Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ups and downs of liberty in Beaver Dam

From Nick Druecke in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, roughly 6,339 miles from his post at Camp Taji, Iraq. Nick is in the regular Army. He just happens to be home on leave just as 3,200 state Guard soldiers have returned to their homes at the end of a yearlong deployment. He offers a little advice.

What is it like being on leave? Well honestly there is a certain amount of duality to it; because everything is different now, but nothing has really changed. It's been over a year since I was last home, and Beaver Dam has changed very little in that time. Yet my friends and family are all scattered to the four winds. I will give you a little run down of my life on leave.

My father picked me up from the Milwaukee airport and we started driving home, when it occurred to me that I didn't have any civilian clothes at home, so we stopped at a WalMart so I could pick up some cheap jeans and t shirts. After taking a few steps into the stop I was honestly a little disoriented, the enormity of the store combined with all the sales and advertisements seriously left me a little daunted. I told my dad to stop for a second so I could get my bearings. That might seem a little cheesy, but I swear it happened. Next time you walk into a WalMart just take a moment to look at the shear size of them, you might be a little amazed.

So after that I go home, shower, and begin to relax. Over the course of the next few days I hang out with the few friends who are still in town, have a few drinks, and share mutual boredom with them. Of course you have to see your family, and it's a little funny how that works. Everybody knows that your time home is limited in the service, yet they are always unable to come and see you, you have to go see them. It's a little frustrating at times. As you might imagine most people have the same questions, so you begin to develop a sales pitch of what Iraq is like. While I do understand that people are curious, it can be a bit annoying to answer the same questions every time you meet someone. Not much you can do about it though, just take it in stride with a grain of salt.

So while my friends are all off doing different things with their lives, in different parts of the world (mostly Wisconsin) I am at home. I no longer have a car, and I have been away from everything so long that I no longer know what peoples work schedules are.

"Is school in?", "Do you work today?", "Do you have any free time on Tuesday?", "Where can I meet up with you?" All these questions have frequently left my mouth, and are usually left unanswered.

I think I am painting this picture a little black, which I didn't intend to do. Leave has been awesome, I was just expressing some of the complications I run into. The only really huge difference between life over there and here, is the time schedule. Even when we have days off over there we still have things to do, you work every day of the week, weekends don't exist in a combat zone. I go from working literally 24/7, to having nothing to do. Stress levels at 99% go down to zero. You get so used to being busy in Iraq that you feel like you should be doing something on leave. I go to the gym mostly everyday, yet I still feel uneasy about just sitting around. In the 8 or 9 days I have been home I have slept in my own bed twice, I can't help but run around until I find something to do with someone. Usually that runs long into the night, and I end up crashing there.

I don't want anyone to get the wrong message here, leave has been a blast for me, and I don't want it to end. It's just very difficult to readjust to a lifestyle that is so calm. So if anybody out there has a soldier back from "over there" please be patient with them, it just takes some time.

Live from Wisconsin,

(Large photo: From left, Nick Druecke, Raj Renfro, Tyler Schreiner, Matthew Odum)