My Duffle Bag

Lined up against the inside of my duffle bag were my most prized possessions, five pairs of wool underwear and my Army’s issued brown t-shirts.

I was surrounded by fear of the unknown, not sure what I signed up for.

Regret was tapping me on my shoulder, but my duffle bag was still in my view about to take the road less traveled. I clicked my heels three times to see if I could find my way back home as Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz, but no one came to save me. I cried!

Along the unpaved road, there were many detours, and leaders telling me to go back to the starting line. Over and over I tried, and over and over I survived, and now it’s time to say goodbye. How do you say goodbye to a 22-year relationship, how do you divorce the love of your life, ok maybe just an on again-off again relationship.

I often hear the words “thank you for your service,\” what people are really saying is thank you for going through the storm. Without you, my freedom would be jeopardized and limited to dictatorship. My heart aches when I read about you leaving your children in the arms of another so you can lace up your boots and march along while singing your song. You sing happy birthday to your children from the computer screen while dust storms engulf your vision. You give up or transfer custody of your children to dodge bullets while painfully trying to breathe. Thank you for the failed marriages your many deployments have left behind. Tell your children they are awesome for the five to ten schools they had to transfer from before their 18th birthday.

And for that, I say you’re welcome!

A couple of months back, I laced up my tan worn-out boots for the last time, securing my feet that had traveled through seasons of uncertainty and the unknown. I took my time, lace by lace, getting that perfect fit. I stood up, looked in the mirror at my face that had picked up some wrinkles and fine lines along with the many four-mile road marches, cadence calls, and field exercises. I walked without a purpose, slowly enjoying my final day as a soldier in uniform. A teardrop, that was what I felt running down my proud face; I made it.

Good-by my love, so long my ex…