"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."

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Back in the wild blue yonder

You all have my solemn promise that at some point in the not-too-distant future, I will finish my tales about our MEU (though honestly, everything from Singapore on was sight-seeing). Yet I don't want to linger in the past at the expense of the present. So here's what's happening now. All or most of you know that I finished my FAC tour with the grunts at the end of February, preparing myself for returning to the aviation community while helping Bree out with her various and sundry medical issues. My homecoming was non-standard, as so much about my tour at the Stumps was; Bree was unfortunately in the hospital due to kidney stone problems (a situation that would repeat itself over, and over, and over . . .), so two of our friends from the 53 community generously made the 2.5 hour drive to pick me up. During the drive back home I wondered how this third reunion with Aaron would go. First time around he was terrified of me for a good two days; second time, a little timid but after lunch at Chili's (and a new toy) he seemed to think I was okay. This time, apparently, I needn't have worried; he came straight to the door and not only remembered who I was but seemed happy to see me (a new Lego Buzz Lightyear space-ship didn't hurt matters either). Our many video chats via Skype paid off (a glorious invention, Skype; you can videochat/call anywhere in the world for peanuts, and it's given me dividends in both Iraq and Okinawa. Think I'll buy stock, if the government gets around to giving me a paycheck next week. But I digress). I can only hope that the next homecoming will be that good; my seven months of week-long 'deployments' to 29 Palms helped Aaron prepare emotionally for a longer separation, and Skype was at least better than not seeing his face at all for another six months. I'm not sure how he'll react after having me home for a long period of time (combined with the fact that, by next summer, he'll probably be old enough to honestly feel resentment at the thought of me leaving again). We'll see.

Anyway, I got plenty of time at home to start making up for all my time abroad. Some of it wasn't quite planned - I ended up getting two free weeks off work to help Bree with kidney stone problems - but all of it was good. I took Aaron to the park so many times I'm surprised he didn't burn through every layer of skin on him. He also enjoyed showing me off to all his friends at preschool (though on the first day I picked him, his teachers wouldn't take his word for it that I was his daddy, demanding instead two forms of photo ID before I was allowed to leave with him). All in all I had five straights weeks to reintegrate myself back into home life and pick up some of the slack so that Bree could relax (at least, relax as much as is possible for a ninth-months pregnant lady). By the time my leave was over, my time with the battalion was also drawing to a close. The only things I had left to do with them were go to a belated birthday ball in Vegas, get farewelled, and check out. The official farewell - done, as they generally are, at a place where the consumption of large quantities of alcohol and loud noises are encouraged - was touching, even a little sad. Now, no disrespect at all to the battalion, but I was pretty excited to be getting back to Miramar and the cockpit. However, with the exception of the time spent away from my family, overall my FAC tour was a positive and highly educational experience. It was non-standard in many ways - few FACs spend months in command of one of the battalion's companies, or get tapped to be the number two to the MRF - but I learned a tremendous amount about how the bigger Marine Corps works, and the year I spent with the grunts certainly made me a more well-rounded officer than most of my time in the Corps up until then. The exchange seemed to work both ways too; many kind words were said at the farewell (some of them even true), and at the very least I think I did a decent job of representing Marine aviation to our ground brethren. And of the various plaques and pictures hanging on my Marine wall of fame in the dining room, one of the ones that means the most to me is the farewell plaque I got from the Marines in H&S company after my (second) change of command. I think it would have been very easy for the company to simply 'tolerate' my presence until a 'real' (non-pilot) CO assumed command, but by the time I finally gave up the reins there was a great deal of mutual respect between me and my staff, having worked through a demanding pre-deployment training cycle, an unexpectedly fired CO, and supporting the battalion in a major field exercise. They were certainly some of the finest officers and staff non-commissioned officers I've ever worked with, and without their knowledge and professionalism my tenure in command would have been much harder than it was.

After the ball, and my checking out of the battaliona and back into my old squadron, the next big event on the horizon was not flying, or getting settled in a new ground job, but preparing for the arrival of the child I'd only referred to as "dash two" for the last several months. I briefly greeted my old squadron-mates (and the new ones whose names I didn't bother learning since I figured I'd just forget them and have to re-learn them after paternity leave anyway) and then promptly checked out on baby leave when dash two child became Molly Kate on March 5. Her arrival (and pregnancy as a whole) was like night and day compared to Aaron's. Aaron's pregnancy wasn't too uncomfortable but the delivery sucked; Molly's was preceded by months of extra pain from kidney stones and a pee tube, but her delivery was, thankfully, pretty mild (I speak from my expert position as the guy standing beside the bed while the pushing was going on). Bree was scheduled to be induced, and on the big day we checked in bright and early to the birthing suite (this hospital was much nicer than Balboa Naval Hospital; the 'delivery room' was much bigger, featured several different delivery zones included a jacuzzi, and included amenities like a TV, DVD player, and actual fold-out bed for significant others to sleep on, as opposed to the cold hard floor I slept on at Balboa). The epidural was placed much better this time (i.e. it actually worked), and things were going so calmly that I decided to shoot back home briefly to check on Aaron. But no sooner had I gotten to the house than Bree called and said the doctor was waiting on me to come back, and with visions of an irate wife holding the baby in, I expeditiously made my way back to the hospital. No sooner did I arrive then the doctor started the pushing process and in about twenty minutes, amazingly, the whole thing was over, and Molly was getting the goop wiped off her. She quickly assumed the position she's adopted for the last two months - eating and sleeping simultaneously - and both mom and daughter were doing so well that I called my cousin, who'd been watching Aaron, and said they could both come by to say hello. Aaron was quite impressed with his new friend, giving her lots of kisses, and seemed to accept his new competition for attention gracefully (also, Molly 'getting' him a new Lightning McQueen monster truck as an ice-breaker present didn't hurt either.)

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I'm gonna take a page from my 31st MEU wrap-up and call it good here lest I let it lie fallow for too long. Suffice it to say that we are one family member larger, she's doing well, Mama no longer has kidney stones, and number one son has a strange interest in the process of changing his sister's dirty diapers, which apparently requires his presence to be completed effectively. It's summer in San Diego, I get to fly occasionally, and life is pretty good. Please return to the top of the blog for any updates in the future.

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