After almost 300 days overseas in Afghanistan, I am finally back home on American soil. Brooklyn, New York to be exact. It’s a great feeling being back home to say the least, the trip home was a long one. We had to make fuel stops in countries I can’t spell and being on an airplane for over 14 hours got a bit uncomfortable. Almost 200 other service members and myself all subsided the whining to look at the brighter picture…we’re going home.
When we arrived at the airport, the “Welcome Home” handshakes began and I almost choked up. The day I yearned for since January was finally here. My unit had to spend a few days at Fort Dix (New Jersey) to attend classes and make sure our paperwork was correct before we were released. It was hard for many of us to concentrate because anxiety was gnawing at us and we just wanted to get out of these boots and be with our loved ones. Then, we were free to go home…on Veteran’s Day. I have acknowledged the holiday as my own since I initially became a vet in 2006 after my first combat tour, but something about coming home on Veteran’s Day this second time around was very symbolic to me. So, instead of rushing home and putting on my jeans, I kept on my uniform and walked the streets of New York City, with pride. I even attended the parade down Fifth Avenue and shook hands with Vietnam and Korean War veterans that served decades before I was even born.
I was displeased however with the attitude of some New Yorkers towards me and others in uniform. One guy who helped me at a retail store didn’t even know that it was Veteran’s Day, but it is recognized as a national holiday. In a city of 8 million people, only three people came up to me and said “Happy Veteran’s Day” or “Thank you for your service.” I am so used to hearing it when I go to other cities, mostly down South or Midwest, so not hearing actually bothered me. This may seem petty to some Parlouristas reading this, but when you have been away from your daily livelihood for a year, working and fighting to make the lives better of the millions of people in a city I call home, it makes me feel like my efforts and work has gone unnoticed or is unappreciated.
My life motto as a servicemember is “You don’t have to respect the war, but at least respect what we do.” Many gladly appreciate the Veteran’s Day sales at department stores, but not the veteran? Smh. I understand not everyone agrees with the war and this is going to be some of my experiences as I reintegrate into society, searching for a home, job and…myself.
Welcome home Soldier Girl! We love, and appreciate you! – Parlour