Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Home Again

The first stop we made after leaving the middle east was Shannon, Ireland. We landed early in the morning- the sky was dimly lit with the coming dawn, but morning was still an hour or more off. Before we left the plane, the Lieutenant Colonel who commanded the flight back made sure we understood that we were all still on duty status and therefore were not to "buy, consume, procure, or obtain" any alcohol. Apparently, he's been in the Army long enough to know he needs to cover his bases thoroughly. Might I say, though, that to be in Ireland while unable to purchase any of Ireland's finest exports is a torture only the military would inflict? As I mentioned previously, the process of going on leave is nothing more than a series of indignations designed to help you appreciate getting home more.

Ireland has strict smoking laws, as well as stiff penalties for disobeying them. Smoking outside of the designated areas will earn you a 2000 euro (about $2800) fine. I assume that this is a recent law- the restrooms had ashtrays built into the stalls and the sink area. Now, you follow the signs down a long hallway leading away from the main terminal. You turn the corner and walk down a flight of stairs, followed by another short hallway and another flight of stairs. All the while, you pass signs on the wall warning not to light up until you reach the designated area somewhere deeper into the cave in front. At the end of yet another hallway, the doors open into what might be best described as a outdoor pen. The green fence surrounding the area is around twelve feet high, and the top slants in. The picnic table completely covered with empty beer bottles and glasses gives some hint as to a possible reason for the fence. As it turns out, this isolated zoo cage is the only place you can go to get outside while staying in the airport, so the patio fills with soldiers breathing the cold, misty air.

After another long stretch in the plane, we landed in Dallas. The people in Dallas are great- my first glimpse of America included a fire truck spraying an arc of water over the plane to welcome us home. Inside, the terminal was almost bare, but there was a still a small crowd that went to the airport at 6am to greet us. A quick run through immigrations and customs put us back in the world- a place where we are much less soldiers, and much more kids trying to make our cell phones work.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful. My group flew standby, trying to get home just a few hours quicker. Everywhere we went, we had a few people come up and thank us. In my experience, most of those that did had a relative or friend in the military. Most people payed no more attention to us than to anyone anyone else. No one was rude.

I'll talk soon about being home, about driving, about talking, and about feeling naked.


  1. Welcome home.
    I hope you enjoy your time at home.

    Thank you for your service.

  2. welcome home td!

    you know the entire 26 years sarge was in the service not one person ever thanked him? not once! i am so glad this has changed. people do thank him now though and it really means alot to him.

    hope your visit is wonderful and again, we are so sorry to have missed your folks! we would have loved to have met them...

    smiles, bee

  3. Welcome Home! Oh yes, and thank you =)

  4. Anonymous13/6/07 10:20

    Welcome Home TD!!!!
    I hope you breathe in deeply every moment you are here!
    Thanks for all you do!

  5. Anonymous13/6/07 10:22

    WOOT!! Welcome Home!!

    Be safe, ok? You young pups tend to feel invincible after all that and get a bit silly. Be safe and enjoy your visit with your family.

  6. Anonymous13/6/07 10:22

    yay, TD! Welcome home. Enjoy your stay.

  7. Welcome home TD!

    Now get yer butt to Peoria IL so I can buy you alcohol

  8. Welcome Home, TD!! Leave is all too short, as I'm sure you know. I'm also pretty confident you'll make the most of it. Have fun and stay safe.

    PS: Things must have changed quite a bit, re: Shannon. Son Number One has entertained me with numerous war stories about passing through Shannon on his way home from Gulf War I and his TDYs during The Current Unpleasantness. Your experience and his are wildly different. It is indeed cruel and unusual to deny the troops a Guinness or three in its country of origin. Just sayin'.

  9. Anonymous13/6/07 12:24

    Welcome home!! I don't have family in the military, but I always try to thank any soldier I see, or at least give them a good smile (if they don't look interruptable). I have nothing but admiration and respect for you and what you do.

    Best wishes to you!

  10. Wellcome home and thanks for all you are doing!

    Ireland passed thier non-smoking laws just a couple of years ago. Being from CA it was rather shocking to eat in a bar in Dublin in '98 and watch the cigarette smoke fill the room until you could see it. A third of that quantity would have set of a fire alarm in any house.

    Sorry about not being able to enjoy a Guiness or Smithwicks. They really are better on tap in Ireland than anywhere else.

  11. Anonymous13/6/07 13:56

    TD, welcome home. Glad you're safe. Enjoy your time while you're home. Wish I could buy your an imperial stout... those we'll get you to where you want to be real quick. ;)

  12. Welcome home and have a terrific stay. Keep us posted on your whereabouts and how long you get to be here.....

    And thank you for all you've been doing...

  13. Anonymous13/6/07 17:38

    Welcome Home!!

    If I had been anywhere near Dallas, you all would have gotten a big hug and a Thank You!

    And no, I have no friends or relatives in the military :-)

  14. Anonymous13/6/07 18:59

    Welcome back to the great USofA. It is cruel to deny men a stout in Ireland. Thank you for your service, your amazing writing, and generousity in sharing your experiences.

  15. Anonymous13/6/07 21:10

    I add my "welcome home" to you and my wishes for a fun and relaxing (if possible) visit. I have no one in the military either and due to business travel spend considerable time in the Atlanta airport. I never miss the opportunity to say THANK YOU to anyone in uniform. It's the very least we can do.


  16. Anonymous13/6/07 21:26

    Welcome home, TD. My daughter's part of that Dallas group now and then and the closest she comes to having someone in the service is knowing I spent some time in Nam. It's good to know things have changed for the better since my day.

  17. TD, Try and find yourself a Rogue Ales (Newport, OR) Chocolate Stout and a nice Montecristo #2 cigar (Cuban prefered, but a Dominican will work in a pinch) and enjoy an evening outside where you don't have to cover your six.

    Welcome back!

  18. You bring back so many memories TD, I am so happy you are home safe and thank you so much for what you do. I get tears in the old eyes when i see a man in uniform, I have to shake his hand or give her a hug, times are different now, in 1970 it truly sucked on the return........

  19. Anonymous14/6/07 09:05

    TD...have a wonderful leave and take the time to relax and recharge! Thanks for all you (and your compatriots) do.

  20. Glad you are home safe and sound, TD -- hope you have a great time, and looking forward to your next post all about it !

  21. Welcome Home, Gordon! Look at all those comments... See, you really ARE famous! :)

    And yes, THANK YOU for all you have done, and continue to do for us!

  22. Welcome home...and with all the others I thank you.

  23. Anonymous14/6/07 18:34

    I'm with Buck - not partaking of a Guiness IN IRELAND is a travesty. But what the hell - you're home for a while. And this is so damn ironic - my son just notified me he's headed home to Ft. Drum for some R&R. I wrote him and his wife to read your blog for the back home experience. Good luck to you and thanks. And don't do nuttin un-invincible while your home.

  24. Anonymous15/6/07 06:16

    WELCOME HOME!!!!!!!

  25. Welcome home!

    Enjoy yourself!

    Thank you!


  26. Anonymous15/6/07 21:18

    Dude, that sucks that your CO didn't turn on the drinking light. That bastard. It's not like you wouldn't have had plenty of time to sober up over the Atlantic.

    Last time I was over there, on the way back when we stopped in Shannon, as soon as the doors on the plane opened, 350+ thirsty Marines descended on the bar there in the international terminal like a plague of locusts and drank them dry. I even managed to snag a couple of bottles of whisky from the duty free shop there. Not to rub it in too much ;-)

  27. Anonymous15/6/07 21:34

    Live it up on your well-earned leave!

  28. Woohoo! Enjoy your time at home!

  29. When I was in Ireland (back in 1978) I went to a movie and folks were smoking in the theater.

    Leave is important! Be sure to treat it with the same dedication that you apply to other missions, but don't waste any time watching television! 250 cable channels and nothing on!

  30. WELCOME HOME!!!!! ((((hugs))) So glad you are able to have a visit with your family.... (hugs) you are in our prayers, always.

  31. Anonymous17/6/07 08:44

    Are you partying like the rock star you are, man?

  32. I do hope you are managing R&R, it can be hard to finally "relax". Enjoy...

  33. glad you finally made it home. Have a good leave/vacation. Keep it safe here too.

  34. Welcome home, thanks for your service. Have a great vacation. Write or rest, get busy or be alone- do what refreshes you .

    As for the folks who forgot their last 4 digits, that's what their dogtags are for.

    The contraban checks got under way during Desert Storm's close. We had a soldier in our Evac hospital who was standing in line to board the plane home when his souvinir- the land mine in his right cargo pocket- exploded, flaying open his thigh and snapping his femur.

    I guess it was easier to drag his knuckles after that, at least his right knuckles. Thank God it exploded on the ground and not mid-Atlantic.

    Regards, Terry

  35. Enjoy your leave. I saw the pics, I love that you met Mel.

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