Busy this week with the upcoming Toys for Troops event, I've asked a few soldier friends to entertain you while I'm out.
When I flail around here, trying to understand All Things Military, Sean waits in the wings to patiently answer my questions. Via e-mail, he has supported, educated, and comforted me on several occasions.
This post on his blog, "More Blitherings," entitled "Wow," about his own homecoming experiences comforted and reassured me about the fanfare at my own son's homecoming, and he has agreed to let me repost it here, for you to read.
Sean is currently in Afghanistan, on his 3rd overseas deployment.
Take it away, Sean.
i went home on leave a couple weeks ago. although this was my third deployment, it’s the first time that this really happened. my first deployment was in 2002, right after the war started. people weren’t really thinking long-term then, “rest and relaxation” or leave wasn’t really a consideration. You came here for x-many months, did your job and went home. it wasn’t until we’d been on the ground awhile that we started thinking about that.
my sister’s cancer came back and i had to take emergency leave during the second tour. that’s a different experience. you’ve got priority on all flights on the way back to the U.S. and you switch from military flights to commercial flights earlier in the process.
On my first deployment, i came home by myself at the end of the tour. i switched into civilian clothes in germany and snuck back into country. the second tour we flew military all the way back to the states, went through the demobilization process and were supposed to fly home as a group. they had a large “welcome home” party planned for us, which sounded like a special kind of hell so when the opportunity to stay behind for a couple extra days presented itself, i jumped at it. once again i got the opportunity to sneak into the country with no fan-fair. normally i avoid the spotlight at all costs. i do NOT like tooting my own horn.
so this was a new experience for me. it’s a helluva lot of work and hassle to get back to the States on leave. the question that kept running through my head the entire time i was in transit was “is it really worth all of this nonsense?” funny thing though, about two seconds after we landed and the cheering started i had the answer to that, a resounding “yes!” what was even more amazing was when we got off the plane. we were considered an international flight, so we had to walk through a glass enclosed walkway over the top of the concourse to customs. they must’ve announced our flight when we landed, because passengers were lined up, cheering us as we walked through the walkway. it was an experience i’d cheated myself out of previously, and at the risk of sounding immodest i’m glad i got to finally experience it.
all my life i’ve been fascinated by the U.S. space program, particularly the apollo missions. it’s not the normal dreams of being an astronaut as a little boy. let’s face it, i get motion sick at the drop of a hat. and the idea of being stuck in a tiny little space station or space capsule… no thanks. what fascinated me more was the effort it took to get there. as i got older and read about the program and watched the wonderful mini series “from the earth to the moon”, i was always so jealous of the people who were a part of that, no matter how small.
walking down that walkway, surrounded by fellow servicemen, it dawned on me that i had nothing to be jealous of. what always got me was that those guys were a part of something bigger than themselves. i couldn’t believe how the country unified and so many different people came together to try to achieve a common goal.
the country definitely isn’t “unified” on this global war on terror. and i don’t claim that i know that this is going to end well. but i do believe it’s got to be done. i put so much of myself aside for this (although in alot of ways, i’m more myself now than in at any other time). i may not agree with all the decisions and all the things we’re doing, but that’s not the point. i’m in it. it’s not about me. it’s the whole “something bigger than me” thing. and it’s great. and i’m glad i was able to realize that i’m a part of it and bask in the moment.