Friday, October 21, 2011

#40- My return to the US

Combat Infantry Badge
I returned to the U.S. in early 2004.  I had been changed forever.  I experienced things that could not be conveyed easily in words or images.  I experienced a few different cultures, tremendous fear, camaraderie, discrimination, patriotism, and had started to read the Bible from Genesis.

Church service in Iraq
I was pretty religious at that point.  I wrote a poem to God and everything.  I started to learn of Yahweh from the Bible and slowly started to see how he did not match my understanding of what God was or does.

Upon my return home religion was one of the last things on my mind.  My first impression was how different things seemed to be.  The US seemed so surreal; as if I had entered The Matrix.  America was full of bright lights and advertisements for a myriad of things.  America was all about money.

After going through the formalities my unit was eventually dismissed from active duty and we returned home.  Obviously we were happy to be back but there was a sense of sadness as well.  My comrades and I became close by a trial by fire and we had a new sense of the world that was unique to us.  Our old families could never fully grasp this.

My old Sunday School class
Our second group's welcome rally
I had some readjusting to do.  I was full of rage which was normal.  Many people wanted to see me and there were people I wanted to see as well.  Some people gave God credit for keeping me safe.  My aunt wanted me to get baptized.  I was repulsed by the idea that my aunt felt privileged to my religious affairs and was making deals and promises to God on my behalf.  I remembered a meeting that we had in Iraq when it was relayed that a soldier had gotten killed a few days after arriving in country.  He was a new father and now he was gone.  I wondered why my family should be thankful for me being safe and meanwhile that soldier's family was grieving.  But events were done under the watch of the same God.

Sometime after my return, I went to church in my desert uniform.  I walked in there fully expecting a hero's welcome.  There was no such fanfare.  I was utterly shocked.  I kept telling myself that I was fighting for these people and received no such ovation when I actually was among them.  I may have gotten an introduction but I think that it was due to me standing out in my uniform.

I decided to treat myself to a vacation.  I returned to Haiti for 2 weeks first.  I was glad to see my family but was saddened to see the condition that they were living in.  I had been gone for about 15 years and a lot of things have changed.  Things had gotten worst and hope was at a premium.  The future looked bleak for my fellow countrymen.

I came back to the US saddened by what I had seen.  It takes trips like going to Haiti to appreciate what you have and to re-evaluate one's perspective on things.

A few days later I was on a plane to London, England.  I was on my way to a tour of Europe.  That was another life-changing event.  I saw great and wondrous things.  I met people from different backgrounds.  My American arrogance and bias was exposed.  I saw other people living a different kind of life that did not center around money.  Religion did not really come up except when we visited the Vatican.

View from my aunt's house in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

P-a-P, Haiti

Jacmel, Haiti

Bus station in Jacmel, Haiti

Map of my European tour

Nice, France
Me in Rome, Italy

The wealth of the Vatican can be described in one word: Grotesque
I returned home with a fresh new outlook on the world.  My mind was a lot more opened.  I was now settled and ready to share my new discoveries and adventures with my friends.  But first I was granted an audience with my Pastor.  This was my chance to get some overdue answers.

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