May 07, 2013

Name:  1SG James L. Gibson
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Forest Grove, Oregon
Milblog: The Life of Top
Email: James.l.gibson@afghan.swa.army.mil 

I am now a paid writer! Military1.com has hired me to write articles about my deployment for them. The editor of the website found my blog through a follower and asked if I would be interested. The editor sent me a link with a recent article that was posted on their website so I knew what kind of articles they were looking for. The article was about Soldiers returning from deployment and the welcome home ceremony. I shot the link to Katrin and asked her opinion (as all good husbands do) and we decided to take the plunge!

That article got Katrin and I to discuss my homecoming. She had asked if I wanted a bunch of people there to welcome me home and when I told her yes, it got me thinking... Do I really? The more I thought about it, the less I want people there. You see, all I want to do is get reintegrated with my wife and daughters. They are the ones that I love most, will spend the rest of my life with, and need to get back to some sort of normalcy with. It’s not that I don’t want to see friends and family, it’s just that I won’t have the energy or focus that you all deserve. All my attention needs to be on my wife and daughters.

I have spent every day of this deployment missing things.

I miss drinking water from the tap.
I miss brushing my teeth with tap water.
I miss walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night without having to get in the “proper” uniform.
I miss taking a shower without flip-flops.
I miss going to the bathroom and doing my business on my toilet and not having to hear the guy next to me handle his business in the stall next to me.
I miss taking HOT showers.
I miss taking HOT showers for longer than 3 minutes (time limit here on showers).
I miss being able to dry off in the shower without worrying about my towel hitting the floor and sucking up the nasty stagnant water on the ground.
I miss not having to worry about carrying my weapon everywhere.
I miss good food.
I miss driving my car.
I miss taking road trips down to Oregon to visit my friends, drink way too much, and reminisce about the old days.
I miss FRESH fruits and veggies.
I miss fresh air.
I miss silence (we have the constant hum of generators here).
I miss my comfortable bed.
I miss the colors of the Pacific NW (everything is dirt brown here).
I miss trees.
I miss grass.
I miss blue water and the ocean.

But most of all, I miss my wife and daughters.
I miss the way Kiersten comes running to the door with a big smile on her face to hug me when I get home.
I miss getting to be there for Tabea during key events in her life.
I am missing the first 7 months of Amelie’s life.
I miss EVERYTHING about my wife.

I have gone without all these things for the past seven months and like all other deployments, they all will hammer my senses when I return home. No longer will I have to be hyper alert or worry about my Soldiers being shot or blown up, I will be trying my best to function correctly in society. It will take some time, but the event that deserves the most time is that of reintegrating with my wife and daughters. When they finally release me to my family, it will be at the culmination of a week’s worth of stressful events.

As the First Sergeant I will be responsible for the re-deployment of a couple of hundred Soldiers during the trek home. The trip will start with ensuring that everyone has their proper equipment, weapons, and have cleared their living areas. We will board aircraft and fly to another base where we will turn-in more equipment, clear, and sit around for approximately a week. This is the time that Soldiers like to do stupid stuff and get in trouble. We leaders need to stay engaged and keep them focused. After nearly a week of sitting around we will fly to another country to turn in the last of our equipment and conduct a mandatory three-day “cool-down” period. To add fuel to the fire, Soldiers are allowed to drink a maximum of two beers. Again, I will be spending most of my time ensuring Soldiers are not trying to get too out of hand.

After the three day period of living in open bays, bored out of our minds, we will finally load a plane for the 12+ hour flight home. Once the bird lands back in Washington we will unload the plane, turn in weapons, receive briefings, and then be thrown back on busses and taken to the gym where our family members will be waiting. We will stand in formation, a VIP will say great and wonderful things about us (in which most of us won’t hear as we are scanning the crowd looking for our loved ones), and then we will finally be released to go home.

As much as I would love to have lots of people waiting for me, all I want is my wife and daughters. They deserve my 100% attention for a while, a good while. They have been at home, waiting on me for the last seven months, worried, and have been anxiously waiting for my arrival home every second that I have been gone. I want to go home, take a long hot shower, and then get to know my wife and daughters again. I want to hold Amelie, my seven-month-old baby that only knew me for a few days before I left. I want to talk with Kiersten, my two-year-old that is just learning how to say words. I want to converse with Tabea, my 11-year-old that amazes me every time we talk. I want to hold and kiss my loving wife that has supported me through this and six other deployments, numerous schools, and countless field problems.

I want my family to be complete.


Cool to here you're getting a paid writing gig. As Robert A. Heinlein (sci-fi author of, amongst others, Starship Troopers) said, "I never worked a day in my life." I'm probably getting it wrong, but the sentiment is accurate, even if we both know that writing is as hard a job as any.

I loved your dispatches from the 'Stan. I missed being near the Pacific Ocean, or any body of water for that matter. The closest thing we had was the Turd Pond at FOB Salerno. Enjoy your family and Welcome Home.

Best to you and yours and your wife on this Mother's Day. Thank you.

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