Today seems like the right day to share an R&R memory from months ago. At the time, it felt too raw to write about because my husband had just left back to the sandbox after being home for 17 days. That 17 days of joy was just what we needed after being apart some 8+ months--it recharged and reinvigorated us for the second half of the deployment. I found it much tougher to "let" him go back after R&R, but I tried not to cry too long when we went to bed that night.
He had an 6 am flight out of San Diego the day he had to go back, so we woke up around 3:15 to have our last morning together. After, I made coffee while he laced up his boots and gathered everything. Our son woke up and stumbled out of his room to say goodbye again. I got dressed and cursed the person whose idea it was to start flying planes before the sun was even peeking out from the horizon.
When we got to the airport, there was a few piles of young Marines sleeping in the hallways near the USO, which wouldn't open for several more hours. They either arrived on a red eye or were there to make sure they caught their own flight back I'm sure. It broke my heart to see these young men without a send off that befitting to their service. No a wife or parent or volunteer or camera....just some lady riding up an escalator with her husband at the end of R&R taking a picture with her cell phone. Did America know the USO isn't always open?
Moments later, I was standing quietly with my husband, waiting for the moment when I would have to let go of him again to go do what he does when I am safely asleep. I held my emotions in as I strained to see out the window, hoping to somehow see his head in one of the plane's windows. It was too dark, but I pressed my face against the glass anyway hoping that somehow he was looking out the window and could see me still there for him as long as I could be. It was so dark that I lost sight off the plane as soon as it taxied off.
When I came home, our son was sitting on the couch, crying softly which he said he'd been doing since he pretended to go back to bed that morning. We didn't say much, he just hugged me and we stayed on the couch the rest of the day, indifferent to the tv and napping intermittently.
America, while you were sleeping, thousands of soldiers and marines were getting up early to catch their their early bird flights back to Iraq. While you were sleeping, America, a young marine was sleeping next to his cargo bag to catch his flight out to someplace far away. Before dawn cracked on your horizon, men were getting up at 3 AM to make love to their wife one last time and kissing away her tears. They were hugging their half-asleep kids, feeding the dog, and buttoning up their ACUs as if today were just another day of work.
While you were sleeping, America, your military was already awake and keeping watch over you.