It’s an understatement to say that has a nice ring to it. I’ll be doing a lot of “lasts” in the next few days.
This is the end of my third combat deployment. The first two were in Iraq. I’ve been out here since February. It often feels like it went by quickly near the end, but it’s hard to say as the time went on. I honestly did feel that it was a little slow in the first few months. I think that was because there was talk about us possibly leaving early as this was coming from D.C., so I’ll admit that it got into my head, especially since a lot of those around me ended up departing before they were scheduled to leave.
The end of deployments is always bittersweet. The anticipation of returning back home to my family is like no other. I call it “bittersweet” because even though I couldn’t be more anxious to leave here, this IS a place I’ve lived for the last eight months. I’m not emotionally attached to anything or anyone, but I have made a few friends. Also, because I absolutely LOVE this feeling, it took me being away from home for several months in order to feel it. If I had the choice, I would never come out here, even for this great feeling at the end.
Since I’ve been in the Army for more than 17 years and I am eligible to retire at 20, there’s a good chance that this may be my very last deployment. I’m not interested in all the speculation about ISIS and everything else. As of right now, there’s a good chance that I’m done. My wife is close to 15 years, so she may be about there as well.
So how am I feeling right now, a few days before heading home? Well, there’s a lot going through my mind right now. First and foremost is my wife and our two children. I can’t wait to get back to them. We are VERY close as a family. I’m thinking a lot about all the fun things we all do together, such as, play MarioKart on the Wii, board games, playing chess with our son, reading with our daughter, going out together, movie night and everything else. I know that I also need to think about re-integrating myself into being the disciplinarian that I am. Yes, I’m the stricter between my wife and I, and I need to make sure my return to that isn’t a shock to everyone else. Even though my wife has told me countless times in the past month that that is one of the BIGGEST reasons she can’t wait for my return, I still have to remember to get back into the swing of things at a gradual pace. This is easy to say, but very difficult, because there’s often a feeling of making up for lost time. Now I’m very responsible in that I’m not one of those who will drink half a bar away because of this. I don’t drink that much as it is. But in terms of what’s important (which is FAMILY to me), then that’s where I may need to take a step back every once in a while.
Of course, there’s the adjustment of jetlag. I’ll try to work on that on the way back, since there are quite a few delays.
Believe it or not (“I’m walking on air…I never thought I could feel so free-hee-hee”). Sorry. That song is in my head right now because I heard something on the television a little bit ago that sounded similar. Anyway, believe it or not, there IS some stress that comes with this. I think a lot of people who haven’t experienced this probably believe that it’s nothing but happiness all around. It IS, to a point, but that stress of returning exists as well. It’s not exactly a “bad” stress, so-to-speak, but still stress nonetheless. The adjustments, realizing the amount of time that has gone by, the potential change in my wife along with the MAJOR change in our children and hell, the change in ME (as likely seen by them), the differences in my daily routine and enjoying myself again along with trying my best to get back to normal; all of that plays a part. Some days I think about one thing and others, I think about the other stuff.
I always say that there’s a point in each deployment when leaving feels so far away that it’s nothing more than a distant dream. However, I eventually reach that point where it goes from being a dream to that light at the end of the tunnel that I can see. We’re on an airfield and our living area is right across the street from the flight line. Along with it sounding like our building is going to lift off the ground and fly away each time a plane takes off, I also get to see when planes are headed out and which type of plane it is. After having been here for this time, I’m kind of aware of which planes are which. I know all the commercial planes are likely taking people back home or to R+R (the two-week leave period most are granted; I was not because my deployment was scheduled for nine months as opposed to 12). The military planes are possibly doing the same or they’re flying on another mission. Then there are the cargo planes (FedEx, etc.). I’ll see them take off and think that some day, I’ll be on one of them.
Wait, not the FedEx one. I’m not trying to be a real life Tom Hanks, even though we do share the same birthday.
Anyway, that day has arrived; or at least it will in a couple of days. I’ve watched a lot of folks take off to head back home in the past more than eight months. As bad as this may sound, now someone can watch ME take off.