WOW! Let me start off by saying how awesome it is being home. I can't believe how much I missed "normal" life and all that comes with it. I have to admit that it is still a little weird being back. I look at myself in civilian clothes and it feels like I'm dressing up for Halloween or something. Getting used to traffic, and just being in civilized world is definatly an experience.
Arriving in the United States after hours upon hours of flying was a great feeling. When we landed at Dallas Ft Worth Airport we received a welcoming that I would not of expected. First as our plane was taxiing from the runway to our gate the Dallas Fire Deparetment was out there and wanted to show their appreciation for the troops returning home. What they did was something amazing and unique. It is called the "Shower of Affection." They brought 2 fire trucks out there that shoot the jets of water out the front and sprayed towards each other creating this arch of water that our plane drove through. We were all amazed on the plane and it was an awesome show they put on! If anyone from the Dallas fire department happens to read this, I want to say thank you for that!!
Once we got to our gate and we got off the plane as we came out in to the airport there were a couple hundread people cheering for us with signs of appreciation! It was almost overwhelming! There were so many people and it sent tingles down my spine to hear the cheers as we walked by. There were many many vets there to shake our hands and say thank you. I couldn't believe it. It was awesome to have them there I must say. I wanted to thank them instead of them thanking me but they wouldn't have it. And there were just SO many of them. They had "welcome home" type of care packages and everything. People with lighters and cigarettes and food and water and cellphones for guys to call home. It was amazing. I didn't expect anything like that for our return home and it was wonderful!
I had about 6 hour layover before I could go home to Phoenix. I tried getting an earlier flight but they were all booked. I linked up with a guy from the 3rd ID that was going to Phoenix as well and we just chilled until our flight time. About an hour before our boarding time we ran in to this awesome man and woman and they invited us in to the First Class Lounge which was very nice of them. We sat in there and enjoyed the ammenities before we finally boarded our flight home. Once home, we both rented rentals cars and got amazing deals on them from the people working there. I rented a 07 Chevy Trailblazer and I'm loving it! :)
So far the past 3 days that I have been back have been truly amazing! I've had a great time and have had the opportunity to spent time with my family and some amazing people so far. Im absolutly loving it. One of my friends from Bragg and Iraq came to Vegas for a few days of his leave to visit some family, so I said screw it and made the 5 hour drive up here and currently I am in Las Vegas!!! My is this place amazing and a culture shock from what we just came from. We went down the strip last night and all the lights and people and energy was intense. Its crazy to think that just over a week ago I was walking through the streets of Baghdad, and now I'm walking down one of the most famous, high energy, amzing streets in the world. Its all still so crazy to me!
We ended up heading to the stratosphere which looks just like the seatle space needle and went to the top to ride the thrill rides up there. I'll include some pictures (i didn't take them) of the rides we rode in order of the ones I talk about. We did them late at night so just imagine some of these pictures at night with all the lights of Vegas and just the added fear of night! It was awesome and some of them definately scared me. The first one we rode was called the "Big Shot" which basically shoots you about 100 feet in the air and then immediately drops you down almost the same, giving you a good couple seconds of weightless, gut in mouth feeling! It then bounces up and down giving you similiar feelings, but not as intense as the first shot. What makes all these crazier is they are already on top of the stratosphere which is already I believe, 109 stroies high!! The second ride we did was called "Insanity" and it is just that. It has these arms that at the end of each seat two people, 5 arms total on the ride. Once everyone is in, the railing on the side of the structure goes down and this contraption roates off the side of the building suspending you high above Vegas. It then begins spinning and as it spins the arms move outward so that you are facing straight down at the ground 110 stories below spinning around. It was so scary yet so much fun! The thrid and final ride we went on was called "Xscream!" I thought this would be scarrier but it wasn't as bad as I though. Basically you get in this roller coaster looking thing and it shoots you off the side of the building on this short track and stops you rapidly creating the feeling like your flying off the side of the building. Me and my buddy got to sit in the very front seats so it was quite the experience and view. All three rides were awesome and I enjoyed them much. Again see below for the pictures.
Well, I'll go ahead and wrap this up for now. I should be heading back to Phoenix tomorrow or the next day, but know that I am doing good. The only thing I don't like about being home is the fact that now I don't want to go back to Iraq. I don't like thinking like that, but its how I feel. I don't know if I can speak for other people on this, but this is how I looked at things. While over there, its not that I persay forgot about home and what its like, but I definatly held it in lesser of a reality than it is right now. The greatness of America and all that we have seemed so foreign to me, and in a way it allowed me to be able to do my job effectively. I had no problem going in to dangerous situations because it was if I felt that Iraq was all I had at that present time and the idea of not making it home was no all that horrible to me. If you've seen the HBO series "Band of Brothers" theres a part where this one LT says the best fighters are able to do what they do because "they realize that they are already dead" and thats what allows them to fight the way they do. I pretty much held that idea in my own head and it made me not fearful of the situations in which I was entering. But now, after being home, I see all of what I would be missing out on and I realize that I don't want to loose all that. I want to be able to come home to it all and enjoy it for many many more years of my life. I want that for everyone!