Since getting here to Fort Leonard Wood, we have had some down time. A lot of down time to be honest as we sit in limbo as previously stated in other entries. It's pretty much the first time that I've been able to really stop and think and process some of the experiences that we had at Fort Hood.
We got to Fort Hood in Dec 2004 and hit the ground running. Kevin was one of the few Soldiers that was with that brigade right from the start, he even got there before his own Squadron Commander. We knew from the time we signed in that he would deploy, in fact we went to Fort Hood so he could deploy. I won't lie, that scared the hell out of me.
Kevin got a couple months to get settled and then all the training and chaos started. They went from standing up a brigade from basically nothing to deployed in 11 months. I think few of us knew what to expect. I know many of us were in selfish mode, we were all cordial with one other at FRG meetings and other social events but for the most part we were all greedy with the time that we had to spend with our own Soldier. I know we were. The Soldiers grew close which is good but most of the family members didn't know each other until AFTER the guys left.
Our guys were scheduled to deploy the first week of December 2005. The anticipation has built up to an intense level. We had been told so many things throughout the 11 months that most of us were ready to say the goodbye, it couldn't be worse then the waiting (at least that's what we thought). Thanksgiving was the last holiday we would spend together before shipping the guys out. It would be a memorable one but not the way you think.
In the early hours of Thanksgiving we received a call letting us know that one of Kevin's Soldiers had been in a car accident in the middle of the night and was not expected to make it. It put many of the families in our platoon in an odd position. We all wanted this last holiday, they all felt it was their duty to be with one of their own. In the end, most of them, including Kevin left their families and went to the hospital. It was a bittersweet experience for us because I hated that he wasn't home with us but grateful that he was willing to honor his position as a leader. He spent a lot of his last week home at the hospital. I had to put a lot my selfishness aside and allow him to do what he felt he needed to. It was also comforting to me to know that the Soldiers he would deploy with were willing to band together for this Soldier stateside, it let me know they would watch out for one another in combat.
A few days later we would say goodbye to our Soldier and those in his unit...for some...it would be their last goodbye.
The morning we took our Soldier to get on the ugly white buses was hard. It was a somewhat nice day but the silence was deafening. All around us Soldiers and their families were huddled together, trying to make every minute count. The wait is torture. You want every second you can get but then you also want to get it overwith, it's a true mix of emotions. I was the Family Readiness Group leader and felt that I should try to take as many pics as I could. I had a friend with me who was snapping away. I still find myself looking at those pics and thinking back to that day. Most welcomed the photo opportunity, a few didn't. I'll never forget that my dear friend Nita and her husband didn't want a photo. At first I honored that request but then I told them I didn't care, I was going to take one anyway. It would be the last picture taken of the two of them together.
I also snapped many pics of Soldiers who's families weren't there, just so I could load them and share them later. Many of the Soldiers were still putting some of their equipment together. SGT JLO and SGT G were two of them. I remember laughing with them about how long it took for them to get their sling together for their weapon. I don't have to look at a picture to remember that moment. Just a few months later, the picture I took of SGT Jose Gomez would be in newspapers everywhere when they ran the article about him being killed in Iraq.
What I initially remembered about the day we put our Soldier on the bus and bid farewell ended up not being what I would remember about that day after all.
To be continued....