August 23rd, 2010
03:07 PM ET

Final hours before deployment

As part of an ongoing series “A Soldiers Story,” CNN's Jason Carroll follows Sgt. Randy Shorter and his unit as they head into Afghanistan.  

It's hard describe how thankful I am to Sgt. Randy Shorter and his family for allowing us into their home the day before his deployment. (More: Soldier heads to third deployment)

Any soldier's family who has gone through this will tell you every minute is precious and we clearly saw that when we visited Shorter at Fort Campbell. As per tradition, they held a dinner, inviting a small group of soldiers in his unit who did not have family nearby.  They could spend these final hours with others before deploying instead of being alone. Randy made BBQ, his wife Sheryll made an amazing rice dish.

One of the most difficult moments was when I spoke to their daughters. They cried, already familiar with the pain of being separated from a parent. This is Randy's third combat tour of duty. This time, it will be a year in Afghanistan. During his last deployment to the region, his convoy came under attack. Randy helped the wounded men while returning fire, earning the Silver Star for bravery.

One of the men he helped two years ago was Specialist Frank Whorton. He was Randy's gunner on the convoy. I met Frank at the BBQ and he told me now that his wounds have healed, he's headed back with Randy on this deployment. I asked if he had second thoughts. Frank told me he wanted to serve and felt Randy was the type of leader he wanted to serve under again.

We're following these band of brothers as they head to the Paktika province in southeast Afghanistan. We've taken the 20-plus hour flight, touching down in Shannon, Ireland; then landing in Bucharest, Romania, for refueling. Currently, we're at Manas Transit Center, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Next stop is Bagram Air Force base where we'll catch a flight to Paktika Province. The place where Sgt. Shorter and the rest of the men in his unit will start their mission.

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Filed under: Soldier's story • Troops
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  1. Perry Houtkooper

    Hello there, I found your blog by way of Google even though looking for 1st assist to get a heart assault and your post
    looks really fascinating for me.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. Justins mom

    My son also deployed with Sgt. Shorter. This is his 2nd deployment with the 1st being to Iraq. He was injured while in Iraq but recovered and was returned to complete that tour. I drove 15 hours to see him and his wife over the weekend before they left. Im not sure now what we expect to accomplish in Afghanistan. We will never end the mission of all the Taliban. I do remember 9/11 and now after all the years, the deaths and injuries wonder if we need to continue these missions. They seem to only end up with destruction and death. I am proud of my sons 4 years in the Army but feel he is sent to win a battle that wont end. I worry every day that I will get another call of his injury or death. If this fight was for American soil I would completely understand but maybe if we were more careful who we let into the country we would not have to continue with these deployments. God bless and protect our country and all the troops.

    September 4, 2010 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |
  3. Be there in 3 months

    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
    John Stuart Mill

    August 31, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Banks David n. brownwood texas

    This is my SON INLAWs 5th tour done been hit by a sniper and lived to tell the tell . 101 st AIRBORNE SCREAMING EAGLES

    August 31, 2010 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. General Dr Bad

    The ONLY thingyou are going to get out of your damn war is body bags and further in debt.
    there is no excuse no justification.
    you are cowards and greedy lying baby murdering war criminals.
    Sadly Good Troops Die instead of YOU.
    YOU are the TERRORISTS.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. See think say

    This is not your war u have been tricked. Eg. How to get the Americans involved ? Attack it.  because if u attack tel aviv or Jerusalem this can't become a globel issue so attack the American heart let's make our war there war and we watch let them feel what we have felt for years & one more point Islam was the fastest growing religion in america till 911 how to stop that too. Once america was attacked without even thinking twice US invades afghanistan because  one man who pretends as if he got it done is shown in a video holding kalashnikov dressed in an Islamic grab saying a few words from the Quran giving anti american statements so v assume that he's the man behind all this, suddenlly this one mans actions represents a whole religion 1.7 billion people suddenly become terrorist and a threat to society, but after 9 years where is this man? US has the technology to precisely strick a missile into ones axx even if he's 5000 miles away but they couldn't get this guy hard to belive. Why because every time one feels the hate is dying you pull him up in a video or an audio tape. Americans are killing Muslims, Muslims killing Americans job done. Your politicians have sold there souls to the Jewish lobby who are only using you. What was the need to go to Iraq? WMD, Saddam no to take the hate to the next level. Now you leaving Iraq ur job there is not done yet again a way to keep the hate alive for the next generation. Please my American brothers & sisters not all Muslims are bad there might be a few don't forget Osama was a CIA agent in Afghanistan & because of this one Muslim the whole religion has got tag of terriost I have lived in ur great country I know you'll are good people maybe not very religious but god fearing but please identify who is ur true friend I hope ur brave soldiers return home safe. God bless us all that includes the Jews too.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

    Egyptian police find weapons bound for Gaza
    Boston Globe Sat, 28 Aug 2010 06:58 AM PDT
    An Egyptian security official says police in the Sinai desert have discovered two large caches of weapons that were to be smuggled to Gaza. Gaza – Sinai Peninsula – Egypt – Police – Israel

    August 29, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. A Marine's Sister

    My brother was stationed in San Diego and the family was unable to see him off. I am not very good at texting, but those final hours before he boarded the plane , I never texted that fast in my life. I do apologize to my company because for those hours prior to them boarding , I spent the entire time texting him and telling him to keep his spirits up. We are close knit family but we became torn apart because of his decision to join the marines. It is the hardest thing seeing someone who you've raised and nurtured go into harm's way. (We have a fifteen year age difference) He painted the picture of them sitting around waiting for the plane to arrive and when it came he just fell apart. This was his second day going through this because the day prior their flight was cancelled at the last minute because of the weather. And when it did....The two words that he texted ...OH GOD.... that was what pushed me over the edge. I had to run the restroom and lock myself in a stalll covering my mouth bending over in pain and trying not to let anyone hear my screams. I sent him scriptures, I sent him family pics, I sent him military jokes, anything I could do to cheer a twenty year old boy who was about to become a man so soon. I know he was crying as well but I guess he had to find some secluded spot to shed his tears. I reminded him of his training and that our prayers will bring him back home. Despite your opinions of this war...please pray for our soldiers and for their families...and most importantly PEACE.

    August 28, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • HumanistinNY

      While I'm not religious myself, I will absolutely pray in your name for your brother's safety - surely, whatever benevolent spirit out there will hear our heartfelt pleas and aid in returning him home to you and the rest of his loved ones.

      I don't pretend to understand fully our (USA) reasons for being over there, but that doesn't take away from the bravery that men like your brother must muster every single hour over there. All the best for a safe and speedy return for your brother and the men beside him.

      August 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. steven

    stop posting comments and join and go help

    August 28, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • General Dr Bad

      General Dr Bad

      Not MY Troops. not MY War. not MY Country. not MY Women. not MY Problem.
      have "Fun"

      August 28, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      August 30, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. General Dr Bad

    Not MY Troops. not MY War. not MY Country. not MY Women. not MY Problem.
    have "Fun"

    August 28, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Snell Dog

    Good Luck SGT Shorter.....just got back from the Patika province in Mar of this year......its a mess. Hope you get FOB Kushamond.....nice, usually quiet place out the back 40.......

    August 27, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOL@Snell Dog

      Yeah, quiet when we weren't getting mortared or shot at, or blown up... Come on Half Hatched Chicken, you know better than this.

      September 10, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. busch

    WHO CARES! MORE PROPAGANDA FROM THE NUMBER 1 EXPORTER OF TERRORISM.

    August 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. TJN Navy Retired

    Please all of you shut up about religion. This is not about you it is about our service men and women who go out to give you the rights you have to type on this site. Its about them. Why does everyone turn this to religion. There is more than one reason why we go to war. The second plane that crashed into the towers flew directly over my ship while in our home port. That was too close.This is just one reason we are at war.You will not figure out what the others are.Its all speculation.SGT Shorter best of luck to you and your comrads.Keep your head up. GOD Bless.

    August 27, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  14. shon

    Some of these posts seem like they belong in a religious blog and not a soldiers story blog. I hate how people use any site to display their own personal religious or government views, its getting so old. Good luck SFC Shorter.

    August 26, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      That is because they can't talk about anything but Their Religion!!!

      August 26, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

    The United States is trying to get that for everyone!!! But the Republicans, Tea Party and the Rich won't let it happen!!! They want to go back to slavery so that They can keep their money!!! The rest of us are losing Our rights because there is so much hate in This Country they only think about Themselves...

    August 26, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Penelope

    My son just left on his way back to Afganistan. His last deployment was Iraq. This is a lot worse. He's with the 101st Airborne out of Ft. Campbell. Dee, I'm so sorry, I can't tell you how many times I hate going home from work. I'm so afraid to see a gov't vehicle in my driveway. God bless your son and God bless them all.

    August 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      May GOD watch over all your Boys and the rest of the Troops there fighting for the Afghanistan rights against the Tarriest!!!

      August 26, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Spouse of a 2 time iraq Veteran

    ALL I HAVE TO TO SAY IS THIS... JUST BECAUSE YOU DONT SUPPORT THE WAR DOESNT MEAN YOU CANT SUPPORT THE SOLDIER... AND IF EVERYONE SPENT AS MUCH TIME SUPPORTING THE TROOPS AS THEY DO COMPLAINING ON POSTS THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE.. MY HUSBAND SPEND 2 TOURS IN IRAQ.. AND WHEN MY YOUNGEST DAUGHTER WAS BORN I DID IT ALONE.. DO YOU THINK MY HUSBAND WANTED TO MISS THAT.. THE WAR ISNT THE SOLDIERS CHOICE.. ITS THERE JOB AND THEY DO WHAT THERE TOLD... NOT BECAUSE THEY WANT TO!!! SUPPORT THE TROOPS...*TILL THEY ALL COME HOME*

    August 26, 2010 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      WHY ARE YOU YELLING??? I agree with you what you say!!! But You give me a headache every time You post!!!

      August 26, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Jarhead Mom

    My son is a Marine and currently deployed to Afghanistan. He is only 20....and I worry so much about him every second of every day because he is truly "in the s*it" and I don't get phone calls very regularly, my only peace at night when I go to sleep is that nobody knocked on my door that day, so he must be ok. I guess that's why I do find it a bit disturbing that Lindsey Lohan and her release from rehab is big headliner for CNN....???????

    August 25, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Dave, Afghanistan

    Last days/hours before deployment are the hardest...I would catch myself trying to literally milk every second out of the day. Little ordinary stuff becomes important, and you wonder if you'll ever do it again. Nevermind the political nonsense some folks write here- most never have and never will know what it's like. Godspeed guys, keep your eyes and ears open and come home in one piece if you can.

    Fred, my thoughts go out to your son. Hope he's up an at 'em soon.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Randy rolls

    The U.S need to commit to Afghanistan's stability. The Brit's have pledged their military support until 2014...when they will exit! Why can't the U.S match this commitment? It would certainly be of benefit to the region & Afghan people

    August 25, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      Because the United states has been there for 9 years already!!! it is time for Some Other Country to take over... We have enough debt here already!!!

      August 26, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Raashid

    I don't know the american intention on the wars but america is a great nation a nation which treats all it's people equally mostly I being an Indian Muslim living in India but I have also lived in the US for sometime our countries can't survive without the west interfierence I just hope don't if america has a honest intention it should handle these situations a little better and make it a point to not let any one community from being targeted as it has the power to do so I think Obama is trying just that but he needs support it's a process cause if there's anyone who's going to make a difference it is the US.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      You can't say that about the United States now!!! There is so much hate here about everyone that isn't a White Catholic... That is has gone down the drain!!! The Far Right has made things worse than better... I hope that the People of This Country vote Them out of office and gives it back to the People!!!

      August 26, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Eric

    let = left

    August 25, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Ituri

    I've seen 3 combat deployments through my spouse, and about to see a 4th. My brother died in Anbar Province on his 2nd. I keep asking people "why are we there?" Nobody has a good answer. WMD? Nope. Biological weapons? Nadda. Terrorism? Ahhh, thats where people get pushy. We have to fight the terrorists on their land!

    NO, we really don't. 9-11 was a horrible event that took years of planning and luck on the terrorists part to pull off, which only worked because our systems were so defunk we couldn't catch anyone doing squat even if 20 people knew about it. Sending our soldiers "to fight the terrorists" makes them a convenient and easy target for anyone with a weapon and a little willpower, which are in common supply in such a horrible little country as Afghanistan and Iraq. Every angry man can build an IED. We can't "win" this war because it is not a war at all. Its a desperate angry people with a convenient enemy who was stupid enough to give them more targets.

    I'm so tired of this nonsense... it'll never end, people don't actually care, and everyone with a yellow sticker on their car thinks they're "making a statement." They'll only get the real message when their family and loved ones come home in tiny little pieces.

    August 25, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Varun

      Why are we there? We need their oil, we need their copper resources, we need to make our defense contractors rich, we need to make the owners of weapon manufacturing companies rich, we need to make Israel look like victims.

      August 25, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

        We are there to try to give the Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan a chance to live a better life than They are living now!!!

        August 26, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
      • Guest

        Since when is there oil in Afghanistan?

        August 31, 2010 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      We are there to try to give the People there the same chance as any other Country in the free World has!!! The problem is the Free World is going the wrong way These day... I'm sure GOD did not mean for the World to have only Rich and poor People!!! I really feel GOD is telling all the World to change are He will have to start all over Again and hope it will come out right the next time around...

      August 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Raashid

    Whatever be the cause of war I hope & pray it ends soon I am a Muslim I love my religion but I love humanity too I hope every soldier returns home safe to his family I know what I ask is impractical but I hope it happens. God bless us all.

    August 24, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Raashid,

      I get it. I feel the same.

      Peace

      August 25, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

        MAY WE HAVE PEACE ON EARTH in My life Time!!! Amen:

        August 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      I Pray to GOD that Your People will soon have PEACE in Your Country so that Your People can work to better Yourselves and live the type of lives that GOD meant all of Us to live!!! I know that GOD didn't mean This World to be just for the Rich...

      August 26, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marie

      Its sad how the many differences we have can blind us from our commonality...humanity. As an Army wife I,ve seen how war effects lives firsthand. I wouldn't wish the lost of a love one on any one.. not even on our enemies. Hopefully this war will end soon..for all parties involved!

      August 27, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Fred

    I just recieved word that my son was injured by an IED in Afganastan yesterday. Per him it is only a couple of broken ribs and soreness and no one else was hurt. This is his third tour, first in Afganastan, and I have mixed emotions. First I am so proud of him and all of the service men and women who currently serve our country. At the same time I am so concerned about his safety and if the mission they have is accomplishing anything. Thanks CNN for keeping the Afgan conflict and our troops in the light. We may be leaving Iraq, but we have thousands of troops still in harms way.

    August 24, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Proud mom

      My heart goes out to you Fred. Wishing him a quick recovery! My son will be in Afgahnistan soon – he is a soldier in the same company as Sgt. Shorter. I also thank CNN for helping to keep our nation's attention on this war and on our military – they need our support and deserve our admiration. Go Screaming Eagles!

      August 24, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      You ought to be proud of Him and Those fighting with Him!!! Hopefully now He will be home for good and You won't have to worry about Him any more...

      August 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • AF wife

      My prayers for your son and all of our troops. My husband is there. Let's keep supporting them and praying for their safe return. They are proud of what they are doing and eager to serve! God bless their strong, brave hearts!

      August 27, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Maritta

    I have a son in the Marines in Afghanistan now. God Bless all our troops and keep them safe. They should know we love them and appreciate their service.

    August 23, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      May GOD watch over Your Son and all Those that are fighting to make that Country free!!! You must know that He is doing GODS work for Him I'm sure???

      August 26, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Nicole

    I had the honor of seeing my newphew off to Afghanistan on August 4th at Fort Carson, CO. He too is a "volunteer". This is his second tour. He is 23 yoa. I flew down from Bozeman, MT with my Sister and his brother and we drove his vehicle home to Montana while he is gone for the next year. We spent less than 24 hours together. Our "last hours" were spent in a gym with his entire unit. I will never forget it. Today I found out that one of the members in his unit was killed yesterday (Saturday) in Afghanistan. I cant stop wondering which one it was. Was it the one holding his newborn baby? Was it the one walking his 3 daughters and pregnant wife to the door who I told to be safe to? Was it the one I locked eyes with and in my head prayed that he would be safe? I have no idea. I feel sick and my eyes wont stop watering. Sgt. Shorter: you keep yourself safe and do what you have been trained to do. I pray for your family and thank them for showing such bravery and support to you whiile you do your job, again. Im sending your kids an email hug!

    August 23, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zed

      I am really sorry to say but war is not religious. On the other side maybe the guy who shot one of your brother's comrades left home and prayed for God to take care of him too. Maybe he has three kids and one on the way too, maybe a newborn? Maybe he has sisters and brothers that worry about him all the time as well. We tend to look at war from our own side all the time but forget we are fighting people with dreams, family cousins, aunts and a whole support system like we do.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

        You can not blame GOD for what is going on over Their!!! GOD can not watch over all of His Children... I know GOD would proffer all His Children to get along with each other!!!

        August 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
      • Dave

        War is not religious? The Crusades?

        August 29, 2010 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
      • Jay

        You're "sorry too say that war is not religious" makes no sense whatsoever. Every conflict, especially in the Middle East is a DIRECT RESULT of religion! Get your head out of the sand, no pun intended Afghanistan.

        Religion is a fraud and a tool for the ones in power to force the masses into submission (or die). If there was a god I'd say he's an underachiever!

        August 29, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • dee valdes

      Sgt. Shorter is a great man and has a great family. My son served with him since 2007 . My son served with sgt. shorter and Frank Whorton was my son best friend. My son was killed last year on his way home to Fort Campbell. He was home because his girlfriend was having her first ultrasound. He was a great son and a great soldier. His platoon took a of fire when they were there in 2008-2009. Sgt. Shorter was Eriel's escort to bring him home to us. His whole platoon is the best group of soldiers in the country. Thats my thoughts any way. I"ll pray for each one of them Love Momma dee you guys be safe and all come back home

      August 26, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

        I'm sorry to hear about Your Lose!!! He was doing GODS work for Him if that will help You any??? We have lose a lot of Good Men and Women in all the Wars we have ever fought!!! I Pray To GOD that none of Them were for nothing... To My believe that They died by making things better for where They died at!!! Because the United States only fights for GOD and GODS wishes for all GODS Children!!!

        August 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      May GOD watch over Him while He is there!!! May GOD also watch other your Family too through His Tour over there...

      August 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • ExLDS

      I fully support our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen. Victory will be achieved and our hero's will come home soon. I have a young man that I'd been working with and he just got home from Iraq and he is scheduled to go to Afgan in the future.
      Airborne All The Way!
      Rangers Lead The Way!

      August 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • We are the word

        Bless them ALL***!!!!!!!!!!!

        August 29, 2010 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • busch

      you are responsible

      August 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      May GOD be with Him through His Tour through Afghanistan!!! May GOD watch over You and Your Family through these times...

      August 27, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |