Sunday, July 10, 2011


This weekend, my wife and I took part in a Parents of Soldiers Retreat at the Third Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.  We came away with some much needed information regarding our son Kris and his return from deployment to Afghanistan this past year.

Joanne and I were part of a panel that shared a parent's concern and how to deal with the issues both family and soldier will encounter in the coming weeks and months.  A central theme that prevailed was the importance of prayer, not only on the safe return of each of the 2,800 soldiers, but the significance of continued appeal in the reintegration process.  Each soldier will encounter a new battle, much different than what they've experienced the last year. The enemy will be foreign to them.   Some will struggle with depression, others with "normalcy" and some will disdain stupid people asking them questions......errr, let me rephrase that.  Some people asking them stupid questions.  Did you kill someone?  What did that feel like? are not appropriate.  It was suggested by one parent an opening line could be...."Welcome Home.  We're so glad to have you back.  You probably learned an awful lot during your deployment, what were some of the duties you performed?"  At that point the soldier can either say a little or say alot depending on their comfortability.  That sounded like a good plan to me.  Afterall, many of these Guardsmen have seen things, experienced things they may or may not want to share.  If you can think in simpler terms of offering your mere presence and listening ears that would no doubt help.  Be a friend, not a pest and not an intolerant soul.

Krystle Kacner, a reporter for WHO-TV News in Des Moines shot a feature of the weekend.  I believe her story provides an added visual for what lies ahead for us all.   Click on the link below.

Parents of Soldiers Retreat

So the weekend was jammed pack full of great information, right?  Well yes and no depending on where your soldier is currently located enroute home.  At the end of the day on Saturday, Colonel Steve Altman informed the group of the procedure of reintegration, processing and Homecoming Celebrations.  Colonel Altman said the first of the 2,800 troops landed at Fort McCoy on Thursday.  Another plane landed on Friday and one is due to land Sunday.  That's the great news.  It would appear the first of the Celebrations will be taking place on Sunday, July 17th.  I'm not sure of that location.  What's that mean for our son?  Initially, we had information passed onto us for a Welcome Home on Thursday the 14th.  That's not going to happen.  It appears the Homecomings will coincide with the touchdown of each group at Fort McCoy.  So as an example, if your soldier lands at Fort McCoy on the 13th....plan on roughly 7 days before your Celebration.

A Holding Pattern at 7 Days
Disappointed?  For sure.  We are not unlike any other parent, spouse or relative.  The days can not go quick enough.  I did talk to Colonel Altman after the Retreat and asked him of the logistical nightmare that exists in getting 2,800 troops home.  He was quick to agree with my statement.  Despite the frustrations, our longing to put a big bear hug on a soldier, the National Guard is following an insistence to process each soldier properly.  And that means alot of things, but most important, medically.  So much like Atlantis experienced on Friday, we are in a  holding pattern.  T Minus 7 Days and Counting.  When mission control gives the okay....we'll resume the COUNTDOWN. 



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