"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Finally, back home!

Well, after one last sandstorm, multiple delays, countless bus rides, and one very long trans-planet flight, I'm finally back home in San Diego! Our squadron spent the better part of three days in transit, from the time our first flight left Al Asad to when our buses finally rolled into Miramar; and here I was worried the transition back to the real world would happen too fast . . .

"Friction", a concept associated with any military operation, was out in full force from the get-go of our return trip. When the big day came, we finally made the move from the tents we'd been staying in for several days up to the flight line where we would board our first flight back to Kuwait. But, once we checked into the ADACG (Airfield Departure/Arrival Control Group; this is where we picked up all our passengers and cargo for our missions over the last six months, and now it was our turn to be hauled somewhere) we learned that our flight out would be delayed four hours. And no sooner had we started digesting that most welcome piece of news, the horizon got hazy, and one last sandstorm came rolling through, dusting out the one set of cammies most of us had and would be wearing for the next three days. We were off to a great start.

The plane did eventually show up, and, loading all our worldly belongings on it, we took to the skies and finally left Iraqi soil. We got to Kuwait about an hour later, and once we unloaded the cargo bird, the fun continued. We learned that the airfield we'd just landed at, where we'd be doing a very thorough customs inspection before heading to Kuwait City for our flight home, didn't have any billeting for us. So we were loaded on buses, moved to another base in Kuwait where we spent only a few hours sleeping before getting up and returning to the first base once daylight broke and the customs inspectors woke up. The customs process itself felt like the bureaucratic equivalent of being made someone's beeotch in prison. Our squadron - one hundred fifty-odd Marines - and another unit we were traveling with - maybe another hundred - were filed, one by one, through the customs building, where we first had all our bags X-rayed, got the once-over from the magic wand, and then had to proceed to a table where we dumped out all our meticulously packed luggage, which was then hand inspected, bit by bit. The purpose behind all of this is to prevent people from bringing home "war trophies", something now so strictly controlled that most of our grandparents from World War II would doubtless be prosecuted for violating military policy. You can't keep any weapons, parts of weapons, enemy uniforms or documents; and what you are allowed to bring, you need to fill out paperwork and get command permission before sending it home. So, the whole process is perfectly designed to discourage you from bringing home anything besides photographs (ever the rebel, however, I returned with vials of sand from Kuwait and Iraq, to add to my collections of soil from other American battlefields). Anyway, three hours later, after cramming all my gear back into my once meticulously packed seabags, I joined the rest of my squadron in a small tent, where we waited half a day for buses to take us to Kuwait City and our flight home.

Finally, the buses showed and we made our way to Kuwait International, only to spend three times the length of the bus ride there simply sitting on the buses, waiting for the plane to arrive. And this plane apparently had fuel tanks the size of my bladder, since we had to land four different times in order to gas up and continue. But we did land in some interesting places: Hungary, where I drank my first couple of beers in months (tasty), Iceland (more beers), Newfoundland (the only place we weren't allowed to debark and stretch our legs during refueling; and, as the whole squadron knows I'm from Canada, you can imagine the crap I took on behalf of the Canadian people for being forced to stay on the plane and miss our last beer stop), and Chicago (at a very small airport; no beer, but friendly folks from the local VFW provided us with, and I quote, "real American soda pop, not that fake crap you've had over there"). At last, we touched down at March AFB in California, eighteen-odd hours after first taking off from Kuwait. We had one last bus ride back to Miramar (a circus in which, about five minutes after leaving March, virtually everyone on board suddenly had to pee, and had to hold it for the next sixty miles), and, just to throw one last little bit of friction into the mix, when we pulled into the passenger terminal where our families were, the MPs told us that they didn't have access to the gate right in front of us, so we'd have to drive around to the far end of the flight line to another gate, then come all the way back around to where we already were but on the other side of a fence. Between our full bladders and seeing our families right there, we were ready to mutiny. But the buses finally got where the MPs wanted them, we disembarked, turned in our weapons, met our families, and went to the bathroom.

So, the big adventure is over. I have the next several days off, most of which I plan on spending watching all of Aaron's new tricks and reminding him who I am. And then, it will be back to garrison life (at least for a while; Bree, Aaron and I will be out to the east coast at some point in June for my post-deployment leave). It's good to be home.


Meghan said...

Yay! You're home!

Silly Canadians, messing it up for everyone :)

Andrew said...

Its good to have you home.

CSB said...

Call your Mom. Or turn your damn phone on.

Ma said...

Yes, and your other Mom too- p.s.
Thank God you're home!

Matt said...

Welcome back. Stay in touch about any journeys eastward.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Ian. Job well done!
Mark and Chris Vallone