Thursday, March 22, 2012

20 Weeks and Counting

It's hard to believe that twenty weeks today, I packed my seabag one last time in a hotel room in Gulfport, MS, laced up my Army combat boots one last time, and boarded a plane bound for HOME. I hadn't been on Ohio soil since April 8, 2011 and had only dreamed about the day I'd set foot on it again. I learned a lot that day and the weeks since. On that day, I learned about true support as I walked off the plane. I saw people that totally surprised me with their presence. I saw signs welcoming me home that were carefully crafted and colored by little ones. I also got more hugs than ever welcoming me home. Most wanted to be there and it was a great feeling. I'm guessing around 50 were at the airport that night around 10pm. Then there was my youngest who at first sight of me, sprinted out of my wife's care, past the Department of Homeland Security guard (who jumped from his chair), and into my arms. I will never forget that moment. Her eyes as big and blue as the sky and tears welling up. Moments later, I held her and my wife and oldest daughter while the crowd kept their distance.

20 weeks have now passed. In Afghanistan, 20 weeks took an eternity. 20 weeks home has gone by in a snap. Life is different now like never before. Many things that mattered a lot matter no more. Gone are the days of running in groups on Saturday mornings and here are early mornings with my wife on country roads. Gone are days I head to my Navy weekends on Friday nights and here are super-early Saturday morning drives to that weekend. Gone are nights watching sitcoms and here are nights talking, walking, and sharing quality time with my wife and girls. Gone are hours on the computer while my family does whatever and here are nights playing Bananagrams on the kitchen table. (a terribly addictive game!) Gone are race entries upon race entries, trying to rack up more finishes. Here now is running for the pure satisfaction of running in its purest form. Gone are days worrying about my weight. Here are days where I weigh nearly my lowest ever yet run slower and less. Gone are days of Kashi cereal for breakfast and mornings alone and here are mornings spent with my bride along with 1 slice of toast and 2 eggs. Gone are the days I fall asleep on the couch and perhaps stay out there for the night. Here are days where we head to bed together and kiss each other goodnight. Gone are the days of doing it all on my own and not looking to Him for help and strength. Here are days where I look alone to Him for everything. Gone are the days that I accept that I will never be good enough as I have believed my entire life. Here are the days of acceptance that I am good enough just as I am.

Life is different. In fact, it's totally overhauled. Practically nothing is the same as it once was. I am thankful, though, for what is true today. Did my deployment "cause" this overhaul. Perhaps indirectly. Is "reintegration" a real issue for the military family today that nearly all of the non-military public is unaware of? Absolutely. You really have no idea until you walk in our shoes. Bottom Line: I am thankful for where I am today, my marriage that is stronger than ever, and my calling as a
husband/father/protector/leader.

So back to running: you may recall a tradition I started back a few years ago. That tradition took a hiatus last year due to being at combat training in South Carolina. That tradition was running my age on my birthday. This year I will hit 39 years of age and the planning has begun to travel the roads yet again, stopping along the way to see friends, family, and familiar places. Fluids, some food, a camera, and
a body that will withstand the rigors of 39 miles of asphalt is all I ask for. Let the planning begin...

Happy Trails, everyone!

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