Coming home from “vacation”

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By Chaplain Kathie

Thanksgiving is coming next week as people are planning trips back home to spend with family. They think about what to pack, the people they will be able to spend time with again, but above all, returning to where their memories pull them back to, home again.

Others will travel for Christmas thinking back to fond memories of growing up, Santa coming and remember how they always seemed to get exactly what they wanted, longed for and then after a few weeks, forgot about as it collected dust in a closet.

It seems as if all during the year, someone is heading off to somewhere on vacation. They are missed even if it is just for a week or two. We wonder what they are doing, what they are seeing, what the weather is like and what the people are like. When they return we are happy to see them, want to hear all about their trip, see their pictures or watch the video they put together.

There are others packing bags, making plans, finishing off taking care of things they need to do before they leave, like making sure their wills are up to date, their life insurance policy is in the proper place, things around the house are fixed but they are not happy about the time they will be away from home. They leave one family to be with their other family all wearing the same clothes to get onto planes heading for a vacation into hell.

They are gone for a year and they are missed. An empty bed waits for the spouse at the end of the day trying to get by with one less person in the house. Kids off to sleep without Dad or Mom reading them a story, tucking them in and one less kiss good night. Instead of being curious about what the soldier is seeing and doing, they are worrying about all of it. They fear a phone call or a strange car pulling up in their driveway. Birthdays and anniversaries pass with someone missing along with holidays. Then they come back home.

When they come home they are greeted at the airport. They may be given a party to welcome them home again but no one wants to see pictures, watch videos they put together or ask any questions at all. A year in a strange country few others will ever see but no one wants to hear anything about it. A year gone from friends and family but most people want to forget they were ever away from them.

This vacation is one no one wants to share because it is just too hard to deal with the fact wars are brutal. We don’t want to look at them knowing their eyes saw horrors in real life, that their hands held a machine gun that was fired at other people or held the lifeless body of a friend. We don’t want to hear anything about any of it because it is just too hard to see them as someone we are not used to seeing.

A Dad who hugged his wife and took out the trash was someone who carried a weapon on his shoulder. A Mom who baked cookies for after dinner, dressed up for church and sung songs as her child sat on her lap, ran to help other soldiers after a bomb exploded. The deployed soldier is not the person the family knows so when they come home, it has to be forgotten about as if it didn’t happen.

The rest of the people in the country forgot all about it. The soldiers can’t.

This is about some videos soldiers made but few in this country will see them.

‘In Their Boots’ series lets veterans call the shots
Army and Marine vets of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars direct their own films in the final year of the Operation in Their Boots project, which gives soldiers an outlet to go beyond Hollywood’s vision of the military.
By Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times
November 16, 2010

Part of what motivated the five participants, most of whom were already pursuing film careers and who were chosen from a pool of 100 applicants, was the opportunity to set straight Hollywood’s depiction of war.

At one point in the Oscar-winning film “The Hurt Locker,” a lone Humvee cruises across the torrid Iraq desert. That scene really irks Tristan Dyer.

“That would never happen,” says Dyer, 29, who did a 12-month tour of Iraq as an Army communications sergeant in 2004-05. He now lives in Ventura where he works as a freelance production assistant. “That goes against the whole core preparation in the Army. You’d be a target. It’s not safe. People’s heads would roll!”

Hollywood loves war stories and soldiers seek escape from the battlefield with a good movie, but there’s often a gulf between the big screen and the reality of military service. Now, Dyer and a few other film-oriented vets are getting a chance to do something about it.

Dyer’s first documentary short, “Enduring Erebus,” premiered last week at the Downtown Independent Theater as part of the final year of the three-year umbrella film series “In Their Boots,” presented by the Brave New Foundation. The program focuses on veterans’ experiences upon returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and “Enduring Erebus” uses lush, abstract stop-motion animation to tell the story of four Iraq and Afghanistan vets who are plagued by horrific war memories that they stamp out with drugs and alcohol.
In Their Boots

The image we have of a soldier is brave and unselfish but we need to see them as human. We need to take as much interest in them when they come home as we do anyone else who left us for just a week or two on vacation. A vacation is for people doing something fun for themselves but a deployment is not fun and they are doing it for the sake of total strangers, risking their lives and watching friends die.

Dad comes home and still hugs his wife, still has to take out the trash. Mom goes back to baking cookies and singing songs. The same arms embracing someone they love carries the weight of the world the world wants to ignore.

We carry our childhood memories in our hearts. So do they. We carry the memories of where we’ve been in our lives. So do they.

How do we help them really come home again? By looking at where they’ve been and knowing under the pain they carry, they are part of our past, our todays and our lives.

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