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.


September 16, 2013

Name: 1SG James L. Gibson
Returned from: Afghanistan
Hometown: Forest Grove, Oregon
Milblog: The Life of Top

It’s been a while and I figure I owe everyone an update on what has been going on since my return from Afghanistan. One thing is for certain, the train didn’t slow down any upon our return. It seemed as if every day was filled with certain tasks that needed to be accomplished (tasks that were dreamed up by a good idea fairy) in preparation for our eventual block leave period.

One thing that was different this time from all of my other deployments was that we were not afforded the opportunity to take leave immediately upon our return; we had to wait nearly two months before we were allowed to go on vacation. Nonetheless, my Troop was able to accomplish all required tasks and go on a much needed vacation.

Katrin, our girls, and I have been going 100 mph since my return. It wasn’t until just this last Monday that we could just sit around and do nothing. Here is a quick rundown of what has been going on.

16 June:  Return from Afghanistan. We were released for a 96-hour pass once we landed. The first day home we ate dinner at the Ram and went home early; jet lag was kicking my ass. The next two days were spent at the Great Wolf Lodge with the last day of pass being spent getting unpacked and prepared for work. Each weekend we planned out something to do, mostly centered around the girls (zoo, parks, walks, shows, etc.).

4th of July weekend we spent at our family’s beach house in Manzanita, Oregon. Every weekend after that was spent somewhere doing something.

August 8:  Squadron Ball. It was a super success and Katrin and I had a great time. I really enjoy those events. I was able to enjoy some gin/tonics and maintain my composure enough to MC the event. That night was the last night of “work” and our vacation started the next day.

August 9:  Packed all day in preparation for the flight to LA the next day.

August 10–15 we spent in LA doing the Disneyland / Universal Studios / Malibu Beach / Santa Monica Pier / Hollywood thing. We paid for the guided tour but found that we had a better time finding stuff on our own. We would put the address into the GPS and just go…. Such a great time.

We returned home the night of the 15th and left for Oregon the next morning. It was my 20 year HS reunion that night. We linked up with my two best friends from Forest Grove and their wives, hit the reunion, and drank much. The gin/tonics were flowing freely that night. It was cool catching up with some of the old gang. I really need to keep in better touch with some of them.

We stayed the night in Forest Grove and then headed out to the beach to visit my Grandparents. We stayed out there for a few hours and then made the four-hour drive home. We were really looking forward to it as it was the beginning of the “Do NOTHING” period of our vacation. Unfortunately I picked up a nasty bug and was really sick for about 4 days (still only about 90% right now).

Went to a Mariners game last night. King Felix was on the mound. They lost. Had a great time anyway. Katrin is really getting into the game, Kiersten loves being at the park, and Tabea had a good time too. Made it home before midnight and everyone was asleep once we got back.

Today I am enjoying the calm-before-the-storm. I am getting ready to paint the interior of our house. Katrin has decided on some colors and I am going to go crazy tomorrow. I am going to rent a power sprayer, kick the girls out of the house for the day, and get busy.

Other than that, it’s really good to be home. My adjustment from deployment to home-life has been much less stressful this time around. I was talking with Katrin about it the other day. The only problem I have noticed is that I am still quick to want to tell someone exactly how I feel. While deployed, one of the benefits of being a First Sergeant is that I can tell someone off if they are doing something stupid; it doesn’t matter if I know them or not. An example while deployed: “Hey dumbass, how about you not camp out in the exit door, and let everyone through?” I have had to catch myself on a few occasions while out in the civilian sector as I was about to uncork on someone for doing something dumb, and change it to a “Pardon me, can I get by please?” Other than that, I am doing great, my girls are doing great, and I am glad to be back home.

As we get back to work in a few weeks I will write more. I will share the next experience in our lives as we prepare for the eventual shut-down and relocation of our Brigade. A move from Washington to another state (Colorado most likely) is possible by next Summer. Till then, I am going to get knee deep in some “Swiss Coffee White” and some “Porpoise Grey”!


I am so thankful for people like you who have a passion to serve our country. It is neat to see that you got to spend quality time with your family. Coming from a family with all girls, I know how important time spent with my dad is. I am glad your girls get the same opportunity. May God bless you on all your journeys.

It must have been exciting to finally get to come home to your family. It sounds like you all had quite a fun, eventful time over a few months time period. I bet going to Disneyland was very fun! It's great to know there are amazing people like yourself serving this country. Thank you for your service!

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, I almost felt your pain when you explained to us how hard adjusting from deployment to home life is. I think that just give it time and you will be familiar with the situation. Keep your head up and thank you for serving our country!

I am very glad you are home with your family and I'm sure your girls are thrilled to have you back. It sounds like you have been very busy since you have been home and I hope in the next couple weeks you can find some time to relax. Thank you so much for serving and protecting our country!

I'm glad you are home safe and sound with your family. I want to thank you for having the courage and strength to serve and protect our country. It means more to people than you realize. I'm sure you don't get thanked as often as you should, but know you're very appreciated.

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