Sunday, January 02, 2005

Homecoming

In situations like this one never knows whether to embrace the inevitable elation or the inescapable guilt. The past 48 hours have been some of the longest of my life as I am now back on American soil. The return trip was little more than the reverse of my trip to the middle east. And while it was uneventful outwardly, it was tumultuous inwardly.

One of the things causing the tumult is my wife and kids. I cannot explain the excitement and impatience one feels when returning from a place like the one I just left. It seemed the flight would never end. I planned and played out in my minds eye the reunion that would take place when we landed. While I was in Korea for a much longer period of time, the anticipation of this reunion was much greater, I think, because of the magnitude of the events I've just come through. There is an appreciation for my family that far exceeds anything I've known heretofore. On the short drive from the airport into town, I called my wife and told her where we were. Here was the first indication that all my planning and visions of the grand reunion were thrown into the garbage pile. I had anticipated coming home just after school let out and seeing my wife and kids waiting in the parking lot. However, as we approached home, it was about 4:30 in the morning and my phone call woke my wife. Since our kids are old enough she left them in bed and quickly drove over to pick me up. Just seeing her standing there was incredible. She could have been covered in seaweed and she still would have looked fabulous at that point. But she wasn't. She was all gussied up...hair done, a bit of make up, brushed teeth, pressed clothes, looking as beautiful as anyone I've ever seen. She was the only wife there, while the other guys had empty vehicles waiting for them. I think I'm the luckiest man in the world.

When we got home, my dogs, Deacon and Scout, not recognizing me, bristled up and barked for a few seconds. Once they figured out who this guy was coming home with their matriarch, the tail wagging began in ernest and I got a severe doggy greeting. The kids were still asleep so we sat down at the kitchen table (my very own table with my very own chair) and talked for a bit. I think my wife even made me some coffee (fresh and perfect out of my very own coffee pot). When the time was right, I snuck upstairs and woke my kids one by one. Their responses were fabulous. One half whispered, half yelled, "Dad!" and I got a wonderful hug. Another peeked up at me , smiled and said, "Hey Dad" and I got another wonderful hug. Still another just said, "Daddy" and then a wonderful hug. The last one I woke up didn't say a word. He just sat straight up, threw his arms around my neck and squeezed for what seemed an hour. I could have stayed there all day if he wanted to. After getting them ready we took them to school and then went out for breakfast and talked some more. And at last, we went home and I crawled into my very own bed with my very own pillow and slept like a baby.

The flip side of the reunion coin is the clear understanding that while I was enjoying my family and the comforts of home again, there were and are still soldiers downrange facing the same dangers I just got away from. Herein lies the guilt. Despite my joy at being back home, I want so much to be with my soldiers, praying with them, encouraging them, laughing and crying and bleeding with them. I can't wait until they get to come home.

I guess you can't avoid either the inevitable elation or the inescapable guilt, and I wouldn't want to. Instead, I rejoice in my time at home and I pray for my soldiers downrange. Anything else would be inexcusable.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chaplain,

I'm so glad to hear you are home safe and sound. I was concerned about you. It's funny how you get attached to people on the internet.
I appreciate your stories from Iraq. It's good to get a picture of what's happening from someone there.
Thank you for your service to our country.
God bless you and your family.
Jenn in Ohio

otec66 said...

I was so thrilled to hear that you're home. I was getting kinda worried when you didn't post for so long. Now I know why and it's wonderful. I pray that your transition home is not too difficult. I know you miss your guys, they'll miss you, but they're so lucky to have had you with them. They'll be all right. God bless you.

Julie

Count Grecula said...

Chaplain-
I am so glad to hear you are home safely. For some reason, you are the only blog I have read that has brought tears to my eyes more than once just by the purity of your writing.

Perhaps too, it is the guilt not of one who has served and come back, but has never served at all. One who doubted the mission for a time, and once convinced of it's urgent rightness, failed to stand up to his friends (mostly conservative Christians) and co-workers (in the film industry) when they belittled and unfairly criticized it.

Please forgive me and the others, knowing not only History will have a more favorable judgement, but also the One who will say "Well done, good and faithful servant".

Please continue to post about your current life, as well as things you may not have had time to share before. I have found it especially valuable. God bless you!

Dave in Pasadena

OSAPian said...

May God Bless you always. Welcome home.

Hammertime said...

Chaplain,
Welcome home, and thank you for faithfully serving wherever you are sent. I am resigning my active duty commission in 60 days to attend seminary and, Lord willing, return to active duty as a chaplain. Perhaps we'll meet at the wire.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chaplain,
Thank you for serving, and all that means in terms of sacrifice and pain. Thank you for sharing your heart and mind, in writing to us. Thank you to your family, and what it has cost you all, for you to serve. Our nation owes all it is because of the individuals who have and do serve, at all levels, in all ways. Just as we have been served, God and Christ being the supreme example of that, we are able to serve others. Sometimes we do not see the positive results of our service, but we know and believe it is there, even if we do not see it. May you be blessed, and be a blessing, both receive and give to others evidence of things unseen: That God lives and loves mankind, and continues to involve Himself with and through us. May you know the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams in your life that only He can give. May you know the joy as He uses you mightly in the lives of others.