Well, I'm back - in Kuwait. My R&R leave was amazing and well worth it but it was such a tease. After about 24 hours of flying and 24 hours of waiting around, I made it home. I don't think I've ever walked so fast through a termal when I'm not trying to make a flight. Just knowing that Shira would be at the end had me moving faster than a tired, travel-weary Saildier should be able to. When I got out of the security area, lo and behold, she was there with just as big of a grin on as I had. We collected my bag from baggage claim and walked to the car not wanting to leave contact with each other.
The drive home was surreal at best. I was constantly looking at strange items on the side of the road for the possibility of IEDs and at the same time wondering why Shira was driving so fast - 5 mph below the speed limit of 45mph. In Iraq, our average speed is somewhere around 25mph so going 40 feels dangerous. My homecoming was just as exciting with my dog not wanting to leave my side for 30 minutes (then he forgot I was gone at all).
Over the next few days, we did nothing too stressful - went out to dinner, to the mall, and the movies - but each turned out to be stress inducing. Out in public, I would get very anxious and on one occasion I was on the verge of a panic attack. Luckily, we were only a mile from our house so I was able to calm down when I got home. I caught myself just staring at nothing a few times, not from stress but from disbelief. I couldn't believe that I had just spent the last 5 months away from home. I felt like it was all a dream and I had just woken up.
After a few days of just us at home, Shira and I went to Colorado for some skiing and to see my parents. It was amazing and really helped me relieve some pent up stress. The scenery was so gorgeous and the air was incredibly clean. We left CO 5 days later exhausted and hesitent to go home knowing that I would be leaving again a few days later. The last 4 days were pretty relaxing overall. Unfortunately, just when I got comfortable being at home and with my family, it was time to leave again.
That was the hardest thing I think I've ever had to do. It was much harder this time than when I left before. I think part of the reason is that the anticipation and excitement of doing something new has worn off. I now know EXACTLY what I'm going to be doing, what it's like, and what I'll be missing - no surprises, nothing to look forward to (except coming home for good). Maybe when I'm around people I know, I'll feel better but as of now, my motivation is at an all-time low. My only care right now is coming home and that won't happen for another 4 months, give or take a few weeks.
Being in Kuwait, although more relaxing that Iraq, isn't much less of a tease. You could tell from the reaction of everyone when we landed in Kuwait. The silence in the cabin spoke louder than anything anyone could have said. The first night there, we were told to be back in 5 hours with our bags ready to fly. Since we were not in synch with the times and our bodies said "no" to sleep, we just hung out for the 5 hours. When we returned with our bags, we found out there wasn't enough room on the flight for everyone so some of us had to come back in 6 hours for the next flight. That happened 2 more times yesterday. Finally, I think I'm heading back to Baghdad. I'm first on the list but that doesn't really mean anything. Apparently, there were some cancelled flights earlier in the week and the delays have been snowballing every since. Hopefully, I'll be somewhere I can watch the Super Bowl with people I know. I don't think being here in Kuwait watching the game will have any positive impact with my outlook.
At least there is an end in sight... 134 days to my "scheduled" departure date - 280 days from arriving in Kuwait the first time. From trends in departures lately, it should be earlier than that.
See everyone again soon.