I was very proud to have served my country during Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mine was a relatively quiet deployment at Balad Air Base, Iraq. Mortar and rocket attacks from the enemy were no longer a daily occurrence; more like dawn and dusk for two or three days. By that time, the AF and surveillance units would have bracketed the insurgents. The AF would drop a 500 pounder, and then there would be no attacks for 3-5 days, when the next set of dumbass insurgents, infiltrating Iraq from Syria, would pick up where the last set of poor bastards left off.
Coming home from Iraq was happy and bittersweet. I hated leaving the work I’d loved so much overseas, but I was also very, very tired of the isolation, stress, and life in the compound.
We had a nice coming home party. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember that I did not feel a part of what was going on around me.
I was just Everything: tired, angry, sad, etc. I couldn’t explain it. I didn't know what was happening, and I couldn't make it stop.
I over-indulged in alcohol more often than I care to admit. I was on leave for four weeks after by return, so I didn’t shave or get a haircut during Most of that time.
14 days after my return, however, I was forced to both get a haircut and shave, so I could rise at 0600 and attend a “reunion briefing” at 0700 that day. Right in the middle of my fucking leave. I was not happy.
So, like a good little airman, I showed up in uniform (which for some stupid reason was required), at the chapel for the class.
Of course, the instructor and his assistant were nearly 35 minutes late. Now an 8-hour course turned into a nearly 9.5-hour ordeal. I was still hung over from the night before, and now I was being lectured about the dangers of not getting good sleep, drinking too much, trying to jump too deeply into my stateside routine, not to be too forceful with my wife and kids, to have a little patience, and on and on and on.
So my question at the end of class survey was, “why the fuck was this briefing not the FIRST thing we did when we got off the fucking plane?!" It was an utter and complete waste of time for me, as I’d already done all the things they told us we SHOULDN’T DO!
Needless to say, I left the briefing more than a little hot.
I picked up more beer on the way home, and had managed to finish three in the car before I got there.
Once I got home, I was met by a quiet, and unsettled spouse, but I didn't care.
I don’t remember a lot of the events of the next several hours. At one point the police were called by my wife. After the police arrived, they said they couldn’t make either one of us leave, but if they had to return, one of us was going to jail.
And of course, they returned a time later, and to jail I went. That was a low point, and it occurred only 14 days after my return.
The days, months and years after those events were significant in the direction my life and career would eventually go.
It has culminated in a conviction for misdemeanor domestic battery, to which I pled no contest; leaving Las Vegas for what I thought would be a better life in rural Central California, closer to family. This move proved to be a colossal mistake which took years to move on from.
Which leads me to where I am now.
I really can’t say what differences could have occurred over the first few weeks of my return had I been provided, or had I sought out, or even was remotely aware of the effect the deployment would have on me.
12 years later, as I write this, I’ve been advised that our initial financial goal has been met for the foundation, and we can now begin in earnest on Phase II.
I am finally home.