My travels home was long and slow, but forward progress was consistent. After spending more time than I wanted to in Kuwait, we arrived in the US to McGuire Air Force Base, NJ and were transported over to Fort Dix were we’d remain overnight. Our bus was met by a small group of Vietnam veterans, some in wheelchairs or missing limbs, all greeting us with smiles, hearty handshakes and a “Welcome Home”. The vets goal is that never again should a US soldier arrive home from war without a welcome. I was truly moved by the selflessness of these vets and although I would be completely content if the US never again has to send soldiers into harms way, I would like to return the kindness and fellowship I received that sunny afternoon. The next morning we loaded up on buses and headed to Philadelphia to take a commercial flight to Kansas City. There was a bus ready to pick us up when we arrived to Kansas City, which set the tone for the next two days in which we outprocessed at Fort Riley, KS. We completed a lot of activities in our few hours at Fort Riley: medical screening, records updating, pay adjustments, equipment turn-in, “re-integration” briefings, after action review, as well as an opportunity for me to take my team members to The Little Apple Brewing Company (Manhattan, KS) for my long-delayed promotion party. I was promoted to the rank of Major back in October 2007 and it is Army tradition for the newly promoted to throw a party (i.e. an event with beer). As I was unable to do this properly while in Iraq (US soldiers are not allowed to possess or consume alcoholic beverages in Iraq), I was glad to have the opportunity to carry out the tradition back in the states.
And then the next morning, June 6th, it was over. Our team members said their goodbyes. Some had their vehicles at Fort Riley and were driving to their next destination. Most of us headed back to Kansas City to fly home.
It was good to be home. Wife, daughter, dog, and cat – all together again.
Next on the agenda: move house and household, bag and baggage from Hampton, Virginia (where I had been stationed at Fort Monroe prior to my deployment to Iraq) to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to attend the Army’s Command & Staff College.