I was recently asked by a friend to give an update on my transition from civilian back to military life. I initially resisted the thought of doing so, but found it necessary because I am increasingly finding myself in a short tempered and foul mood over the past week. So, I guess what will follow here is an attempt to capture my feelings “in the moment”. Maybe, I’m simply counseling myself as I write this. I don’t know. What I do know right now is that I am sitting at a friend’s dinner table. There’s a storm outside; it’s early in the morning, and I have a fresh cup of coffee, for me, ideal writing conditions. It’s July 7th.
As most of you know, I recently returned from a 13 month long deployment to Afghanistan and am getting ready to return to Active Duty full time. There are several reasons why Jen and I are going “back in” and here are the most prominent: we like the culture; I can retire in 8 – 10 years; the money is good; there is job stability, and we both enjoy travelling.
On July 5th, I drove all day from Starkville, MS to Lawrence, KS. I was by myself, having left our three daughters and Jen back home, so that I could sign into my new unit on the 6th (yesterday). The drive was really amazing because of the scenery, especially around the border area of Arkansas and Missouri. There are rolling hills that are punctuated by countless rivers and streams, the kinds of places that simply make you want to stop while you are trying to meet a deadline. I also feel the same way about little restaurants and wineries.
On this drive, I had plenty to think about. For example: Do I have all of the required paperwork needed to in process the Army again? What will it be like to come back for the second time? Have I been working out enough? Will our house sale close on time? Will I like my new unit? Will they like me? Will I be able to accomplish the tasks that Jen wants me to accomplish while I am in Kansas? Will I be able to find all of the uniform necessities required so that I can make a good first impression? You get the picture: I had a lot on my mind during this drive.
I was excited but as the miles passed, I slowly talked myself into being overly pessimistic about how my in processing on the 6th would go. Your clients follow the same types of patterns don’t they? I started to talk myself into expecting the worst that is until I realized what I was doing, said a prayer, and did some reality testing and soul searching in the car. Stress is natural because so much has happened since leaving active duty in October of 2004, both with the Army and with my own life.
Yesterday (6 July) was actually pretty fun. I started the day by taking a good long walk around my friend’s neighborhood. For me, these walks are a really helpful way for me to re-connect with God and with nature, allowing me to also formulate a plan for the day.
After the walk and a long hot shower, I drove the 35 minutes from my friend’s house Lawrence to Fort Leavenworth knowing that my first stop had to be the military clothing and sales store. After being out of the Army for so long, I had to update my uniform, buy some new patches, a shaving kit, and new boot laces, all of these being normal tasks for a Soldier. Again, normally not a big deal, but yesterday was different. Yesterday was the day that our family (not just me) signed up to be back in the Regular Army.
Chris Allen is a counselor and an Army Officer just returning from Afghanistan. He is passionate about developing counseling practices that best address Veterans and their families. Blog comments are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense.