A Sad Goodbye | Part 1
Posted on Sunday September 11th, 2016 @ 1:22am by Colonel Garrett Alder
Gunnery Sergeant Garrett Alder
22nd MEU – 2nd MEF
::12 hours before boarding::
Garrett awoke with a start as something landed on him while he was in bed “You promised Daddy!” came the detached voice. Despite the fact he hated being woken up, he couldn’t help but smile, “I haven’t forgotten Abs.” He said rolling over and stretching a bit. He looked over at his wife, who was trying to pretend she was still asleep. He rolled over and kissed her on the cheek. “Get mommy up.” He said standing up and going towards his closet to grab a shirt. “I’ll start on breakfast.” He made it as far as the hallway before he heard his wife laughing hysterically and his daughter giggling contentedly. He smiled as he headed down stairs towards the kitchen.
He turned on the TV as he entered the kitchen and listened to the news while he started cooking the eggs and bacon. The reporter was talking about a recent attack in the Middle East. He sighed the knowledge that in 15 hours he’d be boarding a plane heading over there again. His wife and daughter came down the stairs laughing he smiled at them as he started on the hash browns. His wife walked up behind him and gave him a kiss on the cheek, “I love it when you cook” she said getting into the cabinets and pulling out the dishes.
::9.5 hours before boarding::
Garrett’s daughter Abigale ran ahead towards the monkey enclosure. She’d always loved the monkeys. Garrett held his wife’s hand. She was smiling, but she hadn’t said much. He didn’t have to ask, he already knew. They’d been through this a few times already. Too many really. She was upset that he was leaving. It was his job, it paid the bills. When he was younger he loved it. He didn’t mind being in ‘the suck’ for months at a time. But now that he had a family, it was getting harder and harder. They caught up to their daughter and watched her as she looked on in awe at the monkeys as they played up and down trees.
::5 hours before boarding::
Garrett looked over his uniform in the mirror. The new Gunnery Sergeant rank insignia still didn’t quite seem right. His wife walked up behind him and looked at him with a smile. Despite everything, she always love seeing him in his uniform. She smoothed the fabric on his shoulders and back. Garrett turned to face her. A tear was forming in her eye. He wiped it away and kissed her. He grabbed his bag and headed down stairs. His daughter was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. He smiled at them both. “I’ll see you both on the flight line.” He said as he knelt down to hug her.
He headed out to his truck and tossed his duffle into the bed. He had a couple hours of out processing to deal with at the base, but he’d at least get to see them one more time before he left. He started the engine and pulled out of the drive heading towards the base. They’d had a good day. Spent the morning at the zoo, had lunch at their favorite restaurant. Everyone was happy, or as happy as they could be given the situation.
::2 hours before boarding::
Garrett finished his paperwork and settled in. He’d gone through the processing first at his CO’s orders. He checked his weapon one more time, then started pacing. They would process the company, then the ones with family would be allowed to go see them before they departed. The process was moving slowly, Garret was starting to worry he wouldn’t have more than a few minutes to say good bye if he had any time at all.
“Gunny.” A voice called from behind him. Garrett turned to see the Colonel beckoning him over. Garrett moved to him with haste, “Sir?” he asked as he approached. The Colonel motioned him to follow, and they took a short walk out of earshot of the rest of the Company. “I understand you aren’t re-upping.” He said turning to face him, Garrett was taken aback a bit by the question. “Yes, sir.” He responded, taking a stance that was close to attention, but not quite there. “May I ask why?” The Colonel said. “Permission to speak freely, Sir?” The Colonel smiled, “Speak.” He said, Garrett hesitated, then finally answered “Honestly Sir, I’ve dedicated most of my adult life to the Corps, and I have no regrets… but it’s time to dedicate the rest of my life to my family.” The Colonel nodded, “I understand… I’ve given 3 marriages to the Corps… if I had it to do over again… I might make the same choice.”
He was quite for a moment before speaking again. “You’ve been a hell of an NCO… I don’t want to lose you, we’ve pushed you through the ranks about as fast as is possible… I do understand your reasons for wanting to get out, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I just let you walk away.” He held up a file “Listen… I want to make you my First Sergeant. The promotion would be finalized by the time you get home.” Garrett was stunned into silence for a moment “I’m honored Sir.” He said finally, the Colonel nodded in understanding, “But you are not going to accept are you?” he said. Garrett again hesitated, “I… I can’t.” he said finally. The smiled, “I understand… at least think about it.” He said finally. “Yes Sir.”
Garrett was just turning to return to the Company when the Colonel spoke again, “Your family is waiting I assume?” Garrett turned to face him again, there was almost a longing in his CO’s eyes. “Yes Sir.” The Colonel looked towards the Company, then nodded towards the door, “Go, spend as much time as you can with them before we go… we can handle it.” Garrett looked back to the Company his duty was here. “That’s and order Marine.” A smile warmed Garrett’s face, “Thank you Sir.”
::5 minutes till boarding::
The remaining time with his family seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. Most of the Company had already boarded the aircraft. Garrett knew he had to go. He hugged his wife holding her tight for a long while before finally letting her go, giving her a kiss. Then he knelt down to his daughter, she was doing her best to hold back the tears. “I don’t want you to go Daddy” she said hugging him. Garrett struggled to hold back his own tears, “I know sweetie… but this will be that last time… I promise.” She broke the hug, and he held her by the shoulders memorizing the way she looked. He knew she would change in the time while he was gone, which made leaving that much harder.
“You promise you’ll come back?” she asked. Garrett removed the dogtags from around his neck and held them for his daughter to see, “I’ve had these since I joined the corps… never take them off… never go anywhere without them.” He said, then placed them around his daughter’s neck. “I promise you, I will come back for them.” His daughter held them in her hands for moment then hugged her daddy again. Garrett hugged her tightly until a Private who had been sent to remind him of the time cleared his throat. Garrett let Abigale go and stood up. “Thank you, Private.” He said and grabbed his bag. “I’ll call you as soon as I can he said as he turned to leave.
He stopped at the top of the ramp and turned to wave goodbye to his family one last time. His wife was waving and obviously fighting back tears. His daughter was holding his tags tightly in one hand and waving with the other. She hesitated for a moment, then saluted him. Garrett smiled, and snapped to attention, returning the salute.
Little did he know he would never see either of them again.