GOING BACK |
March 10, 2014
Name: Maj. Douglas D. Templeton
Returned from: Afghanistan
Returning to: Afghanistan, Fall 2014
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
I recently was informed that I will be going back to Afghanistan after a several-year hiatus. Since I left there in 2007, I have been TDY* many other places but have so far managed to avoid going back into the sandbox. I have many mixed emotions about this trip, as does my family.
I did not truly understand the toll my deployment took on them until well after my return. My daughter was 13 when I left and was in the typical teenage phase of independence. Showing concern for her parents was not cool! She had grown up and out of overt showings of affection. But several months after I got back we were driving home one evening in the car and she started to cry and tell me how afraid she had been and how it was still affecting her.
It was a tough moment for me as I thought we had moved on and everything was back to normal. But clearly she had not been able to process the feelings she experienced. It took some time, but I think she found peace through communication and reflection. She’s 21 now and has a six-month-old, our first granddaughter, and I have to wonder how she will do with this next deployment. We have not talked much about it yet since it is still a few months away. But this time I know we have to have the conversation before I leave. Hopefully she will understand the risk and is better able to process her feelings now that she has matured.
My wife is probably the one who hides her feelings the best. She always has a positive attitude about it; however I know she has her moments. During my last deployment, we lived in base housing right around the corner from the Chaplin. As you may or may not know, when a service member is lost, the Commander, Chaplin, and Casualty Assistance Officer come to the door to give the family the news. One afternoon she looked out the window and saw the Chaplin’s car pull up in front of the house, and immediately assumed the worst. She told me she just sat on the floor and cried. After a few moments when no one knocked on the door she hesitantly looked back out the window and saw that the car had left. It was an immediate rollercoaster of emotions she was not prepared for. He had actually only pulled over to take a phone call. After she shared her story with his wife, he is now acutely aware of his actions and the perception of others.
So far she has taken the news in stride and since I will be less at risk with this particular tasking (an old guy more rank kind of thing) I can still see apprehension in her eyes. But she is a trooper and will support me no matter what. She is the rock that keeps our family grounded. She has multiple degrees in psychology and certainly has taught us to cope with these situations over the years.
Many who knew me from my posts back then know that there were four of us (Doug Traversa, Mike Toomer, Drew Morton, and myself) who lived together in the same B-Hut, and at one point all of us had contributed to the Sandbox and three of us were in the book of the same name. Doug Traversa has since retired, Drew Morton decided to leave the Air force and get married, and Mike Toomer is now a JAG and still on active duty.
I had always heard from those who served during war that friendships struck in a combat zone are the strongest, and I would have to agree. These men have become my brothers, and I couldn’t imagine not being friends and keeping up with where we have gone since B-Hut R-5, Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan. Mike was back in Afghanistan a couple years ago and visited our old home and found it pretty much how we left it, including the cartoons I decorated the plywood walls with.
I have mixed emotions about this particular trip. Part of me is actually looking forward to going back and possibly seeing some of the Afghans I worked with so many years ago. Part of me craves the thrill of being in a combat zone; the hyper vigilance required to reduce the risk. Also, knowing that my focus is narrowed and that my purpose is clear and all my effort is towards a singular goal. Distractions become limited and I have so much more control over my life.
The flip side is that in some ways I also have no control. The divine plan will play out and I will just be along for the ride. I have gotten older and hopefully wiser over the years, and I no longer fear what I cannot control. What’s the point? Why waste the energy? Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking crazy here and I do have a healthy love for my own existence, I’m just saying do what you can and don’t sweat the rest; use that energy towards your end game.
As I said earlier, I am more advanced in years now and this deployment will be less risky than last time. I will not be outside the wire nearly as much. War is a young man’s game and I am not as spry as I used to be. I am happy with a limited role. So once more, off I go into the breach. I can now say I have a better grasp of what I am getting into and a better understanding of the mission and my place in it. There are many who have made several trips, and I respect them for doing so. I have been lucky to have been needed elsewhere instead. We all have our parts to play and this time I only have a supporting role -- but there is an Oscar for that too.
* TDY: Temporary Duty