Friday, February 5, 2010

The first of the goodbyes

Today, we said the first of our goodbyes. The good news? This means our tour is coming to an end. The bad news? This means our tour is coming to an end.

When this whole thing started last year, someone told me that, at the end of the tour, I would have made some friends for life. This man was so right, and the point hit home tonight as I said goodbye to 14 men who spent the last eight months of their lives protecting mine.

Our team was put together with a hodge-podge of active duty, reserve, National Guard and individual Ready Reserve soldiers and airmen. Some were with us as volunteers and for some it was their turn to deploy. Others had left the Army years before but had received the dreaded letter in the mail calling them back to active service. Yes, you read that right. We do not have a draft but, for most of us, even when we leave active duty, we still have a commitment to the military.

Fifteen of the men assigned to our team were civilians, who were working jobs and living their lives when a letter showed up in their mailbox a year ago telling them they were needed back in uniform. They could have torn it up and pretended it never arrived, but these men answered the call and left their families to spend a year in Afghanistan. They came from various walks of life—policemen, construction workers, businessmen, general laborers and a postal worker.

These men worked for our team as gunners, drivers and dismounts. They cleared buildings before I entered, then stood guard at the door, often for hours in the hot sun, while meetings were conducted. They drove our team through firefights and watched their buddies get injured in an IED (improvised explosive device) explosion. They smiled at the Afghan people, even as they stayed on full alert for the feared suicide bombers. And, thank God, they are all going home with all their fingers and toes to their families.

So, tonight, we all said our goodbyes, the first of many we will have over the next month as we prepare to leave. As I wiped the tears off my face, I thanked each of them for their support and dedication to our mission. If our paths ever cross again, I will be proud to serve with each of them, anywhere, anytime.


For Reflections on Nursing Leadership, published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

1 comment:

  1. Here's the good news, though. Think of all the "hello's" that will soon start! We can't wait to welcome you back to the states! You wouldn't believe it in Maryland right now - a 3 foot snowpack with 10-20 inches on the way today and tomorrow. THAT part of it I'm sure you didn't miss! - Curt