Just how long is the road ahead for the soldiers and families and friends of the Iowa deployed?
Well, that's a great question. With no easy answer. How could there be? You can't take 3,000 Soldiers, representing the largest Iowa troop deployment since World War II.....assign them to various different regions of Afghanistan and expect the experiences to be the same. And then there is our diversity. So many of those affected are from different walks of life. I don't even have to go into the many ways that we are different. We just are. Yet through this, we are all part of a team, much like our soldiers came to realize back in Basic Training days.
Let me go back to last week if I may. My wife, Joanne, and youngest son, Jordan, and I traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky to attend the graduation of our middle son, Jonathan. It was a glorious day to see J complete his training. The day was full of irony both in celebration and sadness. Coupled with this great, great day for one son, was also a completely different feeling for another. At the very time J was receiving his "soldierization", our oldest son, Kris was aloft in the jet streams. His destination was a refueling stop in the States, followed by departure for somewhere near Afghanistan.. The entire family knew the door was quickly closing. Kris' last phone call to us was nearing and then he'd be .........
I'm sure we didn't do the setting justice. Way to many interferences. Which is pretty common for most of us anymore. I wonder what Kris thought as he boarded that plane. Did he feel that emotionally we let him down? I know we didn't hit a homerun that day. We didn't drive the ball out of the park with one specific comment that he'd take with him. However, I think if you were to ask any of us in the truck that day...we hit alot of singles in the previous weeks. We told him we loved him, over, and over and over again. We might have even discovered some new way to say it without saying it.
Later on that morning, J took us to a set of hills used by his company for training purposes. Here recruits "honed" their marching and endurance skills. To hear him tell of the hill climbs with nearly 100 pounds of pack, body armor, rifle, helmet, boots and uniform affixed to their body was jaw-dropping. 100 pounds! Imagine two lines of 120 members of Delta Company trudging up aptly named hills in single file. It was truly a test, one they made on a 95 degree August day. "Left, left, left, right, left, here we go again. Same old stuff again", they shouted. Over and over again up that mile long incline. Each of the hills had their uniqueness, not only in name, but in their difficulty. The first was named Agony. There echoed the voices of thousands of wannabe soldiers who had marched that road. You could sense what had taken place here. You could visualize the sweat, the anger, the disappointment and the longing for a day when this hill was in the past. I'm sure there was every type of motivation used to endure this physical torture. J told us he used to look at the boots ahead of him and visualize his older brother setting the pace for him. One step at a time...up the hill and to the top. That got him through it all.
The next day on our trip back to Johnston, Iowa I was looking at my Bible for something that God could teach me that would put much of this Kentucky experience into perspective. And here is what jumped out at me. "Agony is waiting". I know it's in Ecclesiastes as I write this, but I can't find where. I just know it's there. "Agony is waiting." I'm sure many soldiers can relate to that as they think back to Fort Knox or the various other Forts around the country that serve as Training Centers. These hills serve a purpose. It's where the transformation takes place from civilian to solider. Irresponsible to responsible, lacking in respect to respect and so on. At the same time, every soldier came to realize that "waiting is agony", too. Waiting and counting the days until they'd be done with Basic. 45. 44. 32. 22 and right down the line to the day they'd graduate and say, good riddance to Basic. I think back to the three hills on the Kentucky base and the significance they have. You've already met Agony. Then there is Misery. Like in Misery is waiting......and Waiting is Misery. And then the biggest of all, Heartbreak. Heartbreak is waiting....and in waiting there is Heartbreak.