Welcome to Kansas

Sean and Melissa October 2005
Sean and Eisenhower

J, Sean, and E at the Sunset Zoo
Sean spent two and a half months at Ft. Riley, Kansas preparing for the journey to Iraq. They joked that after a humid August in Kansas, the dry heat of the desert would be a relief (most later recanted on that). He had classes, and field training, weapons qualification, and simulated training for their destination.
We sent him to Kansas thinking that our tough goodbyes were over. We had agreed that if there was the opportunity to come home, or to visit, that we would not take it. The hardest part was over. We had said our goodbyes. Then opportunity knocked.
The kids and I drove 11 hours to Kansas for Labor Day weekend 2005. We were among many families that made the journey. How wonderful it would be to see him again! But the knowledge that we only had a few days made the trip bittersweet for all of us. The drive was awful, mostly in the dark, navigating my way down the interstate, looking for exits, not sure where I was going. The kids were cranky, as was I. And then, it started to rain. About 2 hours north of our destination, the rain started pouring down. It was dark, I was on a two-lane highway, not sure where I was going. And I cried. I bawled. I waited for Sean to call and tell me which hotel we were staying in. I cried when he called. I cried when we hung up. It was as if the reality of it all had just hit me. The kids and I were alone, Sean was leaving, and did I mention it was dark and raining?
We arrived around 11 PM and checked into the most questionable motel I’ve ever stayed in. Sean was thrilled to be out of the barracks. The kids slept on top of the covers. There was a mysterious sticky substance on the hair dryer. We checked out first thing in the morning and found a new hotel.
J, the quintesential skater, found a skatepark in Junction City. He did his internet research and found, “a skatepark in the middle of a trailer court, next to a gay strip club, and across the street from a sewage pond.” All true!!
We also visited Abilene and the home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Presidential Library, and Museum. We took a driving tour of Ft. Riley. We found a nice park with several memorials to Ft. Riley soldiers. We visited Sunset Zoo in Manhattan.
And the time was wonderful, but it flew by. Before we were ready, it was time to head home. If I thought the trip to Kansas was bad, the trip home was positively miserable. I cried, the kids cried and fought. Sean called to see how we were, and I cried again. It was hard to send him off at the airport, but leaving him behind and driving away, I thought my heart would be ripped out.
Sean stayed at Ft. Riley until the 2nd week of October. The soldiers were granted a 3-day pass, and many rented vehicles and drove home. Sean made it home for J’s 15th birthday. We had a bonfire at my dad’s. He had the chance to go pheasant hunting with a friend. He napped with the dog. It was wonderful! Then we said goodbye yet again. Now I remember why we had agreed to no visits once he was gone–it was just too damn hard!
Sean left for Iraq mid-October 2005. They travelled to Shannon, Ireland. One soldier discovered how much it costs per minute for an international phone call when they were charged $120 for a 5 minute call home from the airport. Yikes! They went on to Germany, and from there to Kuwait where they would prepare for transition into Iraq.

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