During a deployment, soldiers are typically given two weeks of “R&R” — rest and relaxation — during which they can fly home or somewhere in the middle and spend time with their loved ones before going back into theatre (military parlance for “active war zone”). Jake opted not to take his two weeks of R&R because he said it was too stressful to leave a place as dreadful as Afghanistan, fly someplace normal and loving featuring good food only to have to return to Afghanistan. It required too much of a psychological, emotional, metabolic shift. He said he’d rather wait and take his R&R on the back end–after he’d left Afghanistan for good.
I admit, I was a little bummed to know he could wait more than a year to see me, but I understood his point of view. And the last year has been a grind for me too, but for different reasons — the stress of single parenting, being alone, taking care of the property, all the stuff military wives go through when the men are gone.
I need a vacation. I need a vacation with my husband in a big way. I spent a good part of the past year fantasizing about where to go upon his return. Somewhere foreign and exotic. Croatia. Argentina? Estonia! Jake had other plans. He planned a trip for us. Guess where we’re going?
We’re going to Kentucky. Foreign…exotic…Kentucky. (Meaning, it’s not Virginia.)
Now, to be fair, I can totally understand why a soldier who’s been trapped in a sand pit for a year eating weird food and listening to foreign tongues might not want to board another plane for another weird place featuring more weird food and more foreign tongues. I get that. Understood.
But we’ve already been to the Blue Grass State. We’ve already drank all the bourbon, visited all the distilleries, toured Churchill Downs andmade the three hour drive over to Nashville to two-step at Tootsie’s and drink cheap beer.
What we haven’t done — and the primary reason for the trip — is attend the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, May 5. I’ve been to Churchill Downs but never to the Derby, and am greatly looking forward to it, even though it means more or less repeating the same sojourn we took three years ago.
Still, I can’t complain. I’m thrilled to be able to “jet off” with Jake at all. For a man just home from Afghanistan, maybe a drive across the Blue Grass State, where we can pull into any Sheetz we please and order nachos by touch screen, is just the thing this tired soldier needs.