We departed Kuwait in the early hours of Wednesday, the 15th. A convoy of comfortable buses transported us from Camp Victory to the jumping off point for the chartered flight that would wing us home. There were the usual hurry up and wait moments, but spirits were high and the delays taken in stride. Our aircraft was a wide body civilian jet, and I had my first taste of being an officer; I got a seat in first-class.....NICE! Among the officers and senior NCOs sitting in luxury was a private first class. One of the gunnery sergeants orchestrating the seating went to the main cabin and asked for a volunteer. Initially no one responded, but a lowly PFC raised his hand and was rewarded with the last open seat in first-class.
Once airborne we learned that there would be a brief lay-over in Shannon, Ireland. My great-grandfather came over from the Emerald Isle in 1892, and the joy of heading home was heightened all the more by the realization that I would being setting foot for the first time on mother soil. We flew into Shannon before sunrise. As we descended beneath the clouds far below a lighthouse's rotating beacon fanning out across the ocean caught my eye and I felt my heart, in the words of James Joyce, "softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves".
The last couple days, courtesy of jet lag, have been a bit of a blur. Come this Wednesday our post-deployment processing will be completed and myself and travel companion, LtCol Craig Covert, a Marine Corps historian, will be returning to Quantico. My family has a welcome home party planned on the 25th for my nephew Joey and myself in our hometown in Pennsylvania. Joey, a 1st lieutenant with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, returned from Iraq back the end of January. As you can imagine, there is a great extended family of kith and kin breathing a collective sigh of relief.
On Friday Mike Phillips, the Wall Street Journal reporter I traveled with, informed me that an article he penned about yours truly is going to appear on the WSJ's page B-1 on Tuesday. So, I've got 15 minutes of fame to look forward to.
Here are the final pieces I produced in Iraq. I find myself already missing the exhausted resolute faces of fellow Marines, the scenes of commraderie and the rows of humble HESCO barrier encased tents.