A soldier’s R&R

by Jessie K on April 26, 2012

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.

Jake inspecting his Kentucky bourbon three years ago

Attending a horse race at Churchill Downs three years ago

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.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Annette April 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm


As a transplant to Paducah, Kentucky, I must say that I really like living here thanks in large part to the people. They are without question the nicest people to live around I have ever encountered. (I have lived in 6 other states in various locations east of the Mississippi.) We have never made it to a Derby but it looks like fun. I know that for everyone here who goes the clothes and the hat are a big deal. I can see you rocking a cool hat with mint julep in hand!

Paula S. April 26, 2012 at 5:12 pm


Yeah, I was going to ask if we could see your hat! My husband always watches the Derby on TV. I just watch to see the hats.

Beth April 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm


This is the place to break out all those adorable shoes you stashed away but never have a chance to wear. I know, at a horse race? But they all go in top style!! For the creme de la creme, there are boutiques where you may actually register your entire outfit, so’s to be sure no one else will appear wearing the same thing. (Not on my budget).

Bob F. April 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm


What Jake (and you) really need is time for just the two of you – where that happens is immaterial. Just go and enjoy (which can be done damm near anywhere) and make the most of your together time.

Paula S. April 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm


Many years ago on a vacation, we rented a small cabin instead of a motel room, and never looked back. We now only rent cabins. The privacy and seclusion are like the comforts of home, without the chores and distractions. Our favorites are in the Buffalo National River country in the Ozarks (the proprietor even leaves champagne in the fridge for you), but some of the state parks now have really luxurious couple style cabins now, too.

Kat April 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm


I’ve always figured the best part of a vacation is the company you’re spending it with. Not that I’ve traveled extensively – but I did have a passport once upon a time. This sounds like a ton of low-stress fun! And a good chance for you and Jake to shake off the past year and reconnect.

Janelle April 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm


You are a good wife.
Another thought: my family and I just got back from spring break in Charleston. A really, really great city. Beach, culture, history, shopping, nightlife, entertainment… Highly recommend it. And it’s probably not too far from you via car
Have a great time in Kentucky and at the Derby!

Paula S. April 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm


I hope you place a small bet and win a lot of money!!

Cynthia in Denver April 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm


Go buy yourself a hat! A big, fancy, feathery hat!

DarcC April 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm


I’ll be at Churchill Downs the following weekend. I’ve never been to the Derby, it’s on the bucket list, enjoy!

Meaghan April 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm


I am so jealous! I’d love to go to the Derby sometime. I’m in Lexington for the weekend for the Rolex 3-day event, which is probably just as much fun.

Joanne from Colorado April 26, 2012 at 10:29 pm


I’ll watch for you on tv while drinking my mint julep! Hang in there, someday he may surprise you and want to go to Croatia. Ha.

Howard April 27, 2012 at 5:25 am


How will you handle the thrill of mint juleps and crowds of women trying to out-class each other? Especially with horses there! Big, tall, horses! We all know how much you love horses!

Shelby April 27, 2012 at 8:17 am


Yeah, I say that it doesn’t matter where you go…just that you and Jake have time to just enjoy being together. Since he’s just home from Afghanistan – he gets to choose Kentucky…but I also say since you had a book release you get to choose Bali :-) Do both!!

Kim k April 27, 2012 at 9:59 am


Dang, Sheetz is gettin’ high-tech.

Paula S. April 27, 2012 at 4:52 pm


I had to google that to see what it was.

Penny April 27, 2012 at 10:38 am


Nobody said anything about June!! Is this a second honeymoon.??

Janelle April 27, 2012 at 11:36 am


And what about Sohla?

Jessie K April 29, 2012 at 11:37 am


Solha and June will be watched over my Marmie, Jake’s wonderful mom.

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