Waiting for EML
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Travis Vreeland of Ventura, Calif., a MEDEVAC pilot with Company C, Task Force Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade/TF Falcon, waits for his Environmental Morale Leave flight Feb. 15 at the Bagram Airfield passenger terminal. EML is a benefit for deployed Soldiers which takes them out of the combat zone for 15 days of non-chargeable leave plus travel time.

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - When I was a child, everything seemed large and monumental. The highest number I could fathom was 100. When I played the counting game, you could pretty much count on my response: "Bubble gum, Bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish' One hundred!" A mile was a long way, an hour a long time. A day seemed like a week, a week seemed like a year, and a year' Well, when I was 5 and my mother told me Dec. 26 that Christmas was now an entire year away, I cried; because to me, that was an eternity. Now that I'm older and a little wiser, I learned 100 is not such a big number after all. Nowadays, a hundred bucks won't cover the cost for a family of four to go out to dinner and a movie. Now, as I've recently learned, I can fit 100 pieces of gum in my mouth. It was a challenge from Sgt. 1st Class Vito Powers - I had to accept. A mile; well, I have to run two miles for a physical training test, and I can do that in less than 17 minutes. At least, I'd better if I want to pass. A week seems to fly by, even here in Afghanistan. And a year, well, before you know it, it's going to be October and time for the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade to come home! Think about how many years you have been in the Army. When you look back, I bet most of you will say, "Wow, has it really been that long'" When you put things into perspective, a year is not much time at all; 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days. Some can even break it down to the hours, minutes and seconds. It's all the same amount of time, no matter how it's broken down. Time is relative to how it is spent. The best part of this year is the two weeks of Environmental Morale Leave, also known as rest and recuperation; the 15 days Soldiers get to spend away from the combat mission. I recently came back from my EML, and I can tell you it went faster than a dozen jelly donuts at a police station. I can say that because I was a military policeman a dozen years ago. Wow, has it really been that long' See' Anyhow, I had a lot of big plans for my 15 days of vacation. I was going to do it all. I was going to see all of my friends and family - not only in my home state of Florida, but New York, Georgia, Arizona, and oh yeah, spend a few days in Las Vegas, too! You see, I was a child again, and 15 days was a long time. However, once I was home, I quickly realized 15 days was not all that long. At first, I was franticly looking at dates and times and calling this person and that person to nail down my plan and maximize my time. I was becoming frazzled - how was I going to do everything' Then it happened; a song from childhood popped into my head: "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I found myself singing, "Relax! Don't do it, when you want to go to it. Relax!" After all, it is called rest and recuperation for a reason. Once I accepted the fact I was not going to be able to see everyone and go to all of those places in fifteen days, I was able to do exactly that - relax! Make realistic plans for your time off. Accept you're not going to be able to do everything you want to do in fifteen days so you can maximize your time off. Remember what this time off is for - to recharge. Slow down. Spend time with your friends and family. Take comfort in the fact you don't have to have a million and one plans to enjoy your time off. You don't want to be on a rigid timeline - that's what you do here. You don't have to wake up at zero-dark-thirty for physical training, shift change or some meeting. You can sit down and enjoy your meals with real cutlery. Sometimes, the best laid plan is to have no plan at all. It will take a few days to become adjusted to not having to carry a weapon to Walmart or out to dinner. It will take time to adjust to being called by your first name or mommy or daddy. EML is your time and that is important to keep in mind when making plans. It's not about the cruise, the beach or the weekend at a ski lodge; it's about being with friends or family; or alone if you want, for 15 days and enjoying that time wherever and however it's spent. Remember, 15 days is not a long time. But, put into perspective, neither is a year. Before too long, it will be time to make plans for an even happier moment - when you are once again with your family upon completion of this tour of duty. A time when miles will not distance you and time will not have to be spent apart. An hour can once again seem like a day; a day like a week and a week like a year. Enjoy your EML and don't forget what Frankie said ... RELAX.

Page last updated Fri February 18th, 2011 at 01:38