Well, for those who haven’t heard (or guessed), I AM finally back home. I arrived home the evening of July 20th. Mary and the girls were at the airport to meet me as well as mom and dad. When the girls spotted me coming out of the security section of the airport, they raced each other to run up and give me huge hugs. It was a great feeling to have them in my arms again in real life. Mary looked great and I’m happy that mom and dad were there as well. I can’t even count how many times over the years that I’ve had sad goodbyes and joyful reunions with mom and dad in the Wichita airport. That place is certainly full of memories for me & this reunion adds another one.
After a few days back home, Afghanistan already started feeling like a dream. The two worlds are so far apart that its hard to reconcile the fact that they both exist in the same universe. I’d love to say that I made it back home and lived happily ever after but I think there will still be a long period of adjustment. Mary and I have both changed and experienced different things & the girls have certainly grown and matured over the past year – it will take time to adjust again to living as a family.
The friends and soldiers that I lived with, worked with, ate with, risked my life with, etc for the past year – my “family” in Afghanistan – have been left behind. Except for one soldier, I didn’t even get to say goodbye to any of them. I last saw them at breakfast on the 20th and when I walked away to take care of all of the Army out-processing stuff, I didn’t know that I would be going home that day or that I’d never see them again.
After a few whirlwind days in Kansas, where I was able to see a lot of friends and family, the Army movers and packers showed up on July 25th and our house was empty by the 27th. We stayed with mom and dad for a few days and we drove to Texas on the 29th. The last week was spent getting all of our stuff moved into our new house, unpacking (Mary did most of the work there), and in-processing into Fort Hood and active duty once more. We got Internet a few days ago and today is the first day that our house is actually looking like a nice ordered living space versus a chaotic mid-move jumble of boxes and packing stuff.
The contrast between my spartan bedroom at a far-flung base in Afghanistan and our nice big house in the rolling hills of southeast Texas could not be more pronounced. I’m sure there are some life lessons or morals to be deduced from such a contrast and maybe I’ll post them if I ever condense them into a blog-length essay form.
I guess I’ll close by saying that I’ve had a lot of life experiences and adventures over the past year which I will always value and which will no doubt influence who I am for years to come. I appreciate all of you who have joined me through this blog and who have encouraged and helped me and my family through this past year. My story is only one small one that has been (and is currently being) repeated in various forms in the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and families of soldiers throughout our country for the past 10+ years. And it is a small continuation of the story of our country’s military history or, indeed, of soldiers’ stories throughout all of history.
I’m especially grateful to Mary for being such a wonderful supporting wife, friend, and mother to our children. Over the past year, I’ve seen many marriages of fellow soldiers disintegrate under the stress of our deployment. I definitely could not have done this without Mary’s support.
This deployment marks my fourth deployment and, unfortunately, in today’s world this one may not be my last. But until that time (or until I think of something else interesting to write about), I think I’ll leave this blog for a while. Thanks for reading!