I've been noodling around on Youtube, as I'm wont to do when I stay up way too late, and ran across a whole slew of military tribute videos/slide shows.
One that hit home was Ozzie Osbourne, and Coming Home.
My baby brother was in the first Iraqi war, Desert Storm. He left in September, 1990, after having only been in the Army for 6 months (total, including basic & AIT). He left a 19 year old boy. It changed him. He came home older, wiser, and sadder.
I'm not the praying type (even when I "had" religion, i didn't do it much), but in the months that he was gone, until he came back to the States in mid-April, I prayed every night that he'd come home. I put up yellow ribbons wherever I was (i ended up moving 3 times in that time period. it REALLY sucked). all i asked was "please let him come home."
He doesn't talk much about his time there (and I've found that a lot of them won't). He came back with some bad habits (he started smoking there, if only to relieve the boredom), and some new insights, and some health issues (don't let them kid you, Gulf Syndrome is real. he has small bits of neuropathy, foot fungus issues (still! and it's been 19 years!), and generally weird stuff).
He told me, when he got back to Ft. Bragg, and got in his car to drive home, on his first leave, that the last song that played as he drove down highway 75 to my parents' home was Ozzie and Coming Home. I think, at that point, he really was home, and it really was over. (apparently bloggers embedding feature is broke, so click the link)
Bob played his cards right. He stayed in the military for just over 8 years. Long enough to gain a small disability check (his knees will never be right), and long enough to get out of that inactive duty that has dragged so many people back into the military, who thought they'd gotten shut of it (i'm thinking of the woman who reported for duty with her kids with her, since there was no one else to take care of them), and not so long that he was obliged due to retirement (they nabbed my SIL on that one, but because she's developed some major health issues since she'd left, they couldn't send her overseas, so they put her on immigration control as a federal marshall (which she'd done before. the woman has had more military and military-type jobs than icare to thinkabout! (imagine a drill instructor with the last name of Payne. oy!)))
But that time will never leave him. He bears the scars inside and out. But he came home, which is so much more than some have done. And I'm grateful.