Learning from my past experiences

I’ve mentioned before that this will be my second embed with the Minnesota National Guard.  In 2009 I spent about a week in Basra, Iraq on the COB with the 34th Infantry Red Bulls.  I am grateful for this past experience as I prepare for my next trip.  Logistically I know better what to expect.  I know how tired I will be, I know that I will probably get a touch of a stomach bug, I know what the pacing of my time will be like.

Too much gear

I have learned to pack lighter

Snoozing in Kuwait

After a day of travel sleep can happen anywhere

I also know that this time around I will speak with more people both associated with this documentary, and not.  In 2009 while I was in transit I was in a daze.  I encountered a number of people, soldiers and contractors and didn’t take the opportunity to speak with them to learn about what they’re doing and where they’re coming from.  My past experiences will help guide me through.

One aspect of my trip I am not looking forward to is saying ‘good-bye’ to my family.  I’ve revisited a journal I kept from my 2009 trip.  I remember writing this entry at the Minneapolis Airport shortly after my wife and kids dropped me off on the curb.

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5pm – 5 October – Minneapolis / St. Paul International Airport

His little smile. Her tears. Sarah’s embrace. To be one year old. He smiled because I tickled his chin. She cried because I’m her Dad. Every child has their own reason to miss their Dad. Sarah and I embraced each other with the unspoken understanding that on October 15th the family will be whole. At this point-in-time I am wishing we were all one year old.

Saying good-bye to Sarah, and the kids was so much more difficult than I thought it was going to be. I continually think that this trip is going to be ten days. Fewer actually when time changes are figured in. Ten days. Major David Mayo, Sergeant Joshua Christianson and Captain Jennifer Beck-Brown said good-bye to their children for an entire year. They will have been away from home for nearly 400 days. When they said good-bye did it hurt 40 times more? For all of the tear-filled military good-byes I’ve seen in-person and on television comparing my claim of understanding to what I feel now doesn’t mesh. I can say with all honesty that I did not get it until I’ve just had to do it. That, perhaps, is the entire point.

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That was the point.  In 2009 I was producing a project called “Iraq & Back: Minnesotans’ Stories”.  The idea of that show was the show viewers what a year-long deployment is like for the soldiers and families they leave behind.  For this Afghanistan trip I will not be focusing on what soldiers and their families go through, but I am sure these feelings and emotions will not be too far below the surface.