As 1st Brigade Combat Team makes its way back from Korea, the homecoming ceremonies are happening back-to-back and bringing families together again. We in the media love these times — we love looking for young, married couples who were on their first deployment and, of course, the joyful tears of a soldier seeing a child for the first time.
Yet we always seem to forget about the single soldiers. The majority of them don’t have family at the homecoming event, so they aren’t as exciting visually for photos.
For the most part, my boys from 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment are home, and on Friday, I picked up one of my single knuckleheads to make sure he got to his new barracks OK.
The first things he talked about — other than how nice it was to actually have someone there to welcome him home — were how nice it would be to actually read street signs in English and understand what he was ordering on a restaurant menu. That, and home-cooked meals by “Mama Michele.”
What can I say — my wife took in all my wayward strays. She spent entirely too many years with me in the military.
It reminded me of what it was like when I was a young, single Marine back in the 1990s on embassy duty with Marine Security Guard Battalion. While vastly different from what soldiers today go through, there were still similarities in coming home.
The duty was two-and-a-half years overseas, with 15 months at two duty stations and a two-week R&R in between. Back then, the Internet wasn’t what it is today, private email accounts weren’t popular yet and social networking such as Facebook, Facetime and Skype were non-existent. When you wanted to talk to family, you wrote a letter.
Sounds old-fashioned, doesn’t it? But letters were cheaper. A 30-minute phone call home cost about $300, and that was a lot of money back then. While it may only be a car payment today, it was a car payment, top-of-the-line insurance, cable bill and two weeks of beer money then. Needless to say, my dad didn’t get calls from me very often.
When I got home, however, it was the same thing single soldiers still face today. No one was there to greet me because my family was in another state. It took me a bit to realize I could actually read signs and menus. And I didn’t need a translator to talk to pretty girls.
Pretty much exactly what they’re going through. So in case you haven’t heard it yet, I would like to take this time to welcome you home. Your service and sacrifice is just as vital to our nation’s security as the soldier who leaves a spouse and kids behind when deploying.
David A. BRYANT is an Army retiree and the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7554.