Well, I've been home for over a week and I still don't know how to answer the question, "So, are you glad to be home?"
Of course I'm glad to be home. But, I also miss the sense of mission and the friends I had in Afghanistan. And even though I spent 15 months in Afghanistan, I sometimes feel guilty being home and safe while others are still serving overseas. I don't ever want to forget that I have friends and colleagues away from home and in harms way, and I'm ready to go back when necessary to do my part again.
I've often heard it said that the nation is not at war, only the military is at war. Now that I'm home I have a mixed opinion on that statement. True, there are no outward signs of war in Vancouver, Washington; No armored vehicles patrolling the streets, no bunkers, no check points. However, there is obviously a lot of support for deployed troops. In my first week back I was out to lunch with a group of Soldiers and another patron paid the bill for all of us, and didn't even stick around for us to say thank you. Everywhere I go I am thanked for my service and welcomed home. Having seen what war does to a country I'm glad we are safe at home, I'm glad it doesn't "look like we are at war" and I'd gladly go back if that is what it takes to keep us safe here at home.
And although we don't see the same level of industrial mobilization that was required during WWII, we as a nation have invented and refined dozens if not hundreds of systems to fight this current war; Up-armored HMMWVs, electronic countermeasures against IEDs, improved body armor, UAVs, as well as improved classes and training and leadership techniques. When I look back to 2003/2004 and my time in Iraq I'm reminded that in the beginning we had no UAHs, no improved body armor, no translators, no PRTs or ETTs or anthropologist assigned at the unit level. Now they have all these, and more, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now I'm not saying that someone shouldn't have anticipated these needs and prepared accordingly, but those decisions are made above my pay grade. I am saying that the military has adapted and changed and learned while still fighting and winning the war on multiple fronts; Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and Asia.
And yes, I think we are winning the war. I certainly have no insight into the "big picture" but I know that on the ground, wherever there are US troops (or British or Canadian or Polish or Romanian or any number of other countries that support us with troops on the ground) we are winning the war. Iraqis or Afghanis who work with US troops see a little bit of America, and they like what they see. We will never make them like us, and they don't want to be like us, but we can make them better, and help them make their countries better and safer.
I don't pretend to understand the politics that got us in to this war, or even the long term strategy to "win" the war, but I do know that the US military can and will do it's job whenever and wherever they are called to serve. I know that the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines with whom I have worked represent what is best about this country, they are great ambassadors around the world.
Am I glad to be home? Yes, of course. Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat. In fact, I know that as long as I wear the uniform this is part of the job.
Until next time.