Continued from Part 1
Departure, Return and Loss; Part 2 of 3
The weapons have been returned to the armory. Considering where the men have just returned from, considering the long flight back, considering the long days leading up to it, no one ever thought that the armorers would be such complete dicks. But they are, and several hours of cleaning the dust and grime out of the guns go by until they are finally passed through the small portal and into storage. Barracks rooms are issued and a final formation is held so those with awaiting families can go see their loved ones. Soon they are granted leave and the men travel home for some time off. Their cell phones have been turned back on, their cars and jeans recovered from storage. The nakedness of not having a carbine slung across their backs slowly fades as days pass. They return to their homes and make the rounds to see friends and family. The feeling of distance, and the noticeable changes in people and places stand out. There are new pregnancies, there have been deaths. The old house on the corner has burnt down and a new strip mall has been built. The differences are stark; the changes are clear.
As distinct as those changes are to the young man, the man is equally, noticeably, changed to those at home. When he left to go fight, a giant “pause button” was pushed for him; but it was only for him. The rest of America continued on, most without a second thought.
He feels strained when engaged in conversation about the war. There are stupid, inconsiderate questions asked. He often brushes these questions aside, saying simply, “It’s just good to be home.” Other times he lashes out, sometimes at questions well and earnestly meant. He sees old friends, the ones he grew up with. Their lives are very different from his. He listens to their stories with disinterest, as they listen to his without comprehension. Many of the things his friends tell him seem impossibly petty and pointless, as the friends gush over stories of scandal and drama. He considers their concerns and problems to be minute and inconsequential, their lives so dry and worry free. There has been a wall built in the man’s time away, by time, distance and experience itself.
This again weighs on his mind, for he knows that the wall is likely there to stay.
Back at the base, his time off now complete, he yells at the new guys in the unit. The training cycle has started over. He will be soon returning to the very place that he just left, only this time alongside new men who are unfamiliar and unproven. Some he may be leading. He is disgusted by the way these boys act, oblivious to the fact that he is scant years, sometimes bare months, older than them. If they were in college, they would be sitting together in a class as equals. But they are not equals, even if the rank on their uniform is the same. These boys worry more about home and their left-behind lives than the prospect of permanently losing their current ones. The months go by, and they slowly behave more and more as men rather than childish boys. The day arrives, and they pack their gear into shipping boxes and tractor trailers. Weapons are collected from the armory. The man flies out to the very country he wished to never see again with worry on his mind. This concern is familiar to his last deployment, but somehow different. He thinks that perhaps this time he is more concerned about the younger men than he is for himself.
The months go by. He misses home, he is angered by the way the war is being fought. He is impressed with his team, and they are indisputably his family now. He safeguards them and protects them in the ways he learned during his first deployment when he himself was safeguarded and protected. He would walk through the gates of hell for them, and he has. Nothing in the entire world matters as much to him as those men. Of all the things he desires in life, there is nothing he worries about that comes close to them. He cannot wait to get them home. On his last mission, he thinks about how his contract is almost up. He looks across the wartorn countryside one last time. He is certain he will never miss this place, that it has taken a piece of his soul he will never get back. This will be the last time he ever sees this shithole of a country ever again, and that gives him great relief.
The day comes. The routine is the same as the last time. He knows the men are worried about the return, and about what await them. Marriages have failed, babies have been born. Life at home has gone on without them, as they survived their own dark and gritty version of Groundhog Day. He knows that there will be trouble, disappointment and loss waiting for them back on the other side of the world. Apprehension and guarded optimism mix as the men load into the plane home. They will remember this place, this team, this time, for the rest of their lives. They will remember the laughter and love, the loss and the heartbreak for as long as they all will live.
Despite all that these men have survived, they are worried about going home.
The return back to base feels just the same as the last time, yet somehow different. He laughs to himself as he instantly notices all the green and color of his home. It is just like the last time. The weapons are all turned in, the barracks rooms issued out. His team is scattered as though on the wind as formation cuts them loose to their waiting families. A sadness creeps into his heart, as the man realizes that this is the last time they will ever be truly together.
After a short time off, the cycle begins anew – only he will not be going along this time. This makes him feel both relieved and guilty. The man packs his vehicle, signs his papers and receives a small, humble plaque from the best friends he will ever know. The commander writes him a letter of recommendation, telling all future employers how faithful and loyal of a man he is, and what a great asset he would be to have. Driving off the base, he reassures himself that this is truly what is best for his life.
But he’s not completely convinced.
Visit Breach-Bang-Clear tomorrow for Part 3 of: Departure, Return and Loss.
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Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
Mad Duo Nate About the Author: Nathan “Mad Duo Nate” is a former USMC Sergeant who recently transitioned to being a nasty civilian. He lives largely on nicotine, whiskey and hate and can be frequently found orating Kipling poems to frightened hipsters. A graduate of the Camp Lejeune School for Wayward Boys, he was a Marine NCO, Infantry Platoon Sergeant and Scout Sniper team leader. He is a fully qualified American Jedi, handsome badass and world-renowned field barista. He has numerous deployments to the Middle East and Africa and is something of an idiot savant when it comes finger-fucking stuff to make it work better. Nate only chain smokes when he’s drinking and only drinks every day. We reckon he is probably best described as a sociopathic philosopher with vestigial cutthroat (though poetic) tendencies. Thus far Murr’s writing has appeared in such places as here on Breach-Bang-Clear, on Military.com, in field shitters and portajohns on at least 3 continents, in RECOIL Magazine and of course Penthouse letters. (Grunts: vestigial)