New Year's Eve
I'd actually been on my way for several days at that point, staging along the way in Baghdad, Balad, and Kuwait, finally boarding that "freedom bird" (albeit only temporarily) at Camp Wolf/Wolverine via Rhein-Main AFB, Frankfurt, Germany (a place with a lot of history, some of it mine and some of that still in my future) to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. There I was met by my lovely bride, Madam-at-Arms, and we began a whirlwind romance of two weeks together.
In some ways it was the best two weeks of my life.
My battalion had done the right thing regarding R&Rs. Given that we were already more than halfway through our year of "boots-on-ground" in theatre when the R&R program was implemented, the BC decreed that R&R slots given the battalion would be granted in reverse order of rank and seniority. The privates when first, then the specialists, followed by the "demographic bulge" of an MI battalion's sergeants. Since no R&Rs would be given during each deployed unit's final 90 days in theatre, it was a race against time.
Finally the senior NCOs were starting to receive their slots and on Christmas morning I got my "call." You could go just before New Years, Dec. 28th I believe it was to be. It still took me until the morning of January 1st before I actually arrived, but it was worth every minute of the in-transit delays along the way.
The details of my R&R will remain private. Let me say that the bed-and-breakfast was well-appointed and welcoming. And The-Wee-Consular-Beastie went absolutely apeshit at my sudden re-appearance (Madam-at-Arms was similarly enthusiastic, if a great deal more dignified about it). There was time for tears, of happiness and sadness, time to make new memories to carry us through the next few months, time to see my tropics-born-and-raised dog romp in newly-fallen snow, and to show my bride some of the scenes of my mispent youth. It was a wonderful R&R and very hard to leave when it was over. At the same time I couldn't wait to get "home" to my unit so I could get back to work and we could all come home together. With only one exception, all of us did.
I got home for good a few months later. Since then we've moved two-or-three times, are on our third continent together, and I've learned another language and been tenured professionally. I've retired from the active reserves, "hung up my guns" as I sometimes say.
They give you an option when you retire from the reserves, to simply get out and then file for retirement pay when you reach age 60, or to take an I.D. card and stay on the Retired Reserves list. I took the latter choice. I'm still "young," after 24 years beginning at age 19; if "Big Sam" needs me yet again he knows where he can find me and I'm still lugging my uniforms and gear with me from post-to-post.
In the meantime I continue to serve in my civilian, FS capacity, this time at another "hardship" post. I know that a lot of the soldiers and NCOs (and even some officers) I helped train over the years continue to serve and that reassures me a great deal. My generation of old "Cold Warriors" has had to unlearn some of the things we thought we knew in order to deal with the Global War On Terror, hopefully nothing I taught those young troops is anything they've had much trouble unlearning when necessary.