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.


June 02, 2010

Name: Charlie Sherpa
Posting date: 6/2/10
Deploying to: Afghanistan
Hometown: Boone, Iowa
Milblog: Red Bull Rising
Email: Sherpa at

I've taken to calling them "ball-peen hammer" moments, these times when some sudden thought regarding overseas deployment smacks me right between the eyes, and leaves me smarting, blinking back tears.

Last week, it was "Kindergarten Roundup" for students in our school district. Parents and their
soon-to-be-students visited the elementary school for about 45 minutes one afternoon. We got to meet teachers, check out the library and classrooms, and ask any last-minute questions. Oh, and there were cookies, too.

The principal is a former teacher of kindergarten. From across the room, you can feel the love she and her staff have for their jobs, as well as their young charges. She calls the students "kiddos," rather than students. I'll take that alone as evidence that she likes her job, likes kids, and is confident about both.

"You may think that they look too young and small right now," the principal says, a little randomly, "but you'll be amazed about how much older and more mature they'll seem by the end of the year."

Ouch. Hammer-time.

I'm stumbling around blinking for the next couple of minutes, particularly as I watch my little warrior-princess lead the charge toward the classrooms. Yes, I'd already registered the fact that I wouldn't be around for Lena's first day of school, but intellectual preparation apparently has little to do with emotional preparation. The principal's off-handed remark brought home the fact that I'd be missing much more than the first day: I'll be missing hundreds of days of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Hundreds of bedtime stories and school projects. Hundreds of lost moments and little victories.

I'll miss watching Lena grow up to be a first-grader.

Because of this elementary epiphany, I'm glad I took the opportunity to leave work for an hour, so that I could see where Lena will go to school. I even managed to snap a few quick pictures of Lena in her new classroom, as well as of her posing in front of her new school. I'll pack those pictures away in my rucksack for later, for when both of us face our big first days alone.

It's a big world, and there's lots to learn.


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