Sometimes I think half of my time on this earth has been spent pondering life while staring out an airplane window. My two weeks of R&R leave have evaporated and I'm now on the first leg of the long journey back to Bagram. The sun is setting out the opposite windows and I feel the tinge of the presence of an old companion. The shadowy figures of homesickness and depression, demons from my past who I thought I had long since banished are wafting up and down the aisle, slipping between the seats amongst the hundreds of soldiers on board, now and then finding time to touch me briefly with a heaviness of heart.
Like a certain smell that evokes memories of childhood, the touches of sadness bring to mind with crystalline clarity the waves of depression and homesickness that used to sweep over me like clockwork in the late afternoons twenty years ago as I struggled through the catharsis that is Basic Training.
I know that the sadness will not overwhelm me tonight as those onslaughts did years ago, leaving me to repress sobs while a shower before bed hid my tears; today I gratefully fear that I am much too callous for such emotions. It serves to remind me though of the youth that surrounds me, and the obligations that I hold. It reminds me of the pain that Pam must feel without benefit of the years of emotional conditioning. I know it is incumbent of me to ease the suffering around me and push forward to those better days that are now just around the corner.
Just as clearly as I remember those cruel afternoons of depression, I recall the giddiness of impending success and freedom that followed as I approached graduation from Basic Training, and I know that this happiness will follow just as surely as the sand continues to fall through the hourglass.
A beautifully clear full moon has now appeared through the pink stratus clouds out my window and as I look at it, I can hear the amazement in Max's voice as we peered at it 2 nights ago through the telescope in the back yard. Scientists have been wrong all this time. There is a man in the moon after all. Well, at least a boy.
It's 0430Z and we are continuing our trek across the Atlantic after a refueling stop in
After a 3 hour layover in
An hour layover in
At 6:00 P.M. we leave the terminal and the dust in the air obscures the setting sun, serving instead to cause the entire western sky to blaze a deep orange as though by some distant inferno as we walk across the ramp to the C-17. 3 ½ hours later as the engines slow, we are directed by the load master to secure our seatbelts. The cabin is illuminated only by pale green lights. The plane takes a decidedly nose down attitude, then banks sharply to the left, straightens, banks sharply to the right and straightens again. Air brakes are applied and we are pulled sideways in our seats towards the front to the cabin. I hear the hydraulics whine as flaps extend fully then the nose levels. Only now do landing lights appear through the cabin window and we bang heavily onto the runway. The engines reverse, we are pulled sideways in our seats again and the two 5-ton trucks in the center of the cabin strain at their tie-down chains as this mammoth airplane tries desperately to rid itself of the momentum it carried onto the ground.
R&R is over.