Thursday, June 30, 2005

Six More Months

My two weeks at home was indescribably terrific. From the time I got off the plane and saw my beautiful wife and kids, to the time of our teary separation, was simply paradise. The itinerary my wife and I had done prior to my arrival worked like a charm. We identified each day’s activities along with the things we wanted to do and put together a schedule that allowed us to enjoy our time more without pondering how or what we were going to do next. Don’t get me wrong - we didn’t fill every minute of every day with stuff. We did have scheduled “nothing” time where we just hung out at home and did whatever sounded fun.

The boys were great. My two older ones hesitated at the airport when I appeared from the walkway as if they were worried about how much trouble they might be in. The baby, who I feared would be frightened by my presence, came right to me as if I had held him a million times. Later, and throughout the rest of my visit, the older boys didn’t want to let me out of their sight. We had a blast together, and I was more than ready to revert back to being ten years old again and play ball, eat junk food, swim, jet ski, fish, bicycle, wrestle, go to a baseball game, golf, wave board, go boating, inter-tube, play tennis, buy lots of toys and take unlimited trips to the Dairy Queen. I fear that I did not do my wife any favors by having Christmas in June and then leaving, but she was more than understanding. The baby and I were able to bond by doing the normal things a dad and an eight month old do…. Meaning I fed him, changed him, let him spit up on me, showed him the benefits of teething on a cold beer bottle, took him swimming, hurled him through the air to watch him smile and kissed several layers of skin from his chubby cheeks, you know - the usual. It really reminded me of what I’ve been missing for the past six months.

The best beer I’ve ever had! One of my sweet, sweet, neighbors had a bucket of my favorite beer iced down and waiting for me on the front door step of my house when I arrived home. The scene looks like this - four days of traveling halfway around the world, no shower, haven’t had a beer in six months…… I don’t believe I’ll ever forget how good that beer really was. It was truly a Hallmark moment. Thanks neighbor!

My community has really rallied to support my family during my absence, but one woman in particular has been a true heroin. She has kept up our home, maintained our finances, kept our boys healthy, safe and happy, endured long nights with an infant, struggled with a bullish five year old, been a team mom, a chauffeur, a cook, a maid, a tournament director, stayed active in our church, and did a million more things that I’m forgetting in the past six months. This remarkable lady is my lovely wife and I can’t thank her enough for the sacrifices she’s made and the job she is doing at home. My admiration for her is immeasurable and I thank God for her every day.

My short visit at home was great, but I could not completely forget where it was that I came from and where I was going back to. I can attribute the peace of mind I had about my duties at LSAA to the great soldiers I had left behind to continue our mission during my absence. I was sure that there was nothing they were not prepared to handle, and that really allowed me to enjoy my time at home that much more.

Traveling home and back were adventures within themselves. It took me four days to get home and five days to get back to LSAA. No complaints - I was prepared by those who had gone before me and I expected delays with the in / out processing of troops. All things considered I believe the Army did a good job of getting everyone to his selected destination safe and sound. The travel time did not count against my R&R time nor did it extend my deployment time, so no harm was done. Overall, the soldiers processing us and the airlines carrying the troops all had their hearts in the right place.

We traveled in our desert uniforms, so we were easily identifiable. I was overwhelmed by the number of strangers that would approach me in the airport to thank me for my service. I had ladies come up and hug my neck and gentlemen break stride between concourses to shake my hand. Each would just sincerely say thank you and wish me the best. I can’t tell you how inspiring it was, and I don’t think my chest could have stuck out any further. The blind support by strangers completely validated one of the reasons I serve my country and why I am proud to where the uniform. I hope that every soldier gets to experience this type of gratitude from the American public and if anyone out there gets the chance, don’t underestimate the power of a simple, “thank you” and hand shake.

Once again I have to comment on the media coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While I was home the news flashes and headlines seemed only to highlight the bad things that were happening. I tried my best to tell everyone I came in contact with that it just isn’t anywhere near as bad as the media makes it out to be. I wish they would report their “news” relative to the “information” about the entire operation. For instance, out of the 130,000 reported soldiers in the theater probably “blank #” are out each day among the population conducting engineering support, civil affairs, patrols, convoying, traveling between bases, movements by ground, by air, by waterways. Then compare those numbers to the number of individuals that were met with direct resistance, suffered injuries, or were killed. I believe the general American public would have a much better picture of what is actually happening. Instead, I spoke to several people who only knew what the news flashes were and believed that behind every rock was an insurgent and that the entire country is against our presence. To me, it seems almost criminal the power the media have over public opinion, and I wish there was a way to hold them accountable for the misperceptions they foster and somehow charge them for the time and effort the military and government must spend to portray the entire picture.

OK, now that I have that off my chest, I’m back at LSAA and ready to begin my last half of this tour. I am looking forward to hearing about our replacements from my Commander and then we can begin the planning process to bring us all home. We are still hoping to be home for Christmas; anything earlier would be a gift.
Thanks again to everyone for your support during the past six months. Nearly everyone I came in contact with asked if there was something else he could do. I ask all to pray that the next six months go by safely, and that all of our families remain secure and healthy. Please remember that each thought and prayer really matters. Thanks again.

Take Care and God Bless.