A year back!
August 29th of last year I flew out of Camp Taji for the final time. We spent the next few days in various spots in Iraq and Kuwait, in that long, but gentle process of “leaving theater.” It takes several stops, several agonizing days of loading and guarding bags in the heat, but when that flight leaves Kuwait on the way home, it’s a bit of heaven.
Now I’ve been back home for nearly a year. Time has blown by! It doesn’t seem like that long at all. I guess just looking at the list of months in my archives should remind me.
Today I tried to get to Fort Meade early. They had a car shop there on post that could do alignments and oil changes. It was about time to get the oil swapped out and I noticed my girl took to drifting left a little during the course of my Texas exodus. The plan was to hit the car shop first thing then on to the thrift store, where they were having a sale on ACUs.
ACUs are the new Army Combat Uniform. Where soldiers could expect to get 5-10 years out of their old Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs), ACUs last less than a year. Oh, and they cost more to replace. Your tax dollars at work.
Anyway, there was a big announcement that the thrift store on Meade got a shipment in and would be selling ACUs for half off. Nice! I’d hit the car shop then mosey on over to the thrift store and get some threads, as I’m down to two serviceable sets.
I arrived at the car shop.
“No mechanics today,” the clerk said. I was free to buy some windshield wiper blades, but no car services would be rendered. Hrmph.
Walking out, I ran into a sergeant I’d run into a few times at work.
We swapped the normal small-talk stuff. We got to talking about former duty stations.
“Where were you before this?” he asked.
“Fort Hood. Ugh!”
“You deploy?” I had forgotten he didn’t have a combat patch.
“Yeah, been back almost a year. Crazy that it’s been that long.”
“How long were you over there?”
“Just a year. Lucky. They started with that 15-month stuff just after we left.”
“Yeah I need to get over there…”
Now normally I give people the silent “yeah, right” eyes when they start shoveling that stuff, but he continued.
“…I know it’s stupid to actually say I want to go to war, but seriously. I’ve got to get out there. Seems silly to be teaching these students what to expect when they get to the field when I haven’t even been there yet. I can’t be a leader without going. But that’s just me.”
“Oh, I hear you friend,” I said. “It’s not the best way to spend your time, on a personal level, but it’s good to have done what you’re asking others to do.”
We finished out and headed off. He let me know of a good Firestone just off post and I told him about the ACU sale. We figured getting in line at the Firestone was probably the best bet, as customers tend to pile up at those things. He lived nearby and just dropped his van off, telling the store people no rush on his and to take care of the others there waiting first.
I’d always liked that guy in the times I’d talked with him before. And it’s not just that he wants to suck sand for a while, like it’s some sort of initiation; but he has a good, humble way about him which is contrasted by the sizable chunk of fat bodies who would just as soon send wheelchair-bound grandmothers to combat before themselves.
I waited my turn at the Firestone. Two nails in two tires had been the culprits of my slow leaks over the course of the past two months. The remaining two tires were beginning to show wear, so I went ahead and slapped on new tires. Three-hundred-sixty-some bucks later I drove toward the thrift shop to swing some new ACUs. No luck. Packed and picked over.
Still, the car’s fixed and I can always buy more ACUs at the regular rate. Hell, why settle for one set when you can have two for twice the price? Woot.