It has already been 2 weeks since returning to Iraq. It's amazing that it has been that long because it doesn't feel like it. For some reason, time has been going by rather quickly, especially now that I'm back to work and keeping busy but I'm not complaining. I'd rather have it go by fast and say "where did the time go?" than wish it would end already (even though I do both regularly). 9 months seemed like a LONG time when I started this little adventure but I'm over half-way done and can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel now. Today is exactly 4 months from the scheduled end of my deployment. That means I should be either on my way home or already at home in 4 months. I say "scheduled end" because the trend lately is to send people home early. How early is not standardized and not known but I've seen about 3-4 weeks early on average. I've also seen as early as 3 months early and 7 weeks early so something like that is not out of the question.
I keep looking at sometime in May as a return date but I'm afraid of fooling myself into a false hope. I have been told, unofficially, that I will be returning a month early, though. It's the "unofficially" that gives me pause. The Navy has given me the unofficial word in the past before only to take it away. They've even done that with official, written orders so you can see my hesitation to believe this. The funny thing is that I have not met a single person who has stayed the whole 280 days without volunteering to do so. Every person in my job in my brigade that I have seen leave has left early, including the guy I replaced.
Assuming (I know what happens when you assume but hear me out)... Assuming that I do leave exactly a month early (15 May), I have less than 90 days remaining which is very very close to being home. As a defense for false hope, I have decided to keep saying I have 90 days left until I am 90 days from my scheduled end of tour or until I have notice of a replacement, whichever comes first.
There is one other thing that I try not to think about - it's a good thing, though, depending on how you look at it... My replacement gets here at least a couple of weeks before I am supposed to leave. That means, if I leave in May, my replacement could get here in April... BIG IF and COULD there... What's more, I would know about it before then. SO, it is possible that I only have a couple of months before my replacement gets here and less than that before I would find out. Like I said, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, FINALLY. The only question remaining is whether it's really the end of the tunnel shining at me...