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.


April 19, 2010

Name: CPT Mark Martin
Posting date: 4/19/10
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: New Hope, MN
Milblog: 270 Days in Afghanistan 

Coming home was quite the ordeal. Being home was something else altogether.

I can't convey to you in words the feeling you have when you arrive home and see your loved ones after having been gone for a while. It is like nothing else you can imagine. I recently had a chance to come home on leave and spend some time with the most important people in my world. While I was home, I occasionally wrote down some of the things I was feeling and/or thinking. I'd like to share some of those with you...

I can remember seeing beautiful scenes as the sun set on the desert in Iraq, or just dipped behind the mountains in Afghanistan. But I have never seen anything so beautiful as the first rays of a new dawn touching the face of the most beautiful woman in my world.

I am watching my son as I stand at the front of his 8th grade history class. I have returned home and come to his school to surprise him, and he is manfully blinking back tears. Eighth grade boys do not cry at school. I see all the mixed sadness, happiness and disbelief in his eyes, and I don't think I have ever loved him more than I do at this moment in time.

She screams, "Daddy!" and immediately slams into me with the fiercest hug she has ever given me. Fifth grade girls cry unabashedly when their father comes home from Afghanistan to surprise them at school. I love being ambushed by all her classmates' questions as she holds on to me for the rest of the class. I wonder how much longer the little girl will hold sway over the young woman, and I worry about that first time when I will accidentally embarrass her in front of her friends.

The whole rear end of the dog wags, not just the tail. It is the funniest and most enjoyable thing to see after having been away from them for so long. It doesn't last long, they have to go pee now. The cats are more reserved and aloof. They raise their eyebrows and cant their ears as if to say, "And where the hell have you been?"

I am looking around my house and trying to count the number of people who have come to the surprise party that Holly has managed to pull off behind my back. I smile and soak in all their hugs and well wishes as I welcome them inside. I am astounded that there are this many people who will actually admit that they know me.

I am sure that sitting in bed at 9:30 on a Friday night and watching figure skating pairs on the Olympics with my wife violates some guy code somewhere, but I really don't care. I would rather not be anywhere else in the world right now than here.

Movie date night is pure magic. There is nothing better. Can't even remember what we saw because it's not important. The important thing is the son or daughter I am with on either respective night. They are the coolest people in the world, and I can't believe I get to be their father.

I love the way she looks at me. It is a look that says she belongs to me and no one else. She is talking to our friends across the arena and smiling at me as if she has just told them about one of the dumb things I did. She is, and always has been, the goddess to me.

We are laughing. It is one of those laughs that catches everyone just right and sends us all into
collapsible fits while we gasp for breath. It is all about this short moment in time, and tomorrow we might not ever remember that we laughed about it, but right now it is the most important thing in the world. And man is it funny.

We are crying. It is one of those times that you knew was coming, but avoided thinking about because you didn't want to ruin the time you had left. There are too many things to say, and so we say only that we love each other and that we will see each other again soon. And then the moment is gone, and once again I am alone.

Life continues. In a few months I will be home, and this will be yet another experience to put in my
memories. This mission and these people here in Afghanistan are worth my personal sacrifice. But I can't help thinking that you don't love home like you love home when only get to spend two weeks out of the whole year there.

As of Summer 2010 I will have spent three of the last five years away from the people I love, and this year I have officially been in the service for 20 years. Time for some reflection...


Wow -- I love your capture of those special moments that we ofen forget to notice -- Thank you to you and your family for your amazing service to our country. Come home safe and enjoy even those times that your daughter is embarrassed by you (for isn't that a parents' job?). Thank you again for all that you do for us.

It's magic, coming home on leave... You want to cram so much into the time, and it never lasts long enough... You soak in the sensations that you've been missing, sights, sound, smells, feelings that anchor you while you're half a world away...
And then you get to come home for good...
Safe journeys.

Yeah, that girl/woman thing. The first thing you do; Admit you're powerless. Encourage and permit behaviors you like. Discourage and forbid the behaviors you want. Accept the rebellion, rage, denial, outright lies, verbal abuse.

The first cut is the deepest. Right to the heart, as the vision of the pretty little ten year old girl in the nice outfit, turns into a screaming, eye rolling, disrespectful, unreasonable, teenage girl.

I'm just sayin'. When your girl hits 13-14, you will start losing your brains. In about ten years, she'll be 23, and you will have a brain again. At least that's how it works in my circles. So cheer-up. Eventually, she will see how rediculous she's been behaving..



Wow... that was breathtakingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. You have really shined a light on "ordinary" life and reminded me that it is "extraordinary." Thank you for the tears and the smiles - the ones you shared, and the ones I had after reading it. I look forward to reading your thoughts when you come home again.
And by the way... that girl/woman thing? We never forget it either. No matter what we call you (Dad, Father, Pop, etc)... in our heads, you're always Daddy. I treasure mine; you'll always be that to your daughter. :-) (even if we don't admit it in public)

I've been that little girl, totally surprised and overwhelmed by a father's visit home on leave from Vietnam. I'm in my mid 40's and I'll never forget. He'll always be my Daddy and I'll always be his little girl. Selective memory, I'm sure, but I don't remember ever being embarrassed by him.

Thanks for letting me see that moment from the other side.

Thank you for your service. Come home safely!!

Wow! I even enjoyed many of the warm comments describing your awesome take on our simple lives while you sacrifice to keep it that way. Awesome writer, son, husband, father, brother, neighbor, fellow citizen of the (not there yet, though) United States of America. Hope wakes us up in the morning. So we keep trying to learn how to celebrate, instead of tolerate, each other. That's the least we can do who are left here to sustain what makes this country great. Live, love, laugh...but also, watch & pray 'til that day of victory is here which will mark the beginning of eternity. Every word, & deed today will determine our place in that eternity. I hope we all choose life. My hubby & I are Veterans and appreciate your service. Come home safe.

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