Tuesday, May 22, 2012


When I left to go to Qatar in 2005, Monkey was 6, Cowboy was just over four. It was Patriot Day 2005, and we were departing from my home-station at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. Dropping me off consisted of a 20 minute drive to the base, so we decided to drop the kids off at their school first.

They both knew I was leaving--Monkey had broken down a few days earlier because we told her I was leaving after my birthday, which we had celebrated. As we dropped them off at school, with me wearing a desert uniform that they had never seen before, Sammy gave me a hug and ran off to his pre-school. He clearly had no idea. Sarah, however, did, and it was a very difficult separation, with both of us crying pretty hard. Eventually, she was strong and went into her classroom, and I cried the rest of the way to the base.

Just before the waterworks were turned on
This time was much different. First, we had been expecting this day for a long time due to the delays in getting me out of there. Having a deployment hanging over your head is very difficult because you never really know when your "last" will be--your last real meal, your last outing with the kids, your last beer, etc. Second, we live 3 hours from the nearest large airport--so we had to get up bright and early and drive the whole way out there--knowing what awaited us on the other end. Third, we now have four kids, with the younger two almost the same age as the older two were last time. And lastly, the drop off has to be quick--as we pulled up to the curb and the San Antonio Airport police don't care if you're donating a kidney on the curb--you have 5 minutes.

I was overwhelmingly nervous, since I was alone this time, versus one of three hundred deploying last time. Like shaking nervous. On top of that I was an emotional wreck due to the fact that I was separating from all of them for the first time. After the bags were on the curb, Ben lost it first. He actually got out of the car crying and was hysterical by the time I was pulling my bags away. Sarah and Sammy were as expected, as we had gotten the hardest parts out of the way the night before. SW was holding her own, and I was too, until I started pulling away and something happened.

Lilly, in all her three years, figured it out.

With all her siblings and mother crying around her, on a busy side street with daddy hauling over 100 pounds of bags, something HAD to be amiss. As I was walking away she very quickly ran after me to hold my hand, as if she thought she was coming with me. I kissed her on the head and brought her back to mom. As I walked away she did the same thing again. She didn't cry, she didn't pull me back--she had a very serious look on her face and appeared that she thought it incredulous that I would go anywhere without her.

I lost it.

Eventually I made it into the building and just sat down for a minute to collect myself.

This is going to be a long six months.

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