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Goodbye Afghanistan, Hello America

It’s November and, while I love summer, I’ve never been so happy to see fall.

The days are shorter and I have less than a week here in Afghanistan. It’s a bittersweet feeling. If you’ve seen the movie The Hurt Locker, then you remember how the protagonist Sergeant First Class William James, played by actor Jeremy Renner, returned to Iraq after feeling out of place at home. He genuinely enjoyed his job of dismantling bombs and the excitement that swirled in combat. I may not have had a heart-stopping job like Renner’s character, but I enjoyed this year and contemplated extending my Afghanistan stay for another year.

Besides, aside from networking with local reporters and residents, I must admit there were some real conveniences to life in a combat zone.

Soldiers get three free meals each day along with loads of snacks. There’s a complimentary room waiting for everyone followed by a guaranteed pay check every two weeks. There’s even additional pay and a reduced rate on credit cards for the enlisted. I can see why some people prefer a life in combat over the hardships that might be waiting at home. I have a friend who extended to stay here for another year after serving his previous year of deployment. He’s almost done and he’s happy with his decision. To the outside world, it may seem contradictory that someone doesn’t mind staying deployed, but for some service members and even civilians, it makes perfect sense.

In America,  the economy isn’t brimming with employment and job security. And though I’m excited to return to the States, I’m worried about finding a job when I return home. My tour was a safe, eventful one, and I am very grateful for that. Experiences like mine are probably why some have no fear of staying in Afghanistan longer.

What I appreciated the most on my deployment were the people who visited the troops. Recently, the Washington Redskins’ cheerleaders performed for the troops. I may not have been excited to see the ladies in boy shorts and bikini tops dancing on stage, but I got to speak to them individually and they were truly humbled and grateful for what we do as service members. I give them credit for coming out here to a combat zone in such skimpy clothing to perform for us. I know there are numerous celebrities too afraid to come to the Middle East because they fear something may happen to them. That’s justified … and it’s also why the cheerleaders rocked!

Ultimately, I credit the men and women who spent days in harm’s way outside the protective walls surrounding my base. I know many would take the first plane headed home and away from the roadside bombs and small arms fire, but because of their hard work and I am alive.

Still, I am ready to get home.

I am optimistic about what lies ahead for me and especially eager to go back home and talk to others about my experience. I hope the Parlouristas who read my blog were able to understand a little bit more about the lifestyle of a deployed soldier. If anyone has any questions, I would love to answer them! Ask me in a comment below and I’ll reply as soon as I can.

As for my final trip back to America, it’s just a few more days. This time next week, I’ll be out of Afghanistan!

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