Ladies & gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I present to you: the FINAL (and insanely long) deployment update post!
31 weeks. 31 weeks have passed since I last saw Zach. 31 weeks ago, I drove him to Jacksonville & told him goodbye as he hopped on a plane to fly halfway around the world. And now, 31 weeks later, all his bags are packed & he's on a plane flying back :) (Well, a series of planes. Two plane rides down, two [much more longer ones] to go!)
It's crazy to think that after seven months of letters and packages and horrible phone connections and daily inbox photos...
...I woke up this morning to proof that Zacharie Jones is no longer in the middle of the hot Afghanistan desert :)
Quite the opposite, in fact -- he's still halfway around the world, but he's currently living it up in 14 degree weather & snow. Those Marines are all about some extremes.
• • • • •
While I finish up with final exams (because unlike the rest of the country, Duke doesn't get out for Christmas break until Sunday night...), I have an epic playlist going on. Seriously. It's a shame that colleges only offer degrees in typical fields like chemistry & psychology & English, because I think a degree in "Quintessential Playlist Compilation" would be far more useful, right?
Yes, Toby Keith does have a song called "The Taliban Song." Yes, it's really funny.
I've already got the CDs loaded for my upcoming road trip to Camp Lejeune, and while I think I did a pretty good job of making the playlist, let me know if you think of any great songs that I missed :)
• • • • •
Homecoming playlist, check. Homecoming poster/sign, almost check :)
Over 50 of you voted and helped choose the homecoming sign, & I've already taken the winning design to get printed at Kinko's. I told the guy what size I needed and he pulled up the file on the computer. After staring at it for a minute, he clearly realized what it was for & grinned really big. He then took the time to congratulate me repeatedly, ask me where Zach was deployed, how long he had been there, when he was coming home, etc. He said that he'd recently gotten engaged & couldn't imagine being apart from his fiancée for over seven months. It's nice to hear, especially since I had a conversation just ten minutes prior with another guy that went something like this:
T: How long has it been since you've seen Zach?
Me: He deployed in May, so a little over seven months.
T: Oh, so not that long. That's not bad at all!
It actually happens far more than you may think... It's all good, though. We'll just consider those people the co-workers in Taylor Swift's newest music video: "Ours" :) But seriously, go watch it. The whole video is about this girl living her day-to-day life surrounded by people who are absolutely clueless as to what she's going through... and then her love named Jones who is in the military comes home & they have a grand reunion. I'm not making this up. It's like T.Swift is stalking me, except I'm not that emo/depressed (gotta do my part to combat the mopey military significant other stereotype, thank you very much)... and I date a Marine, not a soldier :)
For real. Watch it.
• • • • •
Everyone obviously has a lot of questions concerning what comes next, so I've made a mini-FAQ section with questions I've been asked numerous times over the past few weeks. Hope this clears everything up :)
He's going straight to Camp Lejeune.
And he will go to work the day after he lands in the States.
And he will go to work again the day after that. And the day after that...
Just because he's "home" doesn't mean that he actually gets to go home.
He'll hopefully get a couple of days off for Christmas and another couple of days off for New Years'.
But his month of post-deployment leave won't be until much later in January/February.
There's lots of unpacking/organizing/work/demobilizing to be done.
(Such a tease, I know. "Hey, hug your best friend... and then say goodbye because he's staying here.")
Definitely the most reoccurring question throughout all of this...
You enlist in the military for a period of time. Just like you go to college for a period of time.
It doesn't matter how many papers I write or exams I take -- if I'm not in the final semester of my senior year, I'm not about to graduate. Likewise, it doesn't matter how many months Zach has been deployed overseas -- if he's not in the final months of his enlistment, he's not about to get out of the Marine Corps.
I'm not really sure how else to explain this, but it is absolutely baffling to some people.
Zach has one more year left in his four year enlistment. Technically, his End of Active Service is January 5, 2013, but he'll have paid leave dates stored up, so he should be all done by this time next year :)
The same stuff he did for two and a half years before he deployed?
(Working in the armory)
There's a lot more to the military besides deployments...
No. He only has a year left, and there's essentially no possible way they could get back, go on leave, receive orders, begin work-ups & training, deploy, and return again in that amount of time.
I mean, I wasn't answering the previous question just to make myself feel better -- it's actually the truth. But feel free to mutter something about "you never know with the military" and continue on your merry way. You probably know way more about all of this than I do...
All of the troops are supposed to be home by Christmas... from Iraq.
Zach's return from Afghanistan has absolutely nothing to do with that :)
It just happens to be where the timing fell:
He left in May... for a 7 month deployment...
You do the math :)
There are still troops in Afghanistan.
There are troops that just left to go to Afghanistan.
There are troops that will be in Afghanistan for all of next year.
While it's nice that Zach is coming home & it's great that the troops are pulling out of Iraq, things in Afghanistan aren't over.
If you understand that the end of the deployment does not mean the end of an enlistment in the military AND you understand that Zach's homecoming has nothing to do with the end of the war in Iraq, please take a moment and give yourself a pat on the back, you well-educated American citizen, you :)
• • • • •
Since this is my LAST biweekly deployment update, I decided it was okay to make it a little longer than normal. (You're welcome.) I'll conclude with an excerpt from another Q&A session I had recently... during my last phone call with Zach!
Me: What's the first thing you're gonna do once you're back in the States?Zach: Hug you.Me: That's actually not what I was going for...Zach: Nope, that's my final answer. Next question.• • •Me: Okay, what's the first thing you're going to EAT once you're back in the States?Zach: A steak from Chili's. (pause) Or maybe sushi. You've talked about sushi SO much while I've been deployed. I kinda want some now.Me: Haha, and what do you want to drink?Zach: Sweet tea from McDonald's.(Ironically enough, I asked my parents to greet me at the airport with a McDonald's sweet tea when I came home from Costa Rica...)• • •Me: What do you think will be the weirdest thing about being back in the USA?Zach: Not having to keep up with my rifle. I'm definitely going to feel weird without it for the first few days. Oh, and driving. I haven't driven a car in seven months... Goodness, everything will be a little weird. Like being able to use a normal bathroom. Don't get me wrong, we could've been way worse off out here. But a normal bathroom will be nice. Being able to eat whatever food I want instead of just what food they give us will be nice, too.• • •Me: What do you think you'll take away from all of this?Zach: I definitely appreciate the little things more. Seriously. Once I get back, if I need to shave, I can just go to the store and buy a razor and shaving cream. Or anything, for that matter. I can get in my car and go get anything I need. I can go out and get whatever food I want to eat. And I can pick up a phone and call or text you whenever. You don't think about these things, but after having all the little things taken away for a while, I certainly won't take them for granted in the future.• • •Me: Any other grand reflections about your time in Afghanistan?Zach: Yeah. Beth, I know our country isn't perfect. I know our politics might not be the best at times. But after living out here and seeing the lives of these citizens... we're really blessed, you know? A lot of people don't realize how well off we are.• • •
Zach has lots of other reflections about his time in Afghanistan, but he mostly wanted to send a huge "thank you" to anyone and everyone who sent letters/cards/packages/etc. throughout the deployment. And I second that! Y'all are the best -- your encouraging comments & never-ending support means more to both of us than we could ever express. I've said it before, but we've been so blessed in sharing this deployment story with each of you, and we hope that it has somehow been a blessing to you in return.
Whew, if you've managed to make it this far, congrats!
And now... I suppose seven months of deployment posts come to an end. It's a shame, really, because I have finally perfected adding or subtracting 8.5 or 9.5 hours (depending on if we're on Daylight Savings Time -- and who knew half hour time zones existed??) to swap between the time here & the time there.
Here, it's currently Friday, December 16 at 9:40 PM. Which means in Afghanistan, it's Saturday, December 17 at 7:10AM. Except Zach isn't Afghanistan anymore, so we're now dealing with an 11-hour difference, which would make it 8:40AM...
See how complicated that can get?
Stay tuned -- we'll both be in the same time zone during my next post: the long-awaited homecoming! Oorah :)
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