Well it is here, time for my mid-tour R&R leave. I am really looking forward to taking this break from the desert. Right now the temperature is starting to climb as is my blood pressure but that is for another time. While I contemplate my leave and how excited I am about it, I am also taking time to reflect the other type of leave I had to take during this deployment.
Most people do not know that the military offers several ways for soldiers to get a “break” from the mundane day-to-day effects of military life. Being deployed does not change that; it just offers a little more complexity. There is the traditional leave (civilians call it vacation), but the outcome is the same. You get away and enjoy some much needed down time in order to recharge your batteries. Just like everyone else you sometimes need a vacation from your vacation depending on what you do with your down time. The other way to escape is with a “pass” Just like the days in High School, it allows you to take a quick respite from work and reset yourself. I have been offered this several times but the areas that they can send me only offer a different base nothing really exciting so I have declined. The outcomes are the same for both leave and pass, to get you away from your company for a quick break. However, there are times that you did not plan to take leave or pass but have no fear the military has the remedy for that. It is called Emergency Leave/Pass.
So what is the difference? As the name implies something has happened that requires you to leave the area and address the emergency. So what is classified as an emergency, typically it requires a Red Cross Message. Basically someone back home has called the Red Cross to inform the unit that Soldier so and so needs to come home because something drastic has happened. Well yours truly had one of those drastic things happened this deployment that required me to take Emergency Leave. Most people reading this will know what happened so I will not bemoan the issue. Suffice to say it is a message NO ONE ever wants to get. It affects everyone in the company and even if you had a huge blow out with someone in the company early that day, this type of message puts everything into perspective really quick.
So here I am getting ready to go on leave and realize that I will also be seen as “lucky.” Why? Because I will get to leave the desert twice in the deployment, however I don’t feel “lucky” at all. I am grateful that I get away twice because being my last deployment the less time I spend in the desert the better. However, going home for my rest and relaxation is bitter sweet. I know that my wife and friends will love having me home and I will be busy. I have a wonderful leave planned but know that there is still a dark cloud over my head. All because of my emergency leave. I try not to dwell on what happened but others in the unit do not give me that luxury. Comments that are said either to me or behind my back when people don’t think I am listening resonate their true feelings. It is like I was given something that everyone should have but the truth is you can have my emergency leave and I will take what was lost from you and see if you feel the same. My guess is that you would not want to trade with me but I could be wrong (not likely). So this leave that I am about to take will truly be a Rest and Relaxation leave. I plan to have as much fun as possible and not think about the desert or what awaits me upon my return. I do know that I am thankful that the military has an emergency leave policy and that I was able to see how efficient that policy is executed when fellow soldiers that truly care initiate it. For those that think I am “lucky” I would beg to differ. If you never have to use emergency leave in your career then you are the lucky ones. If you want proof ask anyone that has had to use it. Most would have like to have never received the Red Cross message tell you to come home.