My time here is rapidly coming to an end. I had my last day of duty the other night. It was a light night of work and I volunteered for most jobs as a "last hurrah" type thing. I even volunteered to "get the gate", the dreaded job of all AMMO troops, unlocking the padlock and swinging open the finicky gate for the vehicles to pass through. (It's really quite amazing to see what great lengths people will go to to get out of "getting the gate", it is the bane of our existence here even though it is not a big deal, usually left for the lowest ranking individuals who nearly always try to squirm out of it).
I have not really said goodbye to many people. The time after you finish your final duty day is spent in total limbo, since you no longer have a dependable routine and are given time to pack up and get all your stuff in order. Sometimes they give you too much time. It just stretches out the waiting, so a bunch of us volunteered to go on duty even though we didn't have to, simply because it makes time pass faster. Plus we like the guys we work with and wanted to spend a bit more time with them before saying goodbye. There has only been one goodbye so far, my best buddy that I made here took a helicopter down to Baghdad to deal with some AMMO accounts he is responsible for. I felt really heavy hearted after that goodbye...time is so bizarre here, how you can bond so quickly after only a few short weeks of working together. Usually people make their goodbyes short and sweet, like it's no big deal that you will never see each other again, ever. That is, if time allows for goodbyes. Many times goodbyes just aren't said because the mission doesn't allow for it. The military doesn't really believe in closure.
Katy asked if I was doing ok afterward. I think she noticed that my eyes were beginning to brim. "You alright?" "Yeah. That one stung a bit."
Anyway, I spent a few hours cramming all my stuff into bags. We have to go through customs soon and I know from previous experience that it does no good to pack things neatly since they will just be ripping through it looking for war trophies anyway.
There are a solid 3-4 people that I am going to miss really bad. I will not miss the work that I do. I am proud of the work I do here, but I also know mechanical, technical work is not really my forte, and I don't really particularly enjoy wrenching on things. They never wrench the right way for my anyway. In hindsight, I am making it out of here without getting into trouble, and only screwing up a few very minor things...although there is one incident that happened that makes me look like a total jackass, but that cat isn't out of the bag yet.
Tonight we went and had a cookout with Line-D South. We wore our Physical Training (PT) gear and not our uniforms and steel-toes. We sat up on top of a HAS (Hardened Aircraft Structure) and cracked a few near-beers, watching the lights flicker on the flight line, it was surprisingly quiet. The chicken got dried out, the kabobs were chewy and iffy, and the near beer did not make my innards warm, but it almost felt like home and I almost felt happy.
I am relieved to be getting away from mortars. We had one the other day that was fairly scary but on the off chance an insurgent finds this blog I don't want to give them any hints about the success or lack thereof in their attack. This asshole knew what he was doing, more than most. I am really excited to be able to eat fresh food. I am really excited to take a long hot shower and have an ice cold beer. I am excited to wear sweatpants and hang out with my family. I am not excited to see drunk college kids, I am thankful I am not going back to Madison because I just might lose it. I am excited to feel like a girl, and not feel guilty for putting on good-smelling lotion. I am excited to come home and have Johnny Depp filming Public Enemies in my hometown of 3,500 people. I am excited to possibly be testifying before the U.S. Senate about veterans education issues in April. I am excited to move on with my life and have my last deployment ever behind me. I am really sad to be leaving the Air National Guard. I will miss the structure and the routine this place has provided me with, strangely enough. I will not miss the toxic smoke that envelopes us on a daily basis, the smoke they tells us contains elements of cyanide, Styrofoam, human body parts, and rubber tires.
I came down with The Crud a few days ago. I avoided The Crud for nearly the entirety of my deployment, and then a mere few days before I depart this hellhole, I come down with The Crud. Congestion, coughing, sore throats, phlegm, etc. It's because I did postloaded a bomb in a dust storm, I spent about an hour in the dust and when I came inside my lungs felt like they were on fire, like someone was sitting on my chest. The Crud. It's better now, I'm just hoping it doesn't get worse when I show up in frigid Wisconsin.
Freedom isn't free, they like to say. Well, freedom feels frightening at this point, a vast open space that I am not sure I will know what to do with. I pray that I will adjust quickly and adapt a strategy that will enable me to feel refreshed by life, and not overwhelmed.
Anyway. That's what's on my plate for now. A lot of changes and adaptations, mutations and adjustments. A bittersweet symphony.