I found out last week that my unit is deploying to Afghanistan this fall. Rumors have been floating for some time now, but it wasn't official, until now. I know that I signed up to be a soldier in the US Army. I know that I signed up during a time of war. I have always known that deployment was not just a possibility, but a probability. That doesn't mean that I'm not allowed a little trepidation, a little nervousness, a little sadness, does it?
According to what you read and hear, the war in Afghanistan is winding down. Missions are no longer focused on combat, but training Afghan forces. Still though, coalition forces are dying. So, despite what CNN, Fox News or various other media outlets say, the mission is not complete.
Until I joined, the war on terror meant very little to me. I watched the embedded reporters during the invasion like a hawk looking for prey. I could not turn it off. But in the decade since then, very little on the war had struck close to home. There was a guy I grew up knowing that was pretty severely injured in Iraq just a few days into a deployment, but he survived and recovered. Outside of that, I didn't concern myself with it all that much. When my wife and I agreed that this would be the best road for our family, obviously I paid more attention to it. Then, I left for Basic and AIT, and it became more real than before. Now, however, having orders to deploy in just a few months, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I've not deployed before, obviously, so how could I not be nervous? I don't know what to expect, I don't know how I'm going to react, and I can only pray that God and my training will bring me back home in the same condition that I leave. This will be the first deployment for a lot of people I work with, including some NCOs. I know I won't be the only one lost and lonely for the first few weeks. I can only pray that I find my footing quickly.
Even though we know that this is a part of being in the Army, I'm still allowed to be sad, am I not? I've already missed the birth of my son, I'll miss his first birthday because of field training, and now I know I will miss his second birthday because of the deployment. I missed my second anniversary and my wife's 30th birthday because of basic training and ait, will miss my next anniversary and her 31st because of field training and my 4th anniversary and her 32nd because of deployment. I'm going to be away from my family and friends for 9 months or more. I know it isn't 12 or 15 months, and it is only one tour. Many soldiers have been on multiple tours of 12 or more months. Those soldiers are entitled to feel sad as well. I am simply not sure of how I will handle it. I have never been the best about being away from family. Leaving my wife while she was standing on the curb as I was on a bus leaving for basic was the hardest moment of my life. I truly considered bolting off the bus and saying "screw it, I'm not going." I didn't do it, I knew that it was what I had to do in order for my family to survive. In the same way, when our plane for the mountains of Afghanistan is taxiing down the runway, I am sure I will want to jump off and go running back to my wife. Because of what the best thing for my family is, I will fight back the tears, take that plane ride, and start counting down the months, weeks and days until we come home.
So now, we have to figure out how we will prepare for my leaving. We've got to set up the accounts, the phones, get the supplies and creature comforts that I'll need, and figure out how Jamie is going to spend her time. It's hard to believe that I won't get to see her smiling face for 9 months. I won't get a hug or a kiss from the love of my life. I just pray that I will make it through. I know our families will welcome her with open arms, and I know they will know how to support her and our son.
I am ready for what comes my way. I've got a great God to protect me, a great family to support me, and the US Army to train me. Still, I am ready to come back, and I haven't even left yet.