Monday, June 12, 2006

Coffee for Veterans

...writing the post title brings wandering thoughts to mind about the possibility of opening a little coffee shop "for veterans"... but that's not what this post is about.

There is plenty to tell about what has taken place since coming home from Iraq the first of the year. I can't fit it all into this post. My lingering participation with the military through the Minnesota National Guard has been challenging in so many unexpected ways. I feel out of place; I have far less responsibility now than I did while deployed; and the whole "periodic training and readiness" seems such a farce. For example, quarterly performance reviews by my supervisor are based on six to eight days, the number of drill days in a quarter. I get preoccupied with the simultaneous waste and enrichment brought on by deployment, absorbing a year and a half of my life. I find myself turning that over and over in my mind whenever I have to "go back in" monthly. I was in Minneapolis for drill this last weekend, and I'm not sure if anything else could have gone wrong!

I booked a hotel in an suburb I thought was close to the unit armory -- nope. I was a twenty-minute drive away, but I didn't realize this until I had reached the hotel at 2 a.m. Friday/Saturday -- one full hour of frustrated, lost searching for it. We (I brought Jenn with me -- a very pleasant aspect of the trip) opened the trunk only to discover that I had left my garmet bag, uniforms, boots and head gear at home -- 4.5 hours away! Luckily I had a "field" uniform stuffed into one of my bags. I did my best, Sharpie marker for rank, missing patches, to salvage something wearable for the weekend. I lost an ID (found it), the hotel dropped my wake-up call the second day (causing 45-minute late arrival), and I was kept awake the first night by loud moans from the next hotel room over. I couldn't believe how consistently clumsly, forgetful and unorganized I was for 48 hours straight. All of my idiocy was countered only by good company and family support...

Jennifer and I went out Saturday evening -- first to Nordstrom's at the MOA for frangrance sampling. What fun! We went from there to TGIFriday's for exquisite food (Key Lime Shrimp for me) and drinks. Has anyone heard of a Colorado Bulldog?? Sunday, Abe came south to join us, where we enjoyed dinner prepared by Jenn's sister and conversation with her folks. I followed the dinner with coffee at Carabou with my friend Tom.

It is so easy to feel like the struggles of coming home are imaginary. They are every-bit my issue, but it's consoling on occasion to talk to someone else whose "uphill battle" originates from the same source as mine. There was an hour of conversation about current happenings, getting into school programs to resurrect our post-secondary and graduate pursuits, and "staying positive." I felt refreshed. It was a good day. Whether I like it or not, the military is a part of me. I'm dealing with that now, nearly eight years after signing up.

I no longer wish I was back in Iraq. I'm weaning myself off from wishing, gradually replacing it with equal parts doing. I QUIT SMOKING!! One goal down, dozens to go. I'll keep you posted.