Maybe the skies didn’t really part, and send shafts of sunlight down to tweet “Ode to Joy” with bluebirds and butterflies, but that’s about what it felt like.
Once during deployment, everyone got a choice: 2 weeks’ of leave at home, 2 weeks’ leave in Europe, or “environmental leave” where you got 5 days in Qatar. And the “two weeks” didn’t include travel time– you got 2 weeks off in your home of record, which essentially ended up being almost 3 weeks total because of flights, delays, layovers, and so on. The guys that chose Europe were dropped off in Germany and told to be back on a certain day. Of course, they didn’t have far to go so they didn’t get those “extra” days due to travel.
Most people I knew went home, but some went to Europe. Single guys or people with connections in Europe from the past, or in some cases, families met them there for vacations together. Had I been single at the time I probably would have gone for the Europe option, since I really enjoy that place.
I couldn’t understand why some folks went to 5 days in Qatar, but a lot of people chose it, to my surprise. I understand that some people might not want to mess up their sleep with a lot of travel over multiple time zones; there were also guys that either had no families in the States, or, they had very young children who’d be bewildered at their parents showing up then disappearing again… but, damn, they could have at least gotten the full 2 weeks. I heard the Qatar options was actually really nice from people who went there.
Anyhow, for the month of September, I’ll portray Joe Rock going home on leave, and the totally different world that existed back in the US during the war.