A little of THIS and a little of THAT

Initially I started this blog as a way of sharing my experiences overseas with those that were interested...however so much has happened over the last two years, including more travelling to foreign destinations, revelations of some kind or other, and experiences I thought others could learn from that I decided to mix it all up.

I hope that somewhere you'll find something that interests you and that you'll be able to learn from.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Civillians Perspective in Afghanistan - Part 2



PRIOR TO GOING: It’s rather funny, you would think that the prospect, well the reality now of going to a war torn country would put some kind of fear into me about war related things, things that we were taught in training, although slim chance of happening, there was still the possibility of happening; mines, hostage situations, and even the rockets which were a fairly regular occurrence.

I was worried of how people would perceive me being over there. Those that were back in Canada, and my future co workers in KAF, would they think of me as crazy for leaving my children behind to pursue somewhat of a selfish opportunity? It turned out I was not the only one in KAF who had young children, although I was one of very few. My co workers were from all walks in life, retired military, retired civil service, military wives, older, younger, students, and those that are just there for the money, which is a whole other issue.

My biggest fear in going though had nothing to do with Afghanistan at all. My greatest fear was that of my family at home. I was scared that my husband who had next to no clue about family life, how to raise the kids, doctors, and cooking especially (sorry honey) would resent me when I got home, or well before. For me, there was no choice in going though. I remember speaking to a social worker a couple years ago, and he had told me that I did for everyone else and not for myself, that I worried too much what other people thought of me. This for me would make or break the rest of our lives together no matter what the decision and the outcome was. If I choose not to go, it meant me giving up a piece of me, a dream to do something with myself other than being a mom , other than the dedicated military wife that faithfully follows her husband from base to base, and an opportunity to make a difference, or so I had hoped. Going also provided me partial insight into what tours posed for him previously, and what home life posed for me on a daily basis when he was absent. If I did go, and he did resent me, then that was something I would have to live with, for me though, it was a show of character and what our relationship could withstand, and if not than it would fall through.

My husband wasn’t the only one I was worried about though. Robbie was 12, and at first I wasn’t really worried so much about him. He was growing up, and fast; I knew, or at least thought that he would have no problem or issues with mom going away for such a long period of time. I thought he was getting to old for his mom, and didn’t need me. He had started hanging out with his friends more and more, stopped giving us hugs and kisses, and in general was maturing very fast. It wasn’t long before I learned how much my 12 year old still needed his mom, and my heart broke when my husband would tell me of how he would talk to me on the phone and go to his room after for a private cry before coming out to rejoin whatever was going on at the time. Robbie had taken on a ton of responsibility during my deployment, more so then I had anticipated. He made sure his brother was up in the mornings for school, gave him breakfast, and made sure he was dressed in the mornings so that when dad returned from PT, he could come home change himself for work and take Anthony to daycare. When they reached Moscow, he has made sure that not only is Anthony ready in the mornings, but is also off to school, not much change since they head in the same direction, but he also gets him after school and watches him till dad arrives home. If Ron was to work on the weekend, than Robbie watched Anthony in the TV room at the Embassy until it was time to go home. It was a give in that Robbie deserved a big ticket for all his dedication to my cause. He came out of it with a new WII. Something we now all enjoy as a family.

Anthony on the other hand was only 5, and I knew he would have a problem with me being away for so long. The first two years of Anthony’s life it was pretty much just him, Robbie and me. Ron was away a lot either on tours or on exercises. He had been breastfed for the first 14 months, and the only other people he saw during that time was my best friend Shannon. We did everything from shopping together, which was almost constant as Shannon and I had somewhat of an addiction to Wal-Mart, watching Robbie every week at cadets, and most days he even shared my bed. He was glued to me. It was for me though, a now or never opportunity, and I thought that Anthony, my youngest who had always been a mamma’s boy could do with a little loosening, and some quality time with his dad, who he hadn’t had a chance to bond with. Although I wanted him to be not so dependent on me, at the same time I was fearful that when I did get back, he would no longer want to cuddle with his mom, either because he was now too old to snuggle, or resentful to me for leaving him for so long. I remember watching the news one day and a clip of Afghanistan came on, I called Anthony over and told him that that was where mommy was going. He instantly cried, it was obviously that even at his young age, he remembered when daddy was there, and how long he had been away. My promise to Anthony was a vacation when mommy got back. I’d say that we’ve had our share of those since my return with many more in the future. All he could say during my leave while “on vacation” was see mom you said we were going to go on vacation. During my HLTA my fears lessened when as usual, my husband became the target of my young ones hostility and I became the mom that never left, the benefit of all his copious amounts of snuggles and affection. As I sat in Toronto waiting to be reunited with my kids once again, my little guy anxiously awaits also, pestering his dad on a daily basis as to the return of his mom, and assuring me on the phone that when I get home all he wants to do is “read Green Eggs and Ham, and cuddle”. My fears put aside.

Now being reunited with my family a month after returning from overseas, we still haven’t read Green Eggs and Ham, but we’ve read many other books, and had plenty of snuggles. My little guy is still a mamma’s boy, only changing in that I have to kiss him goodbye or hello at the gate before we get to the school so his friends don’t see and make fun of him, and instead of his usual aggressive ways towards his dad as before I left, he is loving to him, including him in hugs and goodnight kisses. My six months away, no matter how hard for all us at one time or another secured a bond between him and his dad that I’m sure would have taken much longer to achieve otherwise.

MY FEARS THERE: My fears about being in a war torn country started the moment I stepped off the plane onto the Kandahar Air Field. It was in that moment I realized that I was in Afghanistan, a place where our soldiers were dying, where the Taliban did not want us, yet the everyday citizens and the government welcomed us with open arms. This was the place I knew nothing about, where I would be living in a tent for six months, using communal bathrooms and showers, and where I would have to learn my job quickly, quicker than I’d ever trained for a job before. I would have to put my fears aside when it came to communicating and socializing and learn to open up, start conversations, and hold a conversation. I was no longer allowed to be shy, timid, or apprehensive. It was time for me to put any fears aside.

A big fear became the rockets, the first coming in after I’d been on the ground only a few days. I was surprised to see how laid back everyone was. It was like it was a regular occurrence for them. Most nights the rockets were nothing more than annoyance, sometimes coming in at odd hours of the night, when you had a shift early in the morning. There were a couple times that I realized the severity of damage a rocket could cause, or how close it could hit. Most nights rockets would only come in one, maybe two at a time. There was one night though I remember being in the bunker, PPE on, and wondering when they would stop. The constant warning over the sirens of the JDOC announcing us that we were under rocket attack had begun to wear on me. We had been in and out of the bunker and back to work a few times before we were really “all clear”. Most times in the bunker, it was like a little party, something we didn’t often take seriously and often you could see more people hanging outside the bunker smoking and hanging out than inside. This night I was with a couple close friends and we made our jokes from inside the bunker sitting on a couple as close to porn magazines that were left behind. Our visit didn’t last much longer than any other night, but it sure woke us up to the reality once again what could be. Something we all needed once in awhile.

My greatest fear while in KAF was that I would have to stand ramp for someone that I knew, someone I recognized, someone I had become friends with, or someone that I had a conversation with. I worried for our troops, and I worried for the troops of other nations that I got to know, as I didn’t think I would ever find out if something had happened to them as we only got word of Canadian casualties. I thought I was in the clear until the week before I left, that’s when my tour changed.

IN COMING HOME: My six months overseas is over now and I quickly realized that the fears I had in going and being there were quite liberating. I had come close on a couple occasions to coming home, but after speaking with a good friend, I realized that it was something I wouldn’t forgive myself for. Like all fears we have, I didn’t let mine conquer me. I didn’t let them get in the way of a truly unique experience that only comes around once in a lifetime. My situation in going home is exceptional. I am not back to Gagetown, the military base where my husband was posted upon my departure, but rather I am in Russia, news my husband received only a month after my deployment to Afghanistan was underway. Russia was something that came up a couple months prior to me leaving, but upon my departure out of Canada we were given a clear “no”, that a posting overseas to Moscow would not be in our immediate future due to many logistical issues with it, and so I left Canada thinking that I would see it once again in six months time. I was one month into my tour when I got an emergency phone call overseas saying that I needed to call home right away. Somehow, some way we had managed to get the posting and my husband needed a quick response if I was in for it. Reluctantly I responded with a yes, but not at the cost of my deployment, and so with much aggravation back home and many turned in favours I finished my tour, waited a month in Toronto on my VISA, and joined my family in our new home overseas just over a month subsequent to my return. It was now time to not readjust to family life and marriage, but customize myself with a new country, new culture and so many other “news”.

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