01 Nov

How it Works (He’s Back!)

A soldier coming home from a deployment doesn’t quite work the same way as grandma coming for a visit. They don’t get to buy a plane ticket months in advance and arrive at a prescribed date and time. Sure, the deployment as a whole is specified in advance on the unit’s deployment orders, so one can be pretty sure of the no-later-than date for their soldier’s return.

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But I’m hesitant to set my heart on any specific date because after nearly 15 years with the army, I know that the only constant is change. My strategy has always been to view the end of a deployment in broad terms like “next month” or “a few weeks” instead of absolutes like “before the 30th.” I usually prepare the kids for the farthest date out so when daddy comes home earlier, they are surprised, and when he comes home later, it’s still when they expected so they aren’t disappointed. I know some families that do countdowns, but how can you count down when the date is really just a window?

We knew the window was open when Mr. Incredible moved out of his Containerized Housing Unit and into a bay. Now it was just a matter of waiting for the flight out. Leaving Iraq is by Air Force plane. Their flight plans are not like a commercial airline’s. If they don’t want to fly in a sandstorm, they don’t (and I gotta respect that). But that also doesn’t mean that when the sandstorm ends the plane is waiting there to pick up where they left off. They might be off doing other things. So although one might be on the list to go home on Monday, it’s just as likely they’ll actually fly on Wednesday. Or the next Monday. Most of the trip home is on a plane chartered for the purpose. Once on the charter plane, it’s much easier to gauge when the soldiers will be home.

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We got our official phone call two days ago — Mr. Incredible is wheels up and on his way! Now we knew that he was due Sunday morning (though we had our suspicions that he had finally gotten on a plane when the silly emails forwarding LOLcats stopped and the Facebook posts went silent). Once back on US soil, Mr. Incredible was able to check in with us at the designated fuel stops. Many kudos go to the greeters in Bangor, Maine who not only had coffee and snacks, but cell phones for soldiers to call home with. Then we got another official phone call last night confirming they were still on time.

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First thing this morning, we drove to the airfield for the welcoming ceremony. Banners and flags and cheesy “Rocky” music as the soldiers entered the hangar. Then the less cheesy Division march and the Army song, followed by The Star Spangled Banner and a blessing. A very few words by the ranking guy there and everyone was released to go home with their families!

20 May

…But R&R is Pretty Great!

When I tell people my husband is deployed, one of the first questions is if he will be able to come home for a visit. On previos six month deployments to Bosnia and Kosovo, and the many four month TDYs (temporary duty assignments) the answer was always no. But for his current 12 month deployment to Iraq, he can come home. Soldiers deployed for 12 or more months get two weeks of R&R (rest and recuperation). We were planning on Art’s being in August.

He’s into surprises though. Many may remember how I was the last to know that we were moving to Hawai’i last year. With several our friends’ husbands coming home for R&R in the past few weeks, I actually had a dream that Art came striding unannounced across our back yard and into the house. Funny because to stride across our yard takes about two steps depth-wise, and with walls on three sides there’s no place to stride from.

He rang the front doorbell at 10:00pm Friday night though. Scared the you-know-what out of me, but in the end, should have been expected. It was a good surprise. The kids were incredulous the next morning.

In case anyone is wondering what it takes to get a soldier from Iraq  or Afghanistan to the US for R&R, Mr. Incredible has a few blog posts on the adventure. With a two day delay on the front end, it took 65 hours and 13 time zones. I think he’s posted a cool map on his Facebook account  (I don’t know since I don’t Facebook, which is part of how he surprised me). He took planes, buses and automobiles, both military and commercial and stopped in several countries along the way. It’s quite the dance they choreograph adding and dropping off soldiers as they criss cross their way over the globe. Along the way, my soldier and his fellow travelers met generous people who made their way a little easier, not because anyone said they had to, but because they were happy to.

If you meet, in your travels, a service member returning from deployment, or for R&R, consider the many hours and myriad modes of transportation they’ve been navigating, and the beacon of home at the other end, and maybe buy them a drink or a sandwich, let them cut in line, scootch over so they can lay down on the chairs, give them a smile and wish them pleasant travels.

Meanwhile, we’ll be making the most of our two weeks together, being, as my daughter pointed out this morning, four people again.