Well, it's finally arrived; my leave. I am scheduled to fly out of Afghanistan tomorrow, and I will be home for just over two weeks. I can't wait to see my children! I really look forward to seeing my family and friends, too.
I have a sense of unreality about the whole thing. It's strange. I spoke with a buddy, a DynCorp contractor here to work with the ANP, who has been on leave a couple of times. He had the same thing. When I first got into Afghanistan, everything felt new and strange. I didn't know what to expect. Bagram didn't make any sense to me when we left the flight line to eat dinner before they flew us down to Kabul International Airport (KIA.) I was straining to see out of the truck when we moved at night from the airport to Camp Phoenix.
A lot of this is reflected in what I wrote around that time. Now Afghanistan is normal. The Valley is normal. Seeing sheep and goats with enormous fatty rumps is normal. Sharing the road with camels is normal. Hearing the raucous braying of donkeys echoing through the countryside is normal. Carrying weapons, having a pistol strapped to my thigh, and riding in a six ton armored truck with a machine gun is normal. Driving with a 40mm high explosive grenade and a white star cluster on the dashboard is normal. Keeping an eye open for someone waiting to kill you is normal. Seeing at least one person in every crowd with unrestrained hatred wishing you dead is normal.
Cincinnati doesn't really exist. It's a distant memory somewhere in the back of my mind, an ideal that hasn't been realized. That's the feeling that I have right now. I'm excited, but there is such a feeling of suspended belief that I'm almost not excited. It's almost like I'm excited about an idea, not an imminent event. I'm looking forward to it on a conscious level, and I'm truly looking forward to it... practically longing for it, yet it just doesn't feel like it's really happening. My subconscious is truly lagging behind on this one.
For the past several weeks I have been really looking forward to seeing my city, to holding my children and kissing their faces. I've been planning to have lunch with friends, spending time with my family, and driving an unarmored vehicle on decent roads. Now it doesn't feel real. Perhaps it seems too good to be true.
Anyway, I'm surprised by the feeling.
On the other hand, I'm set enough on going that I would physically remove any obstacle in my path with whatever level of effort was necessary. No way anyone can keep me off that plane.
So they tell me that tomorrow I'm going to fly out of this place, a five hour flight to Kuwait. In Kuwait we will get a bunch of briefings, spend the night, and have everything searched and do the customs routine. We will schedule our connecting flights. We will then be locked down until we fly out of there, flying all night to either Atlanta or Dallas; then a connecting flight and I'm home.
Skyline Chili, the skyline of Cincinnati, and all the familiar sights of my home city. No rocky heights towering above, no camels, no genetically aberrant sheep or goats, no IED's, no AK's, PKM's, RPG's, or Taliban. Paved roads. Traffic lights. Restrooms in every building. No buildings made of dirt. Electricity everywhere. Police who actually have time to give parking tickets and speeding tickets. No outgoing mortars firing. No explosions. Being able to drive anywhere I want without having to put a convoy together.
No body armor. NICE.
And then... the sight of my children... the physical sensation of holding them and feeling them breathe. Seeing the light in their eyes that means that they're alive. Seeing innocence again.
I'm working on my reality.
Perhaps while I'm there I can write a few stories down. There are a few to tell. You can't make this stuff up. Maybe I can post a few pictures. Everyone at home has a life, too, and they will be working and going to school during the day. I'll have a little time and much better bandwidth.