Maj. Chris Auclair is the 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division Fires and Effects coordinator, currently serving in Baghdad, Iraq. This is his second tour in Baghdad, having previously served as a Paladin Battery Commander in 1st Brigade during the initial invasion and subsequent transition to stability operations.
I’m not sure my wife would classify my two week leave from Iraq as a break, but it is a welcome intermission for me to spend two weeks at home with my wife and boys. My arrival at home means one more man in the house, one already filled with four three-year old boys. Yes, you are reading that right, my wife and I are the proud parents of absolutely wonderful quadruplets who are unbelievably inquisitive and aware. While in one aspect I am leaving a load of stress in Iraq, a whole new stress is created in trying to tell the little guys why I have to leave again after just two weeks at home.
Just over a week and a half ago, I departed the plane in Savannah not sure how my kids would react. Would they be shy toward me, afraid, or extremely clingy? I know exactly what I wanted. My boys have become used to me being gone for long periods of time, but this is really the first time they are somewhat aware of what I do and how long I’ve been gone. Fortunately for me, with some strong reassurance from my wife that I was not bringing home any bad guys, my boys were all excited to see their dad – truly one of the best welcomes I’ve ever experienced.
Thankfully our Brigade Chaplain, Major Bart Herndon, and his battalion chaplains lead a pre-leave counseling session with every Soldier in our Brigade before we depart Iraq for our two weeks. He prepares us for just about every scenario we could encounter with our family that could lead to disappointment or hurt feelings. If you listen, he’ll coach you through ways to react, explaining why there might be anxiety or tension. The one milestone left is my return to Iraq in just three days and how I’m going to explain missing a third birthday (let alone another anniversary), the start of the school year, Halloween and everything else my little kids look forward to in their life.
While I am truly dreading the end of my leave, it is not my return to Iraq that bothers me, it is the sad faces I’ll see when I say goodbye again and the knowledge that my wife once again has to explain to the boys where I’ve gone, why, and when I’ll return. This same story could be told countless times (and probably has been) by Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.
The great thing about these two week leave periods from Iraq or Afghanistan is that what would have otherwise been trivial moments that blend in with the rest of life are moments that we will probably always remember. Our first time fishing together, first time riding on an inter-tube behind a boat, our first time eating smores over a camp fire, and the first time my boys paid for my lunch (with a friendly donation from my wife of course). While these moments might seem pretty mundane to most, they are truly special moments that I shared with my family over two very short weeks.