March 11, 2009
Welcome Back... For Now
It is a strange thing to come back from that world to this one. They would be hard-pressed to be less similar. The world in Iraq is a world of work: from the time you wake until the time you lie down is uninterrupted labor. Thirteen hour days are normal, fifteen not unusual, longer yet not shocking. There is no weekend, though you may be given a few hours of Sunday morning for worship services if you like. There is otherwise no rest of any kind. Every moment is employed.
It is also a world of crisis. The war has reached the point at which it is, frankly, no longer a war at all: it is now what is properly called a Foreign Internal Defense mission. The war is over. Yet the crises continue, because now there are new problems -- like how to reduce forces. The brigade I work with is now occupying the space of what was, a year ago, four brigades' space -- a division. When it arrived, it had one brigade's space, then three (as it replaced a brigade that had already assumed a second brigade's battlespace), then four. The operating environment has constantly expanded as it has taken over land where other brigades were leaving and not being backfilled. The planning and logistical and operational challenges of that kind of continual movement and expansion are not small.
It is also a world without tenderness, although there is plenty of companionship between comrades. At home, when you grow tired or sad or any of a host of other things, there is a wife or a loved-one to comfort you. At least there is a dog or a cat! Not so in Iraq, where there is no whining permitted. Drive on.
This is what my husband said about his year over there.
I remember a few months before he came back. Every now and then he would send me photos: him in a Humvee in some caravan, in a helicopter, standing in the palace with a group of Marines, watching an impromptu wrestling match.
I watched his face change slowly over the months. On the phone or in emails he was always upbeat and uncomplaining, but in each photo (though he was smiling) I watched helplessly as his smile morphed into a grimace and the tight expression around his eyes deepened. Finally, one day as I sat in the living room talking to my parents, tears just began running down my face.
I was powerless to stop them. I thought he was dying; that something was very, very wrong. All the fears I'd bottled up for the past 9 months just washed over me like a summer storm.
And then just as suddenly, they were gone.
Go welcome him back. For now.
Posted by Cassandra at March 11, 2009 02:54 PM
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You know, I watched the same thing happen to MacGyver last time though I didn't know enough to put words to it until now. And, in looking back over the pictures he sent throughout his time there, I see it. You can literally watch the smile fade from his eyes in each successive picture.
It was obviously a quiet despair.
Posted by: HomefrontSix at March 11, 2009 03:38 PM
All I can say is that it slow roasts your soul...
Posted by: vet66 at March 11, 2009 04:59 PM
All I can say is that this nation is blessed in its fighting men and women, as well as all those in support. You all rock.
Posted by: Cassandra at March 11, 2009 05:02 PM
Ditto from a geezer in the cheap seats.
Posted by: bthun at March 11, 2009 05:24 PM