In the States

I made it home from the Middle East Saturday evening. It was truly a strange feeling being at home that first night. It was so good to see my family. I'll never forget walking through the passage way of BWI and seeing them standing there and how my two girls ran to meet me. It had been a long few days. We left Kirkuk on a straight flight to Qatar, which was very nice because many flights out bounce you around all over the AOR picking up people. My assistant and I had been somewhat concerned because we didn't get confirmation of flights until the last minute. But it all came together thanks to someone checking on it for us. We spend a couple of evenings in Qatar. Not much to do down there. We visited Jacks, a sitting lounge, but after Hotel Charlie (our lounge in Kirkuk) it was just too quiet and restrictive feeling. We always had people coming and going, talking and visiting. Jacks is more of a library reading room. We watched several movies at the theater. Sleeping was a bit of a challenge there since we were crammed into tents stacked like cattle in a cattle car with lots of noise, snoring, and comings and goings. But it was only a few days. The worst part of it was waiting at the PAX terminal for three hours of standing room only in the middle of the night before finally being taken to another holding area where we could at least sit down. Then once aboard the plane we were off. World Airlines took great care of us on our flight home. The attendants on that plane did there best to spoil us in truth. Everyone did a fairly good job getting us off the plane and unloaded and through customs fairly quickly. Some of my home team were here to welcome us home. It was good to see them again. Then my wife and my family and I loaded up and headed home, after stopping at the coffee shop for a good American capuccino!

Later that evening though I had trouble sleeping, not because of jet lag or being off schedule. I managed my sleep over the past few days of waiting in Al Udied and on 20 or so hour of flying. For awhile I felt out of place. It is a huge transition in mode of living from there to here. Tonot have any mission responsibilities. Like going from full speed ahead to dead stop - the quiet, the calm, the strange feeling of so long having been moving at breakneck speed to stillness and not having anywhere you truly have to be. There you are on 24/7, even when sleeping - the radio is on and you sleep with one ear open so to speak. You are constantly thinking about the needs of the mission. What is going on. Who needs assistance. What group of folks, what area of the job needs attention now, in the next hours, today, tomorrow. There is always a sort of hypervigilence listening for the swish of inbound rockets. There is always somewhere to go, something that can be done, someone to visit and talk to, a difference that can be made every moment.

And there is comradery. The Commander shared with me before I left some truly powerful words. Three things in his opinion make life great - transcendence, signficance, and comradery. You have all three deployed, or at least we did in Kirkuk. As good as it is to be home, I can say in all honesty I miss the men and women I served with and I miss the job. There was transcendence - being part of something much bigger than oneself but having an impact over history in the making. Significance - tons of it - I think back to so many things where I was able to contribute. People who opened up with their stresses and problems, some very severe. The impact we had on our Iraqi friends when we helped with the restoration of the war memorial site. The many folks who came by the chapel and the tears that were shed as we said goodbye to one another. I will treasure many of those goodbyes. For we did indeed have comradery. Our chapel team invested itself into the lives of folks and they invested themselves into our work. One of the cops said it nicely to me the day before I left. He had come into the chapel to get coffee and shook my hand and said chaplain, it just won't be the same. I told him I'll be praying for them as I come home and they remain for a time to continue to watch the wire. They are out there right now, eyes peering like eagles, locked and loaded keeping my brothers and sisters safe. I was dissapointed the day that I left. I had planned to get to EMEDS before my flying out to say goodbye to many good friends, but our plane left early and I had only 20 minutes of warning time before I had to go. I was touched though when our Commander came by to say goodbye. We had our picture made together in our full battle rattle one last time. It truly was an honor to work for him.

Now that I am home I can post some pictures. I took many. Incredible sunsets and pictures of incredible people and places. Many night the combination of dirt in the air and moisture as teh rainy season came on created some spectacular sunsets like the one to the left. It was amazing to see the transition as the heat faded and temperatures moderated and even became cool with rain showers from time to time bringing out grass and other vegitation. We even had a few days of constant rain, a truly suprising experience given the dry heat and dust storms of our first days there.

To my friends and family who kept me, my family, and my ministry in your prayers I thank you for your support. It was a great ride, an incredible experience that words cannot capture.