Lone soldier goes home


My muscles ached and my head spun. Sensational feelings that I had never experienced before ran up and down my body. I looked around me and wondered why it was only I who felt this way; I did not know if it would end in a few hours or a few days.

I was going home! I never wanted the feeling to end.
Lone soldiers in the IDF are entitled to one month off to visit their families in their respective home countries. I was finally able to take my meyuhedet (special break) from early December to early January. I am writing this post one month back in Israel. Needless to say, it is a very difficult to write these words as I think about my time with my family and friends in the States.
Sometime around September, halfway through advanced training, the lone soldiers in my company started to think about when we would want to take our month to return home. I discussed with my commanders my intent to return home around my one year mark in the army and gave them a range of dates in December to consider. I wanted to be home for Christmas and New Years as my teacher-mother and most friends will have time off from school or work.
It was major hassle to receive confirmation on my dates, as confirmation is required from numerous different sources, including the commander of my brigade.
Finally, I received confirmation in early November that I was to fly home on December 8th.
On December 6th, I left a base in Jerusalem where my platoon had been guarding for two weeks to go to an office in Tel Aviv and pick up my flight itinerary and tickets. I walked out of that office with the biggest smile on my face. Within hours, my cheeks were sore. I listened to every song about Chicago and returning home that I had on my iPod. I was in such a state of euphoria; I couldn’t believe that this time had come. I hastily sent my parents an email. They called a few minutes later; I could hear my mother crying with joy and my usually-reserved father couldn’t hide his excitement that I was coming home.
I returned to Shechem that evening and turned in all my equipment the next day. I walked out of the base in just my Aleph/dress uniform; no gun, no combat uniform, no combat vest, no nothing. After dropping off and picking up clothes from my apartment in Jerusalem, I took the bus to Tel Aviv and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with Amy and the girls. Then I boarded the El-Al flight in the evening and flew home.
I hadn’t stopped smiling in hours. I could barely sit still with the anticipation of stepping foot on American soil again. My dad, grandmother and brother were waiting for me at O’Hare Airport in Chicago to take me back home. Unfortunately, my mother was unable to take time off from teaching to meet me at the airport.
But instead of waiting for her at home, my dad, brother and I drove to her school ato nd surprise her when school let out. I walked towards the school entrance and heard a shout behind me. I turned and saw my mom, her arms thrown in the air, her face a picture of pure excitement and surprise, eyes welling up, running towards me.
Back in my house, it felt odd to be in my childhood room. A strange feeling built up inside of me: I wanted to return to Israel; I knew I would become too comfortable in my life here for the next month and wanted to forego the emotional stress of tearing myself from my family and a world of comfort and go back to the army.
But I pulled through...and had the time of my life! I spoke English. I drove my stick-shift coup. I woke up when I wanted to and went to bed when I felt like it. Subconsciously, my ears perked up every time I heard English in a convenience store, which was all the time. There were hours when I did nothing.
I also saw friends for the first time in over a year. I went to bars in Chicago, kicked back a few cold ones, danced with American girls and forgot about the hard times and struggles of being in IDF. My brother and I visited our sister in Los Angeles and three of us drove to Las Vegas for New Years. My father had a lunch for me with his business associates downtown in the city. My mom helped me shop for winter clothing. I had lunches with my grandmother and met some of her friends who read my blogs.
It was the trip of a lifetime. I was home.