I think I cried. It isn’t all that clear anymore. All I remember for sure is that the quiet was stifling and the solitude burdensome. Alone in a sterile barracks room, I grieved for the last sixteen months of my life. Iraq was now decidedly in my past, but a quick survey of my surroundings and a sigh of relief accomplished far less than I had anticipated. The weight of war was still crushing - inescapable and haunting.
I sat on the cold, hard linoleum, staring. Waiting. Waiting for something to feel right, to feel better. I whispered a prayer of thanks; but even that rang hollow. I had reached a stalemate with God months earlier.
And did I mention how quiet it was? There was no sudden burst of gunfire. No car bombs were detonating in the distance, followed by the telltale clang of falling debris. Not even a solitary mortar round could be heard splitting the night. There were no Blackhawks hovering above, no footsteps crunching gravel outside, and no generators buzzing beyond the concrete barrier. No, rather it was eerily still; the fresh snow outside the window seemingly absorbing every last sound from the night.
This was my welcome home party. It was the most isolated I think I’ve ever felt. Yet anything different would have been worse. I needed that solitude to appreciate the gravity of what I’d just endured, and to grieve . . . for friends, for my sanity, and for the last shred of faith I had - in God and in the world.