The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

I WASN'T PREPARED |

December 11, 2007

I WASN'T PREPARED
Name: Old Blue
Posting date: 12/11/07
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Milblog url: billandbobsadventure.blogspot.com

I had to hurry to get to Atlanta by 1300 so that I could in-process for a flight that boards at 1815 this evening. Typical. Hurry up and wait. God bless the United States Army.

The wonderful people of the USO provide free wireless internet, which I am now gratefully using to post to the Adventure as I wait for my flight back to the war.

I had prepared for saying goodbye to my children. I set a calm and cheerful example, and being prepared for it kept my emotions more manageable. My kids did pretty well with it, and I'm pretty sure that being calm myself really made a difference for them. I was prepared to say goodbye to my family. It's not easy, but it's something that you know is coming. It's like when you know that you're going to get an innoculation; the pain isn't a surprise.

I was prepared for traveling in uniform. Every soldier has been out in the public in uniform and knows that feeling of being something of a curiosity. It's like being a circus clown; people don't see the person inside, they just see a circus clown.

When people see you in uniform in public, they just see a soldier. That's why we have the responsibility to maintain the dignity of our uniform.

I would like to say that I've been nothing but supported when people have seen that soldier and it's me inside. People have said many kind and supportive things. People have shaken my hand and wished me luck. People have told me that they pray for me and for all of us (prayers are always welcome!).

But I wasn't prepared for what happened today.

As my flight from Cincinnati to Atlanta was beginning its descent, the flight attendant began her normal spiel about landing and gates, and assistance finding your connecting flights and so on. Then she announced that I was on board and on my way back to Afghanistan after spending two weeks with my family.

The plane erupted into applause. I was stunned.

I nearly burst into tears. My emotions, barely contained under the thin fabric of my ACU uniform, rushed towards the surface and nearly made it out. Somehow, I managed to keep it all together, but it was close.

We arrived in Atlanta with only about half an hour before my report time to the USO for processing for my flight to Shannon, Ireland and then Kuwait. I had to get a quick nicotine fix and find something to eat. At the USO they formed us up, probably 200 or more of us, and took us downstairs in two long lines. Soldiers and Marines paired two by two in a long line snaked through the airport towards the Army Personnel Command desk to do our formalities. As we wove through the airport, the throngs of travelers began to applaud.

I wasn't prepared for that, either. Again, I struggled not to lose it. It was like cracking the seal on a warm, freshly shaken coke. All the bubbles rush towards the cap, bringing the contents of the bottle along. That's what it felt like. I managed to keep all my fluids contained; but it was another close call.

How could I be so prepared for saying goodbye to my children that I could put a brave and cheerful face on, and nearly lose it when perfect strangers applaud?

Comments

That's cool you can handle that kind of attention well. I'm not like that at all, and I tend to enjoy remaining anonymously in the shadows. Travel safe!

Sometimes, from what I've read here, it's difficult for you guys to realize that while we don't, do NOT want, or agree with the war - we darned well DO love and support you!!! We want you to live - happily, peacefully and long!!!

I am sooo very glad you had this experience of total acceptance!!! Suck it in and enjoy it!

God bless you and keep you!

I've witnessed the same scene you describe at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport several times and have been moved to tears each of them. It seemed such a small gesture of respect from my perspective, so it's good to hear about it from yours.

God Bless you and your buddies from a proud Navy wife!!!

As I sit here reading The Sandbox and counting the last 50 min. of my work hour (I am really busy as you can tell) tears ran down my face. You guys are really appriciated and I am glad that people are showing it. I just wish I could have been there to see it..... Stay safe and God Bless

Yes, you are appreciated, perhaps far more than you realize. Even by those of us who are furious at the situation you've been put into.
Stay safe.

I too have been in the Atlanta airport as soldiers come through and have felt the tears come as I witnessed the reaction of the travelers. It always makes me proud to see fellow soldiers recognized and appreciated. Hooah

The strangers know what you are going off to, they want you to go with their good spirits, wishes and prayers - what you don't understand is that they are sure you are going to do a wonderful job they will be proud of, which is not what they expect from the politicians in Washington of either persuassion. I know you will do a fine job, and your children will be waiting for every bit of you that you can send them. Take care out there.

It seems to me that some people are missing the point. you are going to Afghanistan, a place where our military should be, trying to find bin Laden. You are not going to a place where we should not be - Iraq. At any rate, it is good to see our military get the proper respect, unlike the experience we Vietnam vets had.

By now you are on your way, or already there. But in either case, I hope the show of respect and appreciation stays with you in the tough days ahead. Please remember your country loves all of you and what you fight for. God Bless!

By now you are on your way, or already there. But in either case, I hope the show of respect and appreciation stays with you in the tough days ahead. Please remember your country loves all of you and what you fight for. God Bless!

I, too, am brought to tears both by the gesture and by your expression.

I suppose what is so overwhelming is the fact that at those moments, regardless of our political persuasion, there is a solidarity of men.

The tragedy is that the solidarity is so quickly lost, for the truth is, we all depend upon each other for survival and happiness. And you are being sent to do your job, and you will it well. But your job, like that of your adversaries, is to disrupt that basic equilibrium.

Be well.

I, too, am brought to tears both by the gesture and by your expression.

I suppose what is so overwhelming is the fact that at those moments, regardless of our political persuasion, there is a solidarity of men.

The tragedy is that the solidarity is so quickly lost, for the truth is, we all depend upon each other for survival and happiness. And you are being sent to do your job, and you will it well. But your job, like that of your adversaries, is to disrupt that basic equilibrium.

Be well.

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