I put my head down/and I dreamt you were here
With me by the ol' tree/where no one could care
Far Away Boys, Far Away Boys/Away from ya now
I'm lyin' with my sweetheart/In her arms I'll be found
"Well, you don't smell *too* bad..." she said as I met here at the top of the airport stairs.
I should be fair. Somewhere in the haze of wandering around Baghdad or Kuwait, or in the long hours between, I had told her that I'd come home smelling like Iraq. It really is quite a process to get in and out of the country- made slightly easier for me because I flew Gryphon Airlines from Kuwait to Baghdad, thereby avoiding several days of sitting around at Ali al Saleem Air Force Base in Kuwait.
I took a helicopter out of my last temporary home at Patrol Base Stone in Hawr Rajab. I had to leave a day and a half before my flight, just to guard against delays. It was raining when I left. Rain in Iraq always turns the dust to muddy clay, the kind that makes you taller the longer you walk. In Baghdad, the water pooled around the ancient and decaying transient tents. The tents date back to almost the beginning of the war- the knee-high sandbag walls around them are disintegrating and falling into the lakes of water that seep under the edges. The original fabric of the tents is obscured by multiple layers of tarps cast over the top to seal leaks.
The Gryphon plane took off a few hours after dark. I settled myself into a window seat behind the wing, and turned my attention outwards. We flew over the dusky bends of the Euphrates reflecting the pale moon, and on south over Highway 8, still crowded with Shi'ite pilgrims walking southwards. I recognized the lights of one of the FOBs just south of Baghdad, and that made it easy to pick out Hawr Rajab. I waved goodbye to Angry Troop, 6/8 Cav, and looked ahead for Sayafiyah and 5/7 Cav. I saw the lights of Sayafiyah and al-Sur just as I saw a giant bonfire in the middle of a black patch below. PB Stone must be burning trash again. I saw a brief, bright flicker of light- so far away in a sealed airplane, I couldn't hear or feel the explosion.
We flew over empty darkness and over the pyres of oil fields at work, then on out over the tankers docked in the Gulf, and into the bright lights of Kuwait City. We had some delays and confusion in Kuwait in the process of facilitating Operation Puppy Love III, but I made the plane.
Now I'm home again, and in the process of writing out stories, labeling and organizing pictures, and eating good food.
I miss it still, and right now I miss it a little more than before, but I'm in no hurry to go back again. I've got my sweetheart, and I don't smell too bad.