soldier girl_LT Laura M Walker sign

A Soldier’s Final Countdown

I have some weeks left to go on this deployment and the closer I get to the end, the more I question my new beginning.

When I go home, I will be a two-time veteran and a college graduate of nearly one year.  I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now, and I must admit it has taken a mental and emotional toll on me, as for many people preparing to go back home.  Although the mission isn’t officially over until the replacement unit has taken over command and you have been relinquished of your duties and boarding that plane heading to the U.S.A., that doesn’t stop the mind from wandering to what’s ahead at the end of the tunnel.

On my last deployment, I was so excited about redeploying or going back for another tour of military service. I was getting off of active duty once my unit returned to Germany and I was heading back to the States to attend my college.  I had already been accepted into my university of choice (actually it was the only school I applied to) and even got direct admission into the school that housed my major. I had everything lined up for my return from Afghanistan… that was February 2006. In September 2010, things haven’t taken shape as smoothly as they have in the past. College is over and grad school is not appealing to me right now. The job market in my industry is more wavy than a water bed and to move back to New York City is really… not the move.  So it’s all decisions, decisions.

As much as I sulk about what’s to come, I am proud of what I have accomplished on this deployment. It feels good to go back home absolutely debt-free being that I arrived to Afghanistan almost $17,000 in the hole (and this is in addition to the Army paying for school and using my G.I. Bill). I have loving parents that helped as much as they could, when they could, but I accepted the responsibility to take care of myself when I left home in 2003.  I used the money from my first deployment to put the down payment on that car and by the end of this army experience, I will finally own my 2007 Hyundai Accent, affectionately called Boris, named after Boris Kodjoe.

Since I began college in 2006, I had accrued credit cards that promised great prizes for accumulated points (that I still have yet to redeem), a car note (that gained more interest than the cost of what the car was worth after I turned ono the New Jersey Turnpike to take it home), college loans from that chick Sallie Mae (who I’m so glad has stopped calling me from a private number asking for her money) and the usual suspects: car insurance, phone bill, annoying little sisters who need new shoes, cell phone, jeans, and the newest Twilight series book.  My last semester, I had eviction notices on the door because I was late on payments. As hard as it was to lace up the boots two days after graduation, this deployment has been a blessing.

I have networked with a lot of people in the industry and introduced some of my peers to the work we do out here as military public affairs.  I have learned from trial and error, the makings of a leader, a woman and a soldier. I even started to jump on this natural hair revolution!  We’ll see how that one turns out.  A deployment is challenging to a person on so many levels because half the battles you encounter don’t even take place with the enemy, it takes place within.  I can attest to that.

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