I have now been home nearly two days. It seems like a blur, but it is glorious.
The remainder of the trip home was as circuitous and tedious as I imagined it would be. We took two large buses with the complement of our crew to somewhere near Kuwait City, then boarded smaller "Scooby Vans," as they call them there, loaded to the brim with our seabags and trunks. We dispersed to the various terminals, having been warned to be diligent with our luggage and to not allow the "smurfs" - aggressive baggage handlers dressed in outlandish blue outfits - touch our stuff. Unfortunately, in dispersing so quickly into the insanely busy Kuwait airport, we were denied one last goodbye with our colleagues who were not on our specific planes. We waited in interminable lines just to check our bags in, but finally, at midnight, were able to board our first leg to Frankfurt.
Once in Frankfurt we managed to find our way to our connecting terminal - not an easy task as only the terminal and building were being flashed on the screen 6 hours prior to our flight taking off. A small group of folks heading to DC and Norfolk managed to come together for a real beer at 8am Frankfurt time. NA beer was now a thing of the past.
Nine hours later, over twenty four hours since I left Kuwait, I arrived at Dulles International's customs terminal. The customs agent, a pleasant lady of a certain age, thanked me for my service and then asked me how long I was staying in country. I was briefly stunned - did you really have to ask? Indefinitely was all I could muster.
|Even Mr. Clean welcomes me home|
I spilled out into the terminal with the rest of the non-military folks. I saw my daughters and my wife, holding US flags and carrying a big sign welcoming me home. Home at last!
In seven and a half months I have tended to many victims of war and their traumatic injuries, lived through a continuum of insanely hot days, and bonded with a tight knit group of friends and colleagues. These things remain at the fore of my mind. My reintegration into "normalcy" seems to be going well thus far - I have not figuratively kicked the cat, nor do I intend to. But I will not be able to shake the memories, good and bad, of what has transpired over these many months.
|In Frankfurt - one last gathering with friends and colleagues|
Thank you for following along, occasionally commenting, and always offering words of support. I look forward to reuniting with you readers, colleagues, and friends.
Dona Nobis Pacem,