Saying goodbye to APO AE 093XX
On the first page of my address book are these names: Maurice, John, Jeff, Lee, Lyle, and Shama. The thing is that I never wanted to write any of the names in my book.
Writing the name and address meant the person was deployed, most likely to Iraq.
Twenty-one others are on the next four pages or are scattered throughout my book.
Writing the names on the first five pages kept me from searching through the address book to find the names when I would send packages, which I tried to do regularly.
Most of the names are of people I met while serving as a public affairs supervisor at Fort Bragg, N.C., with the 2125th Garrison Support Unit, a unit that came into existence to help the Army process, train and equip Reserve Component soldiers.
Some names are of people I barely knew or didn’t know at all, names of people whom others gave me.
Some names I never put in my address book, as I had jotted down the information on sticky notes or other slips of paper and tucked them into the book’s front pocket. In a few cases, I printed the address from an email message and just never transferred it.
Some I know well. One is my son. One is now a dear friend. One is the husband of a good friend. One is someone I’ve known since she was a teenager. One I’ve known since he was in elementary school. One is a cousin.
When I decided to join an Army Reserve unit in Atlanta, I wanted one that wouldn’t deploy overseas. While I do enjoy travel, I’ve never wanted to live in another country for very long, and I decided I didn’t want Uncle Sam to send me somewhere I didn’t want to go. In choosing a unit, I chose one that went to North Carolina when called to duty.
In hindsight, that seems cowardly, particularly in light of those 26 names in my address book and the ones on slips of paper tucked in the pocket.
As each person returned home, I drew a diagonal line through their overseas address. In several cases, I ended up writing the name again with a new address at a new base in Iraq.
Oh, how I hated that even more than writing the name the first time.
The packages I sent were well-received, but I always felt the contents were insignificant. Some home-baked cookies, maybe some home-canned fruit, store-bought wintergreen mints, and a card. Always a card.
I last sent packages to a cousin and two former members of the 2125th GSU a few months ago.
With the exception of the guys who were in my unit, everyone else I’ve sent packages to has returned safely to their families. One just celebrated a birthday in Iraq; the other one I haven’t heard from in a while. More than 4,000 who served never made it home alive.
I hope never to write another name in my address book of anyone going to APO AE 093XX.
I’m glad the war in Iraq is over. To the almost 2 million who served there, including the ones in my address book, thank you, and welcome home.