When a soldier deploys anywhere, other life goes on once they leave. Sometimes those people have their own problems. The Berlin Wall had come down, and it had taken the aerospace industry. My father was unemployed, and my mother was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. My father was quite depressed because he could not find a job. So they kept a lot of it from me, so I didn’t understand the magnitude of the problem until, actually, years later.
But sometimes trying to protect someone has unintended consequences, especially to a soldier being deployed.
You see, we were in the middle of nowhere. We had a TV set in a tent where we could watch CNN, but mail was our only other communication with the world. And mail took two months — assuming it got to you. Right after I arrived at Riyahd, my mail simply … well, stopped.
Other soldiers had packages waiting on their bunks on the first day. I had all my grandparents, all my parents, plus a bunch of aunts and uncles, and nothing at all. So I had this vague, uneasy feeling that something was wrong.
But at home, if I got that feeling, I could pick up the phone. Or, at least for me, I’d have to use a pay phone. We didn’t have any phones in Desert Storm. So my only tie to the world was the mail, and the only thing I got were the bills.
One day, the first sergeant mentions — almost too casually — that one of the sergeants manning the rear detachment had gotten a phone call about me. Apparently, someone had called my parents and said I was AWOL.
Wait a minute? What? I was in a panic. Terrorists were calling my parents! We had been told to burn all our envelopes so that terrorists wouldn’t get hold of addresses and do exactly that. How had they gotten hold of the address? Had I done something? At the time, I was convinced I must have missed something, but I didn’t quite connect that I couldn’t have because I hadn’t gotten any mail.
So I wrote to my maternal grandparents and asked them if my parents had gotten a call about me being AWOL. They wrote back, and the mail slowly got it to me and they were most puzzled. No one had gotten any AWOL phone calls or anything like that. They also didn’t say much of anything really. These were the grandparents that were big letter writers, and they were strangely silent.
What was going on?!
Now, in case, you’re feeling frustrated because I haven’t told you exactly what all this means — well, that is is exactly the problem I was facing while I was deployed. I had all these little pieces of something, and I didn’t know what was going on. So wander on in on my entry for the letter I tomorrow to see what happened.
Next up will be “the day I got a red cross message,” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.