So, if you can count to 50 then you can officially count higher than the amount of days that I have left in sunny and scenic Afghanistan!
The last time I posted I was only a few weeks from heading home on my two-week R&R. I'm not quite sure if I feel rested and recuperated, but I am back. I've learned that it is a basic instinctive response to say "glad to be back" when someone says "hey man, glad you're back." I've caught myself responding as such and know that it is a total lie! I'm not unhappy to be back, obviously I would rather be home though.
One thing I am very happy about is that I am no longer in transit. The trip began in Huntsville at the airport and ended in Afghanistan approximately 50 hours later. Most people can sleep with no problems on an airplane, however I know that I am not most people. If I do happen to fall asleep on the plane it's only for 5-10 minutes at a whack and very unrestful. Also, should the crew choose to play a video then I am hooked if it is anything worth watching...we watched 4 full length films between Germany and Kuwait.
Upon our arrival back in Atlanta we learned that our flight wasn't for another 13 hours; when we realized we couldn't get an earlier seat we went and rented a car for the 3 hour drive home. Loni picked me up and was even more beautiful than I remember! My kids were great when we went to pick them up; both have grown considerably. My daughter has really gotten taller and slimmed down, while my son is now walking/running around trying to keep up with his sister. It was wonderful getting to see them again, literally unexplainable, even though my daughter put me in tears within the first 15 seconds when she grabs my face and very seriously states, "Daddy, I missed you...I needed you."
We made it back in time for church on the 19th, it was great getting to see everyone there. The prayers and support shown by them has made this deployment bearable. My father and brother planned a frosty motorcycle ride my first week home. The weather forecast had previously stated approximately 60* but when the time came a cold front came with it and we rode in cool 42* weather. Normally we would all say "no thanks" to riding in such weather, but we just had to ride once while I was home! We stayed on the run from the 23rd through the 27th from one Christmas gathering to another.
Loni and I took a much needed date night late in the R&R to Fleming's in Nashville. If you have never been there I highly recommend it...best steak I've ever had, they also had wonderful service! I won't mention any names, but our night at Fleming's was free thanks to some great people for which I am forever grateful.
Two other gatherings that we attended during the latter half of R&R were our church Sunday school party and a get together with some friends. The church party was a blast at the home of Jeremy & Jodi Hopper...we played a game on their Wii called Just Dance and had a great time. I found out the next morning that it was as much a workout as it was fun! Loni contacted a few friends and we went to the Cheesecake Factory down in Birmingham; I'm not sure I have laughed that much in years.
There is a great deal of stuff that I haven't mentioned and won't due to this becoming a long post...either way, the time was spent with great family and great friends.
Also, for the first time since weather records have been kept beginning way back in 1880 our little town had a white Christmas! Most of you know the area, but for anyone not from Cullman you should understand that it snows there 1-2 times per year and very seldom sticks for more than a few hours. The reason I tell you this is because in a place like Cullman you have no real need for winter weather clothes. My children resembled Ralphie from A Christmas Story when they went outside; I'm pretty sure they each had on 3 sets of clothes. We built a huge snowman (relative to Cullman) with the help of my parents, which eventually fell under its own weight. We did make some really good pictures before it fell though...good times!
My time at home was as you might expect, an absolute whirlwind of running from place to place trying to see everyone during Christmas...I wouldn't trade it for anything.
So, to my family and friends...thanks so much for making my time at home special. Less than 50 days and I'll be beginning my trek back home for good.
I'll leave you with a good word from my friend and teammate Rich...
"Time! So elusive – I hate you and love you! What a relationship! Please make the days pass at lightning speed until I once again return. Slow down those days spent loving my sacred time with my friends and family. Watch over me, watch over my family and friends, keep their spirits high, their goals focused and their purpose meaningful."
Until next time...