There have been a lot of times since this has begun that I have thought of my children and how this is going to hurt. It will hurt me, but I know what I am doing and why; and how it will benefit them. All of us, really. They, on the other hand, do not.
They don’t know yet. I want for them to have a normal, happy Christmas. I will tell them the day after Christmas. Their mothers don’t know yet, either. I am divorced, unattached to their mothers, but I love them… if for no other reason than they are both great mothers. It would be a burden to them to know and not tell their children. It is a burden on me that is sometimes nearly too much to bear, but I already decided that it would be selfish to tell them before Christmas.
I have looked at my children and known, and in that moment felt the pain of separation, felt their innocence, and known the pain that is coming for each of us. I was glad for their innocence in that moment. My eyes have stung, but I’ve bitten my lip and pushed through.
All of this has a sense of unreality. I have been quietly training myself for months… reading, exercising, learning Farsi in my spare time. Yet it still has an air of unreality to it. That moment of innocence keeps that feeling of unreality in place. It’s sometimes every bit as unreal as that place is to me, that place I’m going that I’ve never seen except in pictures, the people I’ve never met that I may be closer to a year from now than I can even imagine now. Unreal.
I’ve wondered when I was finally going to cry. Tonight it happened. I sat by myself and cried. I cried for my children, for what they’re going to go through. I’m grateful to have finally cried.
I’ve been reading a blog by Scott Kesterson, an imbedded reporter with the 41st Brigade, Oregon Army National Guard. They are the unit currently doing the ETT mission in Afghanistan under the name of Task Force Phoenix. One of the problems of a warrior, of this warrior anyway, is to express what it is; what it means. I want to be able to tell those who I love, those who I care about, those who ask me, “Why?” Mr. Kesterson got a big chunk of the feeling, and I realize that to someone who does not have the feeling it will still not ring true. But it did for me. And it brought me to tears. I’d love to cut and paste it here, but his blog is copyrighted, and I’ll respect that. So here is the link. It’s way down the page, under “Saying Good-bye, I”
Thank you, Sir. I needed that.
It’s not quite the beginning. It really started several weeks ago with a call to National Guard Bureau about a “job posting” on Guard Knowledge Online for ETT’s in Afghanistan. Then things took on a life of their own, and while I don’t have “hard copy” orders yet, I know that I’m to go to the mobe station to hook up with my team on January 2nd. I’ve had to jump through hoops to get here, too.
The first guy I talked to was a Sergeant Major who asked if I was the MP who had called him earlier. “No,” I said.
“What’s your MOS?” he asked.
“Well, my primary right now is 19K (armor crewman…)”
“I don’t need any of those,” he interjected flatly.
“I know. I’m also an 11B (infantry,)” I finished.
“What kind of a soldier are you?!” he demanded.
I was taken aback. He sounded stern, almost as if he were questioning my behavior at the moment. “What do you mean, Sergeant Major?”
“I mean, are you a sit-around soldier or a get-out-in-the-field soldier? I need some ETT’s, and it’s not a cushy job.”
“I don’t want to sit around, Sergeant Major. I’m calling you because of the E-7 11B positions on the spreadsheet with the 218th. I figured those were ETT’s.”
“They are. Do you have a BRB prepared?” he asked.
“What’s a BRB?”
That’s where it started. It turns out that a BRB is a short military resume, a Biographical Records Brief. Then it got better. What a journey… and I’ve never left the state. Probably more on that later, but it included a sit-down with a Colonel, lots of running around, and a couple of scares that I wasn’t going to get to go.
For those of you who know Bill and Bob, this journey is made partly in their honor. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be capable of performing this service for anyone. There’s a lot of redemption in this for me.
My children don’t know yet. I don’t want to ruin their Christmas. They will have time to adjust later. It won’t change their world, but it will make the pain shorter. The part of me that wants to tell them now is selfish. They will have a nice Christmas and then I will tell them, and we will have a week or so together before I leave for training. I have been a soldier since before any of them were born, so they are used to me leaving for periods of time… but not fifteen months.
I hope to document my journey through this blog. If anyone reads it and gets anything from it, so much the better. If no soul other than myself ever sees it, that will be okay, too. It is to help me see the changes and evolution as I go through this event. I feel like a child talking about what they will do when they grow up, because this is just that foreign to me. I have no idea what it will feel like, who I will meet, what I will face, if it will hurt, or if it is the beginning of the end of my life. I will probably laugh at this a year from now. I wanted to start as close to the beginning as possible. There’s a lot that has gone into this already, and I’m still at home.