me with troops of the 101st Airborne
Division. That took a little doing, but,
not too frustrating. Then, I got the
USMC to issue me orders embedding with Marines from 2/6, whom I happened to
have been embedded with in
I’ve been traveling now
for over 30-hours and I’m pretty well burnt out. I’ve been packing camera bags and
backpack for over a month at home and hiking 8-miles a day with all my flak
gear on for a couple of months, preparing for this trip. Some particular friends and contacts from all
The beauty of this journey already is that I’ve proven once again, with enough perseverance and prayer, one person can make happen a situation where the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force, can all be made to come together in one accord and work with a civilian who happens to carry a camera to do a good thing. I love the words on my travel orders that says, “Jim Spiri…is embedding…in the interest of improving the public’s understanding of ISAF operations”. I like this responsibility.
So folks, just to let you all know, it’s taken quite a bit to pull this one off. It hasn’t always been fun, but it has already been rewarding in a deep way. I left pretty much on a wing and a prayer, Tuesday morning not exactly knowing how it all was going to play out. But looking at the flight line out my window at the big gray Air Force birds that I know will be bringing more wounded warriors here soon, I am once again convinced it’s important to go see what I’m going to see and report back to all those who surely care about supporting the troops, for reals.
There are some really good people that need to be thanked for helping get this trip started. There’s Hank in Kansas; Tom and Nick in North Carolina; Gary in Arizona, Kim in Michigan; a Colonel in the USMC in 29 Palms, California, a Lt. Colonel in the USMC in Helmund province, Afghanistan, a SMSgt in the Air Force in Germany; a Sergeant in the Army in Bagram, Afghanistan; Terry in Clayton, NM; an artist in Tennessee; Melain and family in Oklahoma; Jimmy and family in Texas; Moriah in Texas; and basically all the people who have waited patiently over the past two and half years and stayed in email contact with me, encouraging me to keep pressing on. All of them have always said how much I’m in their prayers.
But most of all, that without the complete and full support of my wife Candi who has patiently stood by my side for the past 36-years while I take such journey’s to the other side of the world, none of this could have ever happened. Her love and prayers guiding me all along the way, is what really makes these journey‘s possible. She has worked with me in the war zones in the past and she too knows that this time, it’s extremely important.