Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Home Alone

You know, in all our briefs were told to be careful about fitting back into society too fast. I never saw the worst of war, so I wasn't particularly concerned about all that. I do notice that I do not like large crowds. I don't know why that is. I don't think everyone wants to kill me or anything, I just noticed I feel uncomfortable.

They briefed us many times on not hitting our wives or our children, neither of which I have living with me, so again I was not particularly concerned about that either. I think it goes beyond that and includes dealing with people in general. I think I have less patience and feel more aggressive than I should at times but I can't rationally justify why I feel this way.

I visited with family and friends all day and it was great. It still has not sunk in that I am home for good yet. I was so eager to go home and sleep in my own bed. My house is empty except for my bed and some clothes as everything is still in storage, but it is my bed and it felt great to snuggle up between the pillows and drift off to sleep, even by myself.

Around 4 am I woke up to the sound of a gun shot. I wasn't sweaty and breathing hard or anything. I didn't jump up screaming. I didn't think Hadji had followed me home. I just woke up when I heard someone shooting. I live in the country so it is not unusual to hear gun shots. Ususally they are mine.

I laid there a few minutes and listened for more. I went and turned the heater down a bit and heading back to bed in the darkness I saw a man with a flashlight walk past my bedroom window. I paused for a moment and watched as he started shining his light in my other window. Then my heart was beating out of my chest and I ran through many scenerios in my head.

I was unarmed that time and mentally scanned my surroundings for options. I had a flashlight a few feet away on the nightstand and a clothes hanger rod in the closet to my right. Being unarmed, suprise would be my best defense. He was close, peering through the window. If I ran fast, I could jump through the window and tackle him. All of these things ran through my head in the couple seconds it took him to pass from one side of the window to the other.

I decided to go for my flashlight; I could blind him, then hit him with it. I held my flashlight tight and cautiously pulled my blinds apart to get a good look. Across the field, I saw a car pulling out from my neighbors house. The headlights played tricks through the trees and I watched it start to pull away.

Here's the thing though, even after I knew it was a car and not some guy outside my window, I still walked from room to room and watched the car until it got to the paved road and drove away. I went back to bed and tried to sleep, but every noise alerted me. I was never attacked (except by rockets). I can't explain why I am so jumpy.

I feel so stupid when I think about it. I actually thought about jumping through my bedroom window to tackle someone! I couldn't sleep for a while after that. I had to turn on my MP3 player and put my headphones on to drown out all the things that go bump in the night. I wasn't afraid, that is not it. I think I can only decribe it as startled; repeatedly, involuntarily startled and I hate it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Finally Home

Sometimes it seemed like the day would never come, but just over a week ago, we arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Cheers erupted as the plane touched down. An Army band played as we walked off the plane to board the awaiting buses. The trip through town to the reception hall was led by a police escort.

Cars honked and people waved. One of the things that struck me most was an elderly man standing by the road holding a big American flag. With is chest poked out and chin held high, he held a salute as we passed by. There was no one close by, just him, displaying his gratitude for our service and I imagine maybe remembering his own.

We arrived at the reception center and lined up outside. Our luggage was still on the bus, this was a quick stop. As we marched in the band played and families and quests stood and cheered. I was excited when I spotted my dad and Aunt Jo in the crowd as I didn't think anyone would be there. The speeches were suprisingly short and we were released for brief hugs and kisses.

After the initial welcome, we went to the barracks, received our assigned rooms, got a briefing to remind us not to do any drinking and then we were released for the night to visit with family in preparation to start demobilization the next morning.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Kicking it in Kuwait

We got the the terminal and I had checked all my bags (including my jackets). It was a quick 2 or 3 hours until I would be in Kuwait and the weather wasn't that bad. Well, as I have learned many times in the military, expect the unexpected!

My 3 hour wait ended up being an all-nighter! The weather got worse and we were all corraled in the holding tent. It was dusty, loud and cold. The hours ticked by and we were manifested for a different plane. Since we had already been checked and our bags were already palletized, I was unable to get to my jacket.

At some point, the power went out and what warmth we did have from the not so efficient heaters quickly chilled. The wind blew wildly outside and all the flaps, ropes and doors beat against the tent in an annoying, irregular orchestra.

A dozen or so soldiers lay sprawled out on the concrete floor. Some used duffle bags or their kevlar vests as pillows. I tried to sleep a time or two, but I don't think I actually slept until I hit my cot in Kuwait. It was now well past 10pm and we had arrived shortly after 7am. The weather wasn't cooperating, but we received good news that it was supposed to clear and we should be airborne around 3am.

We had also heard that the booms from the night before were just controlled detonations and not Hadji. Why they decided to do controlled dets in the middle of the night in a war zone is beyond me, but hey. The weather had cleared and we were getting close to time to board the plane. A loud boom thundered through the tent and we all laughed and hollered. The sirens again sounded and this time it was not a drill.

A couple other rockets landed and the TV cut to the emergency screen and we were told the base was on lockdown til 6am. I was welcomed into Iraq with a rocket attack and I was sent out of Iraq with an attack as well. We had been done with missions and the mess of this war for over a week and I had almost forgotten that we are still fighting a war here.

We arrived in Kuwait 28 hours after our journey began and I was finally able to get my jacket and a place to sleep. The kicker is that it is only a 45 minute flight.

I have been in Kuwait for a few days and our leadership has suprisingly left us alone to enjoy the last few days we have in theater. It has been a relaxing, refreshing time and a very well deserved break from all we have been through this past year.

For me and my brothers, tomorrow we will begin our journey back to the US and A; back into the arms of family and friends.