Monday, March 15, 2010

Starting for home!

I can’t believe it! Our journey home has officially begun. After several days at Bagram, breathing the dust and wrapping up work, we left yesterday for the States. It is a bit of a convoluted process getting home. We flew to Kyrgyzstan and will spend a few days here awaiting a flight to the United States.

This old Russian base is not exactly somewhere I would want to be much longer than a day. We stay in a huge “circus tent” with a couple hundred other women. They leave the lights on all night and the heat at full blast. They lecture you about not leaving your valuables “unattended,” but you can’t take a backpack anywhere, and they provide
nothing for you to lock your things in.

Oh, well, it is short lived. The gym is nice, chow is open 24 hours and I am at least here with friends—it would be miserable here alone. Oh, and how could I forget? We are allowed two beers a day! Believe it or not, I was so tired last night I didn’t even go have one. I will have to make up for that today.

If all goes well, I will be in Texas by Friday. I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that this long year is over. I continue to thank God that our team was spared any major incidents, especially as I sit and talk to friends and hear of their experiences.

Afghanistan is a beautiful country, but there continues to be so much to do to end the conflict there and improve the lives of the population. We joke that we will be back in a few years when our numbers come up again, and I laugh with mixed emotions. I would enjoy seeing progress made, but also know that little will advance as long as the corruption and insurgency continue.

Enough introspection. I am off to find food, maybe browse the PX and turn in my gear. It will be nice to be rid of my body armor and know for certain I am truly out out of the war zone with no need for that heavy vest, anymore!


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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Life goes on ...

When you spend a year deployed, you sometimes forget that the real world is still out there, that war is not everything and life still happens. There are new songs, new TV shows, new laws, babies are born, and people pass on. Today, several things happened to remind me of this.

First, I got an early morning call that one of the engineers we had left in the province to assist the new team woke up with "severe" abdominal pain. After a
HELO ride and quick ER evaluation, he was on his way to the OR for an appendectomy. Why now? Why him? We will never know, but I am very thankful it wasn't a few days from now, when the rest of us were boarding a plane and leaving him here to deal with this alone. He did great, is very proud of his "Afghanistan" scars and already trying to come up with his "so there I was" story.

I also ran into one of our communications technicians, whose wife was expecting their second child. He was anxious to make it home for the birth but it wasn't
meant to be. His new son was born while we traveled to Bagram earlier this week. Mama and baby are doing great and looking forward to Daddy's return. So many men here miss the birth of their children—another price paid for serving their nation.

I frequently joke about the things the Army owes me after a year away—birthdays, holidays, my boy's first lost tooth—but I am so
grateful for the things that didn't happen. I have my fingers and toes, we didn't lose a single soldier and, as much as I regret not doing "enough," we did plenty, and our legacy projects will continue to help the people of Afghanistan.

As the clock ticks down, I am more and more ready to head for home—to see my family, watch some spring soccer (GO TWISTERS!) and readjust to the real world. I want to listen to new music and catch up on all I have missed while being gone for a year. I will keep you all posted as we make the trek back to the States. I have no doubt it will be a
humorous journey as I meet up with friends from training who are also heading home. I look forward to hearing their stories, as I have come to realize there is no single Afghanistan experience, and all have stories to tell.


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

Friday, March 5, 2010

More goodbyes

We have achieved another milestone—our replacements have arrived! We were so excited to see them walk off the plane last week. It brought back memories of that day, so many months ago, when we stumbled onto the tarmac at Bagram, suffering from jetlag but excited to get started with our mission. They have stars in their eyes, eager to implement their ideas and do things their way. I believe our time has been too short, but one benefit is the infusion of fresh blood that re-energizes the mission every nine months.

I have spent the last few days saying more goodbyes. We visited the providers at both the provincial and district hospitals, and thanked them for all the hard work they are doing. It was especially hard to say goodbye to the hospital administrator at the district hospital. He has done an amazing job implementing our Strong Food program for malnourished children, and I wish so much I had a chance to do more with him and his staff. This is us, in front of the administration building at the hospital:

Then, tonight, the rest of our security-forces platoon headed to Bagram for their redeployment. Due to our "hodge-podge" of Air Force and Army members, we have been forced to leave the country at different times, something we had hoped to avoid. We had looked forward to sharing that first cold beer together in Germany on our way home. Much like the last time, we had to say goodbye to our constant protectors. I did get a little teary. These men have taught me much, both about myself and "soldiering," things I could never have imagined needing to know (and, before this, never wanting to know). I respect them immensely and look forward to our paths crossing again.

But, I think I am getting better at this goodbye thing. This time, as they drove away, I didn't cry nearly as hard and I have yet to shed one tear as I write this. Just think, by the time I say goodbye to everyone else at Bagram, it will be "old hat" and I can just smile at the memories as I walk onto the plane! My tears will become the happy kind as I approach home and see those two little humans (and a bunch of big ones, too) waiting there for me!


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