To describe myself as having been tired would be like saying the Titanic bumped into an ice cube. We said hello to our last day in the US at 5:45 in the morning and goodbye to our loved ones by 8:00. From that morning until after dark we sat around wishing our families were able to wait with us. Being only a few miles and a couple of heavily guarded gates away from our loved ones, whom we wouldn't see for months, seemed unnecessary. I know my wife, she could have made it through the gates no problem.
Once we were in the air, the real mind trip began. After an initial 5 hour leg, we spent about an hour layover in the US on Christmas day. From there we took another 5 hour stint to Shannon, Ireland. This layover afforded the men and women a glimpse of what we were sacrificing for our jobs. The TV in the terminal was showing Christmas mass at a small church somewhere in Ireland. The priest talked to the little kids dressed up for the holiday play. Each time one answered an underhanded question from the priest, we would get a chuckle out of their responses. Those were the only smiles and laughs I heard on Christmas day. We were back on the plane within 2 hours for our last stint to Kuwait. We thought Kuwait would be our temporary "final stop." We were wrong.
After another 5 hours or so in the air we landed in Kuwait. My watch told me that it was just after dark on Christmas back home. The sky over Kuwait was black but it was almost sunrise on the 26th. I refused to change my watch to local time because something about purposely fast forwarding over the day that I spent my childhood wishing would get here and never end seemed wrong. Meaningless at this point in time, but it still felt wrong.
As I said before, we were operating under the impression that we would have 3 to 4 days to recuperate in Kuwait before leaving for our ultimate destination, Afghanistan. Less than 6 hours after landing in Kuwait we were told to repack our bags, barely touched since landing, but for finding toothbrushes, shampoo, and a change of underwear, and catch a flight to Afghanistan by mid-day. At some point, I laid back on a bed in our transient tent. I was woken up by one of the other contractors telling me that I was about to miss the showtime for our flight. The Army looks at missing showtime like missing a birthday because you were watching football or something. I don't remember putting on pants, but I do remember having to carry my 60lbs bag down to the staging area. After sweet talking the front desk into allowing me to board with the rest of my coworkers, I was on the bus to the flightline.
One thing I remembered about Kuwait from my first travels through the country, was how dry it was. You find it hard to swallow, your face feels like sandpaper, and your nostrils feel like they're made of cardboard. A gatorade hurt going down. Something I recalled noticing my last time through were the old bunkers. Though I didn't pay them much attention then, I couldn't help but think about what these hulks of earth meant.
Newsflash, the first Gulf War was 20 years ago people. The CNN footage you all remember as your first glimpse of war, you were watching as grade schoolers and preteens. These mammoths were a reminder for me that we've had people in the middle east for at least that long. I was 7 when these holes were made. I can't put my finger on it, but something about that amazes me. Why haven't the holes been fixed? Why haven't the bunkers been demolished completely since? What in the hell could have made such huge dents in these things? Egh, answers probably don't exist. I snap a few pictures from the bus anyways. I look down at my watch before boarding our last plane, it's the 26th back home. I change my watch.
So, I've made it to Afghanistan safely. I still have no idea what day it is. I'm pretty sure I've been here for 4 days, but the others are saying it's only been two days. I will fight them later. My spirits aren't up that much, but I'm not too down either. I got to see my wife on Skype yesterday. That felt like nothing I'd ever felt before. I've got something like 360-362 days left out here. I've just now decided that I'm going to be happy when the 6 in 360-362 changes to a 5. Small victories are going to get me through this year. That and Skype. Come on 359!
PS: I'll add pictures in a few days.