This morning we left for our training.
An early morning in the Brown household was repeated all over Central New York as Soldiers and their families got up to pack and head to the Utica Reserve Center. Everyone arrived in ones and twos to unload green duffle bags and backpacks, trunks and boxes and even a guitar case.
Families nervously mingled around and hugged their particular loved one. One family brought everyone right down to the cousins. That Soldier was passed around the family circle in a steady stream of tears. Without a doubt this is emotional. Never mind that it will be another few months before we leave the United States and everyone will get to see their families again. The bottom line is that watching people you care about getting on a bus to go to train for a mission in Iraq is scary and upsetting.
My job, with Lisa’s help, was to go around to the families and speak to them and ease their fears. Moms are the hardest to convince. This is their child and I am taking them into my command, my care, to eventually bring back safely. Every statement is scrutinized and there are many questions – how long are you going for, are you going to be extended, what will you be doing. The one question that they never ask because they don’t want to know the answer is – will it be dangerous.
Our bus was lost and arrived late. This was great for the families but nerve wracking for me as I tried to find this bus. An hour later we were on board, amid tears and more hugs and kisses.
The city, local, county and state police departments along with the fire department gave an escort out of the city of Utica. Ten to twelve emergency vehicles, all with red lights and sirens running, took us the long way through downtown. We stopped traffic and ran red lights. It was one of those tingly moments where you felt special for being a Soldier as people stopped and waved.
We rode to Syracuse to link up with our sister unit. The same scene was being repeated there – hugs, tears, kisses. We lined up and received our weapons. After twenty years around military weapons a M-4 carbine is just another thing to carry. For the families its another thing to add to the anxiety.
As I walked back into the drill hall my daughter Samantha came running into the building because it was pouring rain. And just like that she slipped and took a huge gouge out of her chin and chipped a tooth. Sam tried to blow it off but my medic recommended stitches (but eventually wound up with dermabond). In the middle of the chaos of getting tasks completed my world stopped for Sam. Again, Lisa to the rescue took care of everything.
After another lengthy round of good-byes we were on the bus headed south for New Jersey.
And so here we are. Safe and sound and ready to get started.