Saturday, December 22, 2007


Wow. A one way ticket was placed in my hand and I had reasonable or good flight experiences the entire way. No hassles, no long lines, no delays, no running in airports, no surly customs officials, just a long trip....home. It is Christmas and Eid at the same time but the airports were efficient and everything went on time.

Baghdad to Dubai I got an exit row seat with extra leg room. I had 8 hours in Dubai and I spent that drinking a 6 pack and eating some really tasty Arabic food followed by sleep. I was put into a room with a guy from the Green Zone who was going on R&R. He left to go party and I crashed. He literally stumbled in about 03:00 and could not turn on the lights. I had to get up and do it for him. He passed out and I could not get him to roll out of bed on time. We were on the same 08:00 flight from Dubai. That means get up at 04:00 and catch the last shuttle at 05:00. I tried, I really did, but he is an adult and made his own choices. He missed the shuttle and the flight but I hope he made it home OK.

Dubai to Amsterdam was a full KLM flight but I had an aisle seat and a video on demand system to watch movies. I chose Stardust and then Superbad. Stardust was as good as the reviews said it was. Superbad is so damn funny that I caught myself laughing out loud a lot. The food was actually very tasty and the booze is free. The flight attendant spilled some orange juice on my arm and just could not do enough for me after that.

I then had a brief lay over in Amsterdam and the NWA flight was 1/3 empty. I had an aisle seat and an empty seat next to me so I had plenty of room to spread out and sleep. I watched an independent British movie called "Death at a Funeral" and it too was really funny. Not everyone gets British humor but I do and I really liked the flick. This time I took a Valium and slept hard for about 4 hours. Minneapolis must have gotten rid of all the surly customs people I ran into the last time I was there because this time they were polite and fast. It gave me plenty of time to go to Chili's and have a beer and a big'ol juicy burger. Best damn freedom meal I have had in years.

Minneapolis to Austin on NWA was almost full but I sat next to an older woman who spotted my three day bag with name tag and she started asking me all sorts of loaded questions. It was obvious she did not like Bush or his policies. I finally just told her that I really did not care what she thought nor does the Army so she will just have to live with it. I also told her to quit reading the NY Times and talk to a soldier of she wants the truth. There was an empty seat behind me and the woman in it asked her to move and sit with her for "More room". I winked at her and mouthed "Thank You". She mouthed back, "You're welcome".

I got to the airport and no one was there to pick me up. This is the first time that has ever happened. I started wondering what was going on and wondered if my wife got my emails, was there traffic, if the car rental counter was open, etc. She finally showed up and hugged me a kissed me while she was crying. She has not done that for a long time. She kept telling me over and over, "You're home. You don't have to go back." I turned and saw a young soldier in his ACUs watching. He was with his parents and it was obvious he had just finished AIT or boot. he had no unit patches, a fresh uniform and that single lonely little Private chevron that says to the world "FNG!". I looked at him and said, "Every soldier should get this sort of welcome home." He smiled and his mom said, "Not from his mother though." We all laughed at that. he hustled off to get his ruck and I spoke with his folks for a minute. I told them he would get great training, have the very best equipment available and have good leadership. I told his mom that he would be OK as most of them are. His dad is a vet and he said. It is his turn for us all. I know exactly what he meant.

I now have this strange feeling. I am up early and my wife and son still sleep as do the dogs. Their lives have just changed as has mine. I now have to tread the line of re-integrating myself into their day to day lives without upsetting their rhythm. The counselors tell you all of this when you get ready to come back but I don't think anyone is really prepared for it. This will be my challenge over the next few weeks. I will become a regular American.

I was hit with all sorts of last minutes offers and compromises to entice me to stay but I said to all,"Too late. It's time to go." I have only been back a day and a half and I already wonder how long I will be off. I had two verbal messages waiting for me, three emails, and a letter. Sorry guys, I just need some rest right now.

I'll write more later. I have to because for me it is therapy. I just wish I could have been more open before but the Internet watch dogs cover every posting. I want to tell the story from my perspective. I will but right now I need some coffee.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A new journey begins,You should have a good list of supporters who got home before you.If you need to talk you know Fritz or Big Lou is there!
Big Lou

7:06 PM  
Blogger BWJones said...

Welcome home. That is all.

2:18 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

James so wonderful to hear you made it home safely. Sounds like an interesting trip! I know I am looking fwd to hearing and reading all you have to post! Have an AWSOME christmas and give the Tman a hug for all of us here! Love to you all
Katie and the family :)

8:00 AM  
Blogger Sean from DocintheBox said...

Welcome back brother, glad to see you made it back in one piece.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

Came over from Sean's.

Glad you made it back and thanks for working so hard for this great country of ours.

I know your family will make your transition as easy as possible.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome Home! Hope your Christmas was wonderful!

10:27 AM  
Blogger Barb said...

Welcome home, and looking forward to the tales you can tell. Followed the link from Sean's place...

8:13 PM  

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