Thursday, January 04, 2007

One Year Home

I am reposting this from my other "war blog" Keeping the Gate, effectively a 2006 review and closing of my deployment blog (primarily written during 2005):

New Year's Eve brought both revelation and resolution for me this year. There I stood, in the middle of ordering a coffee, when a newspaper headline blasted me with emotion.

Several minutes later, having cried all of the makeup off my face, I realized what was happening: December 31st, 2006 was a one-year anniversary. It was New Year's Eve 2005 when I departed active duty to join my family, return to Bemidji, and herald the beginning of 2006 among friends and familiar faces. The one-year mark should have brought warm feelings and the joy of being home (so I thought), but it wasn't that easy for me.

I ached with gut-wrenching pain over post-mortem photographs of a dictator executed for crimes he committed two decades before the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I ached with the pain of knowing that one of the Iraqi men I grew to regard as 'brother' is still stuck -- with his family -- in the throes of central Baghdad's sectarian violence and collateral damage. I ached, suspended, powerless -- observing an anniversary, bombarded by the feeling that I had done nothing to positively impact the world during my twelve-month deployment. I know better, but it was my moment, it was me closing 2006.

This is my last post on "Keeping the Gate." I thank anyone who has stopped by a time or two and all of those who stayed faithful to know me, see me, while I was gone. I take these moments to document some of the characteristics of my first year home and honor the difficulty of the passage, concluding by laying it to rest as officially 'in the past.'

I had an Army physical yesterday, conducted by a now-civilian Air Force veteran, female retired officer. This woman is clearly tough as nails but has somehow retained her compassion. I was moved at my core to have brief heart-to-heart exchanges with her about common traits between our respective military experiences. She asked me during the exam how I was adjusting, some questions about the nightmares and insomnia I reported, and brief compliments about how well-balanced I appeared to be. It was our brief exchanges that helped me realize how far I've come since returning home one year ago.

Some high(low)lights:

  • I began with drastic insomnia and violent nightmares, 4 to 6 nights per week
  • lived in my own apartment, directly across the hall from Mom in Indiana
  • tried to maintain and grow a romantic relationship begun while deployed
  • had the biggest walk-out, gloves off, fight with my family ever (can't even remember specifics now)
  • by April I started to 'dig deep' and drive toward positive living
  • I ended the relationship but not cleanly; we spent most of '06 negotiating
  • finally got to see Fiona Apple (and Damien Rice: bonus!) in concert; I went solo
  • went home (to Bemidji) for the summer
  • quit smoking and started again at least four times
  • started work at a department store in Bemidji for about two months
  • found solace in bonfires, mowing the lawn, and the company of old friends
  • Fourth of July was phenomenal: fireworks over the lake, family, motorcycles
  • started reading in my free time (fight club, world is flat, 1984, davinci code)
  • learned how to knit (mom says 'finally!')
  • moved to Columbus, Ohio with Abe and Jenn, planning on starting school
  • school plans fell through due to residency requirements too entangled with National Guard
  • spent September through November attempting to support mom in new teaching endeavors and conducting family research on our respective mid-term election ballots
  • tumultuous relationship negotiations finally ended and I got a job all in the same week
  • I voted, vocalizing my concerns from a distinctly Iraq-War-Veteran viewpoint
  • saw both Grandmas over Thanksgiving, overnight at Michigan Grandma's
  • home for over two weeks in December for fun Christmas memories
  • sugar cookies, wassailing ;), decorating, shopping, theater, and watching every movie version ever made of A Christmas Carol!
  • worked New Year's Eve at my bartending job; hugged Abe and Jenn at midnight

Tears surface in my eyes, recounting the memories from this year! I am broke. It doesn't take a lot of arithmetic to see that I spent much more income than I generated during 2006, but I would do it all again given the circumstances. I spent 2006 getting closer to the family I had left home during my deployment; together we worked overtime to build new, beautiful, non-war memories. I enter 2007 optimistic, centered, and healthy. I have my own apartment in Columbus and no day job -- hopefully that will improve! I build more trust and friendship with Abraham and Jennifer (my bro/sis-in-law and apartment complex neighbors) every day; we lean on one another, and the fellowship we share is so rewarding.

I am grateful that I came home; I am grateful for all the support I had while deployed. It is time to lay this blog to rest. I leave it open, a record of events. Those of you interested in following my other blogging adventures may find me at Republic of Conscience or Lunacy Revisited. I remain sincerely yours,



Faith said...

Tommi -

Thank you so much for this post. I can't even imagine how readjusting this year must have been like but you seem to have a supportive bunch around you. I look forward to reading anything you have to write.


M. G. Tarquini said...

Welcome home, Tommi. Thanks for sharing so much with us.