As indicated by Melobi’s guest post below, last weekend marked the one year anniversary of my return from Iraq. I mentioned this fact to another soldier last drill weekend; he looked at me with surprise and said, “wow, that was the fastest year of my life.” I had to agree, if only because the preceding year must have been the slowest. Another fellow Crazed Iraq War Veteran™ agreed; she expressed the contradictory feeling of Iraq having been yesterday and also having happened in another lifetime.
I saw my friend SGT Dock on Sunday, who’s home on leave from Iraq. He, like so many others, got married just before going over, and he talked about how they needed to buy a house when he returned and how he wanted to start getting his life back in order. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it dawned on me as I spoke: I told him that it would probably take about a year to get back in the groove, so to speak.
It’s true – only now do I feel like things that I planned so obsessively during those long days and nights in the desert are finally coming to fruition. It’s only now that “remember that time in Iraq?” isn’t a regular topic of conversation. The deployment is starting to take on the burnished patina of memory, that cheesecloth haze that hides the rough edges and the fine detail, leaving only the bright high points clearly visible. That memory effect makes me glad that I blogged my way through the deployment, because otherwise, so much detail would be lost even after a year. It makes me want to sit The Pontiff and others down and write their stories too, to have a more complete recollection of our shared experience. Others, too, are still getting their affairs in order, whether it’s dealing with a new house, or a new baby, or any number of other pleasant (and not so pleasant) upheavals.
The first year back was really much easier that I feared it might be. All of the post-deployment briefings were largely doom-and-gloom affairs – you’ll think thunderstorms are mortar impacts! you won’t be able to stand in a grocery line without breaking a cold sweat! your wife will reject your pent-up sexual advances! you’ll do a cavity search on your dog looking for IEDs! – and while I considered myself largely unaffected by my trip to Iraq, I did wonder if there was some hidden factor lurking within my psyche, twisted by my long hours in my radio truck. Luckily, that was not the case.
Mrs. Melobi didn’t like it when I said the other day that I wasn’t going to get a new laptop until my next deployment. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to say, and it encapsulates my new mindset and that of many others I know; it’s sort of a Zen-like acceptance of events, an almost fatalistic attitude (which can also be summarized as, “shit happens”). I don’t sit around thinking about when I might get deployed again, but it’s an idea that’s always there in the back of my mind, subtly coloring my actions and decisions.