Sunday, January 25, 2009

Going Home

Time to head home. Fifteen months is a long time to be away. As I reflect back, I can be thankfull for everyone I served with, both those I visited in my circuit riding all over Iraq, and the very special Soldiers of my squadron, part of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. I had wonderful support from the XVIIIth Airborne Corps Chaplain and his staff, and chaplains in Divisions, Brigades and Battalions all over theater.

I'm disappointed that there has been no real effort in this war to provide regular Jewish religious support other than bringing in a rabbi for 2 weeks in the fall and in the spring. When units with Jewish chaplains happen to be in Iraq, the rabbis do what they can for our Jewish Soldiers. My leaving (which has been on the schedule for 15 months) and the requests for a rabbi by Jewish Soldiers (some high ranking) have gone unanswered. That is truly sad. It almost seems that minority faith groups just aren't being served by the chaplain corps. It was something I had hoped to see change during my long tour, but instead I found most of the chapels set up as churches and had to attend the Army Chief of Chaplains visit and hear an emotional rendition of "You've got a friend in J____". I could have done without that.

Packing is always an adventure, and I travel with a pretty big library. Something about being one of The People of The Book, I suppose :o). After hauling boxes, getting them inspecting and mailing a few items back or immediate use, I head down to Kuwait for the trip home. Of course, the last flights were delayed, and scheduled for Friday and Saturday. I can't travel on Shabbat, so I went over to Ali Al Salem Air Base and stay in tent near the airfield on Friday afternoon.

Saturday evening, it turns out the Saturday flight was delayed until Saturday night, and I'm able to go back to Fort Hood with the last Soldiers from my squadron. Its a long flight, but aptly named a "freedom flight". Its good to be back.