Saturday, March 05, 2005


Starting to Close a Door

We have already begun to have our first soldiers leave for R&R. Most are going home; a few more adventurous souls are vacationing in exotic locales.

I hadn't expected to feel anything about today. We were very busy with lots of other things, and then a long period of waiting for the folks leaving: would it be by air, would we drive them. And finally the birds were there, and in 5 minutes our men and women were lined up under the rotors. The sun was just going down, a warm clear evening, the loud beating of the blades.

I still can't describe it, but it welled up inside.

These soldiers have been here in Iraq, and no matter what their job or mission or whether they've been asked to do anything heroic, they are heroes. They've served in a combat zone. They trained long and hard for all kinds of action, even if their primary jobs are office-bound. Many of them have had trouble adjusting to that idea. When some have been asked to pull guard, or are close to action, they report feeling "more a part of things," like they are finally doing their part. Of course, by being here, they have always been doing their part, but it's hard to feel it.

So I guess boarding the helicopters was a small demonstration, an underscoring of what may be evident to others but hard for the soldier to accept. Like some moment of history, there with the sun fading, soldiers getting on their flight home. How will they arrive home? How will they be received? But I know how they are leaving, with their heads held high, part of a larger purpose.

And now they're on their way for some well-deserved time away. I couldn't be prouder of them. I felt the excitement they felt. But there was a small part of sadness, too. Not for me, not that I wanted to go. A kind of loss, like we're starting to close a door. Surely another will open. But for now, we are now in the midst of something that we all hope will go by quickly, and then we can return to our lives. But will we ever be the same?

Welcome home, soldiers. We look forward to your return.

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