The Last Days of Chez JBAD
It's taken me a few weeks as you can see to come down out of the clouds. Heidi is finally back in the US of A, but not really home. That momentous event won't happen until later this month and then we only get her for a few weeks. I refuse to be anything but content and grateful, especially when soldiers continue to die every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, when there are soldiers still missing, soldiers fighting for their lives in military hospitals and other military families are still separated from their loved ones. So as you can see, it's a 'mixed bag' of emotions ~ extreme delight at our good fortune and guilt that we are the fortunate ones.
This doesn't mean I am not so happy I just about can't stand it. Heidi looks fabulous and I don't think I have seen her in such high spirits in ten years. Honestly. It's a combination of a lot of factors I am sure, some I won’t even begin to try to understand or explain, but there it is.
Last Saturday evening, I flew into Syracuse and spent the night in one of the worst hotels I have ever had the bad luck of finding. Only by reminding myself that this room would seem like a palace to most of our soldiers serving around the world did I keep from having a pity party for myself. Sunday morning, I traveled up to Watertown and the Ft. Drum area only getting lost once which if you know the way from the airport to the fort will seem like quite the feat.
Heidi’s dear friend, Sherry, met me for lunch, gave me the grand tour of Watertown and graciously took me to the base where I produced my birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, Social Security card, Sam’s Club membership and library card for a pass. Finally, Sherry and I sited McGrath Gym where the welcome home festivities would be held later that night. I would have difficulties finding this gym and the way off the base for the rest of the weekend.
I arrived at McGrath Gym two hours before the 10:00 p.m. scheduled arrival. Just my luck I figured, if I didn’t, for once the Army would be early and I would miss the entire thing. Imagine that - sixteen months, thousands of miles, hundreds of tears, terrifying days, weeks and I would miss it? I think not.
They at last marched in, four rows, hundreds of soldiers, all dressed alike, all looking ahead, caps down over their eyes. I couldn’t find Heidi anywhere. The short, ten minute ‘ceremony’ and I don’t recollect anything that was said. In conclusion, the commander said, “and so they are dismissed.....” The rest of us knew there would be music, the national anthem, a prayer and then the rush, but not one little girl, a daughter maybe two years old, who ran out from the crowd of anxiously waiting family members and friends. She ran straight to her dad and hugged him around the knees, not letting go. It was what we all wanted to do, but couldn’t. I envied her. The national anthem, lots of tears, and finally the rush to find each other.
It was a magnificent few days. Like a dream. I cannot believe Heidi is really home. She kept my camera to use for a few days (weeks), so I don’t yet have the pictures I took of her and the short, sweet welcome home ceremony. Nevertheless, she has sent me some pictures I will share with you and when she finally comes home, maybe I can spare a few moments of her time with you.
Thank you for being there with me all of this long, difficult, proud time, dear friends. I will never forget.
Heidi found this beautiful spot in JBAD, someone's cherished garden. She says she came here often and dreamed of home.
Our soldier, we are very proud of you, Heidi.
Most of the crew, all are safe and home at last.
The Colonel and Heidi at her re-enlistment ceremony. Colonel says it was appropriate to have it on the volleyball court, Heidi's second home.
Heidi and Rob