Monday, April 2, 2012

Tales from Afghanistan, Chapter 18: Full Circle

Nate's blog: Apr 1

This will be my last update. Part of me can’t believe I’m typing this. It seems unreal that I am finally done with this deployment! In the past week or so, I’ve travelled from my remote FOB in the middle of Afghanistan to a giant airbase, complete with nice showers, food, and a Coffee Bean, and from there to a not so lovely airbase in a former Soviet country near China. My last step is to get on a plane and fly home. My “luggage” is packed, everything is ready, all that’s left is to go through customs to make sure I don’t have anything illegal (I hope my latest present for Saija doesn’t freak them out haha), and to find a comfy spot on the plane! I did my last workout in Afghanistan and my last run yesterday here in Asia. I’m ready to go home.

The way we return the same way we went just backwards. I was here in this spot 6 months ago talking to AZ, where I was inspired to start this blog. In some ways it feels like I’ve been gone forever, but in other ways it feels like I just left yesterday. It’s amazing how quickly yet slowly this deployment has gone by. When I get home, will this all seem like a bad dream? It has been a stressful deployment, full of ups and downs. Things never go the way you expect out here, and there is no way to really predict anything. That’s normal though, it happens every time. You have to take the bad with the good, and learn from them both. Some Marines volunteer for deployments, to escape “real” life. Those Marines will be coming back home to find all of their problems waiting for them. Whether its bills, personal issues, or relationships that couldn’t weather this storm, they have to face them soon. Others like me can’t wait to come home. I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and family, my wife, my cat. To falling asleep in my bed, my home, not having to worry about being attacked in my sleep or on an “adventure”. Still, even the most excited of us can’t help be a little nervous. The world has moved on while our lives are on pause, and it will take time to adjust.

When you read this, I will already be home. The website is blocked right now, so I have to save this update for when I get back to the states. To all of my friends and family, thank you for your support! The life of a deployed Marine is a hard, lonely life, and your love and support has made it easier to deal with. Saija and I have made some tentative plans for visits while I’m on leave, and I’m looking forward to seeing you all! Thank you for the care packages, the emails, pictures, letters, and postcards (that’s you Heather and Sean!).  I couldn’t have done it without you!

This deployment, like every other one I’ve been on, has had it’s own set of unique challenges and obstacles for me to grow from. I’m so happy that they are finally over! I made it through, I survived, and soon it will be time to relax and celebrate. We have a spa date planned in Palm Springs where we will get MUCH needed massages. We have tickets to Comic-Con, Ink & Iron, various charity races, and plans for all kinds of fun events! And I already have a list of like 10 movies I want to see!

Some of us are coming home with pieces missing, and some aren’t coming home at all, having made the ultimate sacrifice. My thoughts are with their friends and family. All wars are terrible, but this one is particularly so. Marines die at random from IED’s, and the political climate makes any kind of progress difficult to see at best. We have Afghanistan soldiers turning their weapons on us, and even turning their weapons on each other. The locals have an almost uncaring response to the murder of 17 civilians, to include children, but when some of their Korans are burned they scream for blood. The culture here is truly alien, and one has to ask if we can truly succeed in a place where we have so little in common. I can only hope that after we are gone, they are able to build and grow off of what we have done, rather than let all of our sacrifices be in vain.

It’s time for me to sign off now; my flight will be leaving shortly. While this blog and this adventure may be over, I know that there are still many more adventures in store for me. I’m looking forward to the challenges and mysteries that the future holds, and I am ready for them. This is neither the beginning nor the end of my story. Thank you all for following along and sharing in this adventure with me!

PS: I arrived home a couple of days ago. I've spent the last 2 days readjusting to California time, and spending time with my wife and our demon cat. He recognized me immediately, and has been more cuddly and sweet than he ever was before haha! Saija and I finally got out of the house today, and made our first trip to Palm Springs. Tomorrow I will start making my phone calls to family. Life is great, and I can't wait for our future adventures together!