The Return

Chapter 10: Home Sweet Home

“You are now released from active duty.  Go home until Uncle Sam calls upon you again.”

I left home on Monday, January 5th, 2009.  I had just completed my first semester at Stony Brook – I filled out a military leave of absence form and submitted it to the registrar.  When the man working at the registrar’s desk asked when I was coming back, I told him I had no idea.

I graduated Basic Training on March 20th, 2009.  During that period of roughly three months, I had not touched candy, soda, gatorade – the basic things almost everyone here takes for granted.  I had not listened to music, seen a movie, or even touched the internet.  I didn’t know what movies were out in theatres, what was going on in the world, or who had died.

The first thing I did when I graduated was run over to the local pX (Post Exchange, basically a CVS meant for soldiers) and purchase a milky way, a monster energy drink, and a newspaper.  I saw a television turned on at a cafe on base, and watched with my jaw dropped.  The first song I heard on the radio was “Dead and Gone” by T.I.  I wondered how polluted my facebook was.

March 21st, I arrived at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, to begin my training.  I was to spend 18 weeks of training there doing advanced training.  Summer was right around the corner, and in Sierra Vista the summers are very hot and dry.  A couple months later in June, it was monsoon season.

After a long 18 weeks, we graduated on July 16th, 2009.  However, my flight was not until the 17th.  The best part – the commander told us we had to leave base, and basically spend our own money for a hotel and a ride to the airport.  The familiar Army cadence just taunts you, “They give you a hundred dollars and take back ninety-nine.”

I packed a large duffel back, a suitcase, and a backpack.  My friends and I rented a car to drive to the airport.  We spent the night at a Holiday in only twenty minutes from the airport.  From there, we enjoyed swims in the pool, and chilled out in the hot-tub.  We were free men.  Dinner was simple – we went to an Applebees during happy hour and pigged out an appetizers – they bought alcoholic drinks, but I was only 19 at the time, so I just relaxed over a raspberry iced-tea.

The ironic thing is that I drank so much my first semester at college, and then for the next seven months I spent active duty in the army, I did not touch a drop of alcohol.

The next day, we woke up early and drove over to the airport.  My flight was around seven, so we got there around five-thirty.  I waved goodbye to my friends that I had seen everyday for the past 18 weeks at Fort Huachuca.  It’s funny how much we look back  at the old times – despite all the shit we went through, we still miss it.

I was in uniform at the time because the commander suggested that we wear it with pride on our return trip home.  People would occasionally whisper and point at me when I was walking by, and the occasional time someone would say thank you.

I found my gate and boarded the plane – I was to transfer at Atlanta, GA, and finally arrive at Newark, NJ.  When I arrived in New Jersey, I was filled with excitement.  I went to the luggage-claim, got my belongings, and found my dad.  It was a great feeling to be back.

What’s the first thing that I did when I got home?  I cleaned the bathroom.  Army brainwash, complete.

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