Big Daddy was watching TV last night when all of a sudden he yelled to us to come in. “We’re on the news,” he said, as Oldest Son and I ran in. (This is one time DVR was really handy because we could rewind and see what we missed).
On screen was a portion of the event that we had attended earlier that day. It was a return home celebration for my son and the other members of his reserve unit that had just returned from Iraq in November. It was held in the big impressive old building which houses the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. Each returning soldier was recognized, we were shown some slides of their time in Iraq, and later treated to a light lunch. There was also a group of soldiers sitting across the aisle from the new returnees that are scheduled to be deployed soon. I couldn’t help but glance over at them and think about the year they and their families were in for. Hopefully, these soldiers will be as adventurous as my son. Although he had some trying moments over there and missed a lot of the comforts of home, I think for him it was easier than it was on us.
Our soldiers were escorted to the ceremony from their unit headquarters by the Patriot Guard Riders of Pennsylvania and members of the Pittsburgh police, who had also cordoned off some streets to provide free parking for our soldiers near the museum. It’s so wonderful how supportive people are of our military, but it breaks my heart to think about the young soldiers that did not receive the hero’s welcome they deserved during the Vietnam era. No matter what people think about the conflicts we’re involved in, where would our country be if everyone decided to run away instead of defending our way of life?
Yesterday could not have been a better day to hold this celebration. After weeks of dreary cold weather and snow, the sun was shining and the temperature reached the mid-50’s. The dirty snow was melting away and we could finally see some grass again.
As we drove through the streets of Oakland on our way home, young people were everywhere celebrating the beautiful day. Oakland is College City. It’s comprised mostly of University of Pittsburgh campus buildings and student housing. We also passed Chatham University, and Carnegie Mellon University is nearby. Groups of students were milling around. Street vendors were selling their wares. The youthful energy was invigorating.
I could almost remember how I felt when I first arrived at my college campus years ago. The possibilities seemed endless. Young studs strutting the street (Yikes, now they’re my sons’ ages) and young women jogging in shorts (I had my coat on) just let me relive for a moment how it felt when everything was still so new and uncharted. Now, if only I could go back with all the wisdom and self-confidence that I’ve gained since I was one of them.
Big Daddy received a text today from Soldier Son in Iraq. It said that their replacements were there and it shouldn’t be too long before he’ll be home!! It sounds like he should definitely be here for Thanksgiving! Even though we’re still stuck cooking the turkey and spuds here at my house, it will be so much better with our oldest son home. Which doesn’t mean we won’t be sorely missing Middle Son J. He’ll still be in Germany. I have no idea what the poor boy will be doing that day. He’s going to try to come home on leave in February because one of his friends is supposed to be getting married then. And get this–his girlfriend is supposed to visit him after Christmas. If he can get the time off that he requested, they plan to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris! Kind of makes up for the Thanksgiving thing.
On Saturday, we went to Soldier Son’s Reserve unit headquarters for probably our last FRG (Family Readiness Group) meeting. These people have been so supportive to us family members and friends of our deployed soldiers. They’ve sent us monthly newletters, e-mails, and made monthly phone calls to ask how we’re doing. They’ve been there to answer questions and had monthly meetings and outings to get us through this deployment. At the meeting on Saturday, a group of young military wives and girlfriends sat in the first row. They seem to have benefited a lot from the bonding opportunities provided by the FRG. Big Daddy and I benefited most from the information made available.
One thing we learned at this meeting was that there will probably be a period of adjustment once our soldiers return home. We kind of expected that. But they explained that even though our soldiers are happy to be home, they may still long for the camaraderie they felt with their Army buddies while deployed. They may have trouble coming down from the heightened sense of alertness and awareness that is so important for survival over there. They may even want to go back to finish the missions they were achieving.
All of this information still didn’t prepare me for the e-mail I got last night. Although he is scheduled to come home sometime next month, he sends me this note with the subject line “Back to Iraq!” that says:
wtf? He’s a month away from finally coming home, and he’s thinking about going back already. This is probably the first time I’m kind of happy that he’s committed to serving in the Reserves for a few more years. I don’t think he can just up and quit to go back to Iraq. Maybe by the time he’s allowed to make this decision, he’ll be too comfortable back home enjoying mama’s home-cooked meals.
We finally got an e-mail from Soldier Son. A sandstorm originally delayed his relocation, and he was living out of his backpack for a while. They just recently convoyed to their current location and he sounds happy. He even saw a kitty- -on the streets of Iraq. I’m hoping that’s the scariest thing he sees there. 🙂
Back here, not much is going on. We just had the most wonderful week of 85-90 degree sunny weather and brilliant blue skies. Perfect summer days–and it’s still technically Spring! The pool temp was up to 94 degrees–until Youngest Son and Shayna left the pool cover off last night. And now it’s raining.
We had a Scrabble rematch last night. This time, it was me and Youngest Son neck and neck for the win. He squeaked by me at the end, but it was worth it when he set me up for a brilliant triple word coup worth over 40 points. He was fuming. I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Shayna and Big Daddy were debating on who was more obnoxious about winning.
There are a lot of things I’ve been stewing about and I think next week I may start my ranting right here. But today, I’m just glad I heard from Soldier Son.
I talked to Soldier Son online today. He said “bunker down.” I said “what?” It seems they were warned that rockets might be going off near them. And even though the nut jobs weren’t necessarily aiming at them, their aim apparently sucks sometimes. And while we were having an absolutely lovely spring day (finally), I guess in Iraq it’s like 104 degrees in the shade. Just a couple of weeks ago, they were having cold rainy weather like we were. And now, in no time at all, it’s hot as hell. No wonder those people over there are pissed! Everything’s extreme. Extreme weather, extreme radicals, extreme religion. Why can’t they just get along? Our troops would gladly leave that hellhole.
Another thing that sucks is the crappy selection of presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton can’t tell the truth as sure as Bill Clinton can’t keep his pants zipped. It’s like a sickness with her. She thinks we’re all so stupid that we forget what just happened two weeks ago. And talk about sick! How about Barack Obama’s ability to fool so many people with his polished rhetoric. He WILL end the war! Has anybody found out yet just HOW he plans to do that? And why is it okay for him to stereotype white people by calling his bigoted grandmother a “typical white person.” Can you imagine if a white person had said something similar about any other group of people? And this guy is going to bring the country together? Please! And if McCain gets in, who knows how long the war will go on. But at least he won’t sabotage the economy the way the other two will.
So, while all these sucky things are going on, I took advantage of the weather and went for a mind-clearing 3-mile run.
Wow. I feel like I missed the boat. The big boat to Iraq. I was thinking that since I sent and received e-mails everyday and even got to Instant Message with my Soldier Son, I didn’t really need to write actual letters. Plus, I kind of try to let him see the same goofy stuff as always is going on at home here through my blog. So I didn’t really think I’d have that much left to say in a letter.
Then Big Daddy talked to our Family Readiness Group (FRG) contact, and she mentioned how much the soldiers really like getting letters from home. So he started sending some. Well, we got an e-mail saying how much he liked getting Big Daddy’s letter. Then Middle Son J said how much better your day was in Basic Training when you got a letter in the mail. Well, I used to send them a lot of letters when they were in Basic Training. I made a point of it. But you couldn’t communicate any other way with them. It was like prison. Like, maybe three brief phone calls in months. And no electronic communication of any kind. So I made a point of sending lots of letters.
So, dear son, please be prepared to hear some redundancy. But it will be in my very own handwriting.