Leave Rotations End
Most in the unit have returned to Iraq after their two-week leave, a hiatus granted to each soldier, spread out over the year to maximize productivity. Some chose to go home to family, while others vacationed in foreign countries. All agreed that the leave provided a needed break from the conditions here in Iraq. Most also thought they were the shortest two weeks of this deployment -- they wished their lives away in anticipation of leave, and prayed time would stop during it.
Though the two-week leave provides a needed break for soldiers and their families, several soldiers have admitted the program has been as tough mentally as anything else they have experienced in Iraq. I haven't gone myself, but from conversations with those who have, it seems the process generally goes as follows:
About a week before their leave is scheduled, the soldier is extremely excited. Conversation is increasingly dominated by their family and the things they want to do when they get home. As the departure day comes discussion dwindles to "I just want to get the hell out of here."
From my perspective, they leave the unit and show up in Iraq again almost three weeks later.
Upon the soldier's return, we greet him or her with a "Welcome back! How was leave?" In all cases the reply is something like, "It was great!" One soldier indicated that once reaching home, he and his family felt a huge emotional shift, from the excitement and pleasure of home, to an overpowering daily dread of an inevitable return to duty in Iraq. Some of the personnel have had the fortune of returning home in time to see their first born into this world, while others visit immediate family or even their employers. As they get back into the swing of things, adapting to the particular day or night schedule, conversations about what they did on leave trail off.
Some say call the return to Iraq one of the hardest things they've done. Others were so impacted they choose not to reveal their feelings when asked. Returning our monotony, willingly separating themselves from the comforts on home, can take several weeks to overcome.
Back home there must be a similar emotional rollercoaster that starts with the extremely slow clack of time, up until their soldier's arrival home. With the first sighting of their soldier, time crests the huge hill and speeds through the course of small hills and turns until the fun comes to a lurching stop and their soldier departs for Iraq again.
With the end of the leave cycle also comes the the beginning of the end of the deployment. For a time we all were pulling extra weight, getting the job done, affording everyone the opportunity to take a load off at home. We've returned to our fat lineup allowing us to spend time on extra duties like packing up shop.
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