I’ve only been home a month and I still haven’t finished my blog. I’m sure by now no one will even log on to read my final musings so this is more for posterity.
I can’t begin to describe the feelings of getting on the plane in Gulfport, MS (Camp Shelby) knowing that it was the final leg to going home, excitement being an understatement. This time being a senior officer was a disadvantage as we boarded last so I ended up sitting in a middle seat, but you know what, I didn’t mind. The senior officers had been pampered the entire trip so it was someone else’s turn and besides, it was the last leg of the journey so I could put up with the dreaded middle seat for a few hours. Because we had to get up at “zero-dark-thirty” (0330) in order to get to the airport I was actually able to sleep for the majority of the trip so that made it pass quickly.
As we began our descent into the Salt Lake Valley you could feel the excitement build inside the plane. Looking out the window I could begin to see familiar sights and that only added to the excitement. When the wheels of the plane touched down, a cheer erupted throughout the plane. We were home at last. Once again, the flight attendants were so great. They thanked us profusely for our service.
As we taxied towards the Air Guard terminal, two fire trucks greeted us with a tunnel of water, similar to what we were greeted with in Dallas. It was just as cool the second time as it was the first time.
The plane finally came to a stop about 100 yards from the actual terminal. Just as in Shelby, we had to go through the meet and greet from all the dignitaries. What an honor it was to be honored by the Generals, the Colonel’s and state officials. (Governor Huntsman was not there so sent the Lieutenant Governor instead.)
Then came the walk/run to meet my family. About half of the plane had disembarked by the time it was my turn. As I walked towards the crowd of people I was scanning the crowd looking for Luke, since he would have been the tallest of the group. I was not to be disappointed. He was there holding a sign, along with Janae, Seth, Braxton, Lyman and Donna Durfee (my –inlaws), and Dallin, Memorie, Miranda and James Durfee. They had all sorts of signs. Seth’s said “The car is mine” in reference to his dillusion that my car that he’s been driving the last year is really his and Braxton’s said “I’m taller than Mom.” Janae's was the only one expressing any kind of sentiment (OK, "I Love You" is a good sentiment, but nothing at all sentimental from the boys - go figure!) (Not a lot of pictures as they had the video camera going.)
As I embraced my wonderful wife and sons it was such a surreal experience. Of course it hadn’t really hit me that I was home, that would come much later. It seemed more like being home on leave only in the back of my mind I knew I was home for good. But still, it didn’t seem like a reality yet.
We were afraid that they were going to make us stick around to listen to the dignitaries give a speech but fortunately we were spared that “agony” and were allowed to simply go home. For once, somebody was thinking.
I’ve already written about the reception that I got at home. I still get choked up when I think of all those flags, the time that was spent putting them up and what they represented. I hated to see them come down but after several days they did. I really missed them. Before I left last year I hung a brand new flag in front of our house. As you can imagine, hanging there the entire time I was gone, it was a little bit faded, sort of like my uniforms, but proud, nonetheless. Next summer on Flag Day it will receive a proper “retirement” befitting it’s station.
I know that I should have written this when it was all fresh. Time has faded somewhat the actual feelings I had and went through but suffice it to say it was good to be home.
We got home on Thursday, Friday we spent the morning at Camp Williams going through the demobilization process. That was actually less painful than I thought it was going to be and for that I was grateful. I was done shortly after lunch and home early.
Janae had planned an Open House for me on Saturday night. I wore my “man jimmies” and with my broken tooth felt like a real Afghan. So many people made wonderful treats that I easily put on a few pounds just sampling one of everything. The best part though, were all the people who stopped by. Once again I was really humbled by the outpouring of love and friendship. With so many people coming to see me I didn’t get to spend much time with anyone in particular but figured that would happen in the coming weeks and months. It was just so great to see everyone. Janae really did a great job in planning and I’m truly grateful to her for her thoughtfulness.
So what’s it been like being home? Great, wonderful, frustrating, challenging; all those emotions. It wasn’t like being home on leave and I’m not sure why. I think because we knew that leave was for a short, finite period of time the emotions were different. This time, we knew it was for a long time, hopefully forever, so maybe that’s why it felt different. As the weeks have gone by it’s been an adjustment for all of us. Janae no longer had the entire bed to herself and had to put up with having a husband around. The boys had to fit me back into their lives and that wasn’t always easy.
Because we didn’t get home until after the boys were back in school, we never got a summer vacation. I had been saving for and planning on one for the entire deployment and to be robbed of that time together as a family was sorely disappointing. We tried to make up for it by going to Park City one day but Seth couldn’t come so while we had a good time it was not what I had wanted or expected. Some guys simply pulled their kids out of school but with Seth at the “Y”, Luke in 11th grade and Braxton in 8th, I just couldn’t do that to them. They hate making up homework, plus they didn’t want to get out of school. In fact, Luke and Braxton didn’t want to come to the airport to meet me for fear of missing school and having to make up homework. How’s that for love?
We had been briefed that we needed to be careful about our expectations. Being gone for so long you imagine what it’s going to be like, what you hope it’s going to be like and what you expect it to be like and no matter how many people tell you it’s going to be different, you don’t believe them. Well I can tell you that the briefers were right. It was not what I expected.
Your family has learned to get along without you and so it’s hard to fit back in. Your friends have moved on with their lives and while you’ll always be friends, it’s not the same as it once was. I don’t mean to sound so negative, because being home is the greatest thing, it’s jus that it’s not what I expected. See there, that expectations thing.
The first two weeks were actually pretty hard but things have gotten better. As I’ve gone back to work and have started to find my rhythm again, life is slowly feeling more normal. In fact my time spent in Afghanistan is becoming almost like a dream. I still dream about Afghanistan – what’s really weird, is that I’ve had the most vivid, memorable dreams since I’ve been home. I’ve never been one to really remember my dreams but since being home I’ve had the strangest dreams that have lingered with me for several hours after I’ve woken up. That’s another thing we were told would happen, the dreams and in some cases nightmares, so once again, the briefers have been proven right.
Let me just say though, that being home has been great despite the challenges.
So now what? Even though I haven’t written for the month I’ve been home I’ve missed writing. I’m not sure that the musings of a civilian will be of interest to anyone after this so I’m not sure what to do. I thought of creating a new blog page and writing about my life as a city prosecutor but I’ll have to give that some thought. Janae has told me that several of our neighbors who read my blog have started their own blogs. Good for them. Maybe I just need to keep writing for my own posterity. We’ll see.
In any event, I want to thank all of you have kept up with my writings and who have left comments. I’ve enjoyed the comments almost more than anything. So with that said, God Bless!