A slight stinging sensation
“The lights are on! Let’s go check it out!” one of the admin cats said, grabbing her hat and heading out the door.
Across the street on the basketball courts, two light sets had been set up, their generators pratting away, illuminating the square of seldomly-used pavement against the black of the unlit lot around it.
I went out and looked also. It was weird seeing my first experience on Taji recreated.
Eleven-odd months ago, after whooshing in to camp on a series of Chinooks, we grabbed our bags, boarded some shuttle busses, and were carted off to this same blazingly lit scene.
It was night then, also. We were tired, hot and exhausted from the hops and stop-offs that it took to get us to Camp Taji, our camp for the coming year. Of course disoriented, we had no idea where anything was, and walked around the penned-in yard, waiting for all of us to arrive and unloading baggage trucks as they pulled up.
Unbeknownst to us, we were on display for all to see. Although the troops wouldn’t pour in for a few hours yet, several late-nighters were on the scene to watch as a segment of our replacements was to arrive. I surmised that we were the subject of the same evening show those months ago.
A couple people asked if I was going to stay and watch. “Naw,” I said, “I’ll have the chance to see ’em in the next few days.”
They were excited. We were just a few days away from skipping town. There was still a lot to do, moving out of the trailers, selling our stuff, attending the “here’s how to act back in the world” briefings, all that business; but we were close.
Still, I admit, it was a good feeling to see that new unit patch walking around in ever-increasing numbers. The people before us played the same game of “If I see you, I’m almost done.” It’s a rite-of-passage sort of gig. We’ll do our best to get these guys settled in before going home.
It’s hard to imagine home–not to get all melodramatic. It’s going to be some strange stuff with weekends, holidays and all that sh**. And I guess the reduced risk of death will be a bonus too.
“Are you glad to be going home?” is a question I get a lot. Well…yeah, now that it’s here. Remember, up until about four days ago it was a done deal that I’d be here for two years straight, so I wasn’t planning on spending much time back stateside–and there’s still the chance that paperwork will finally change hands in the great admin desk of the sky and I end up here quick-like, so I’m not going to get too comfortable.
But, yeah, it does feel damn good to be done. I try to downplay it, you know, to make it seem like I could care or not care. It’s my small way of speeding the time along, but for as thug as I is (word), I’ll probably start bubbling like a madman as we take the last few steps toward movies, restaurants, ladies and normal clothes. I can definitely relate to all the sentiments of soldiers returning from conflict abroad and just wanting a quiet corner to live out the rest of their days.
There are still years of fighting ahead, but for now…a short reprieve.