Being home for 2 weeks
bevvy of emotions
Thursday, September 09, 2004
just experienced one of the most interesting personal events that soldiers participating in the War on Terror can have. I’ve
returned back to Iraq after spending 15
days on what’s called “Environmental Leave.”
Environmental Leave is an Army term for what all of you in the “real world” would know as vacation. Whatever it’s called,
it’s a time to get away from the daily grind of hot, dusty, windy, long hours, with nothing much to do but work, conditions
that a soldier experiences in Iraq or Afghanistan.
supposed to be a chance to rest, recuperate, recharge and generally do something different than your job. In this situation,
all of those things are accomplished, except there's an unanticipated
amount of emotional baggage that each soldier
must deal with as they return back to their Army job.
One of the
provisions of leave is that we can go practically anywhere we want. The Army asks us where we want to go when we arrive in
Kuwait to start processing for leave and
then hands us a ticket for our destination. Most of us go home.
Home is where
some soldiers can visit that child that was born while they were gone or right before they left to be deployed. Home is where
they can visit with friends that haven’t seen them for up to 10 or so months and catch up on what has been going on.
Home is where
Mom and Dad, who've had their eyes and ears glued to radios and televisions since their soldier left, are waiting to see that
their son or daughter is safe and sound. Home is where that boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancĂ© or spouse is waiting. Home is where some soldiers can’t
wait to see their kids, see how much they’ve grown and just sit down on the floor or go in the yard and play with them.
For me leave
meant spending time with the woman that I'd marry while I was home and spending time with her 3 wonderful boys. I had the
opportunity to spend a few minutes with my dog, introduce him to one of my stepsons and to see the look in the wagging canine’s
eyes that he remembered me and wanted me there.
Leave was also
a time to reconnect with friends and colleagues that I miss spending time with, working with and generally advancing life with.
meant gladly working on a few honey-do projects that had been lingering.
Just like vacation, leave is a short experience. When vacation is over, most of us usually
return to work and sometimes are even glad that a trip is over so that we can return to our normal routine hoping that not
too much has piled up on our desk.
leave is nothing like returning from a vacation.
Just as we
did the first time we left for war, returning from leave means saying a tearful and too short goodbye to the spouse that only
wants us to be home. It's knowing that our parents will start their vigil again of making sure the news out of the area that
we're soldiering isn't terrible.
leave brings the realization that the kids we so enjoyed playing with while we were home will be so many inches taller and
so many months more mature when we return. We know that we’ll miss another ski season, the family trip to Disneyworld, birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I'd expect some to read all of the above and think that it couldn’t possibly be worth the pain of leaving again to spend 2 weeks on leave just to go back half-way around the world to continue your
be worth putting our family and friends through the emotional roller coaster of having us around for a few days just
to have us gone for another long period of time. It couldn’t be worth putting ourselves through having the closeness of loved ones and all that makes us long for home for such a short time, only to have to tear ourselves
away, knowing that we’ll miss so much more.
The simple truth is that the opportunity to have the ultimate joy of being in your own real world for just 2 weeks is worth the pain of being away from it again. In the final analysis, these 2 weeks of leave have allowed me to rest, recuperate,
recharge and reconnect. They've allowed me to refocus myself on being productive to this cause for another length of time so that I can return again
to my real world and feel the joy of being home again.