Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Leaving for a conventional military deployment has come a long ways since the days of GIs stepping out to a rusty old plane hell bound to fight the Germans. The images of the lonely soldier dragging his olive drab bag down a flight line with a tearful wife holding a newborn baby in his wake are no more.
Instead the image has been replaced with a cold fluorescently lit conference room where families sit anxiously with loved ones about to depart. Small children dart in between fold up tables seemingly unaware of the pending transformation in their family dynamic. As the cliff bars and diet soft drinks are consumed from the surrounding sunshine funds, families are instructed they have ten minutes before they are asked to leave. Emotions run high and most people step out of the room to say final goodbyes. As I sit in the back of the room listening to my iPod observing all this from the perspective of a relative outsider I can’t help but find this scene both fascinating and tragic. It’s fascinating to me because what I’m seeing before me has been happening for generations. The mixture of sorrow, anxiety, pride, and support that loved ones feel for a deploying solider ultimately gets wrapped up into one moment that can almost be palpated. The tragedy in my mind is that the kids in the room are plainly unaware, maybe some have experienced deployment of either mom or dad before and have awareness, but the youngest generally are oblivious to what is about to happen.
A week prior to this as part of a redundant overbearing checklist where most of the bullet points didn’t pertain to me I was forced to go to a briefing regarding the difficulty with family reintegration upon returning from deployment. Topics included such heart warming things as: what to do when your kids basically forget who you are, and how your wife has learned to live without you. I really can’t think of anything worse. I would feel terrible if I had a dog that forgot I was its master let alone a child forgetting I was its daddy!