Saturday, April 29, 2006

Chapter's End

Kirk had to out-process before he was really and truly out of the army, and that meant a stop at Fort Dix, New Jersey. There was a balance there, because Fort Dix is where he did his basic training. He did that in the winter and spent bitterly cold days doing long marches and camping in the field. Now it was full summer and horribly hot and humid. New Jersey is not, I'm afraid, on the list of places I would like to live.

We landed in the commercial airport after a long, but essentially uneventful flight and discovered that no one seemed to know what to do next. There were about thirty of us milling around in the airport, no sign of transport, no one to ask what to do. We must have looked like so many ants without a leader.

Maybe it was someone's thesis project in sociology; maybe it was a subtle army sorting program. A few people simply called for taxis and headed to the base, others stood around and discussed how horrible it was that the army hadn't provided for us all, some (this was our category) watched everyone else and hoped someone would come up with a solution that was less expensive than a taxi, but more practical than sitting around in the airport and listening to the children cry. Fortunately there were just a few who loudly complained to everyone they could lay hands on - airline officials, passing strangers - it took two hours, but eventually we were bundled into a couple of large vans and heading to the base.

It didn't get any better once we were there. They dumped us on a strip of grass and left us in the hot sun. We had been in Germany for three years, and were compeltely unused to the American heat. It took another hour for someone else to come by, gather everyone up and drive us to the hotel the army had arranged. As we went, the soldier driving us cheerfully announced that this particular hotel was where drug offenders were sent on release. I think the poor guy got in trouble when we complained; we were not, however sent to a different hotel.

Looking back I think the base was overwhelmed. The number of people outprocessing was far beyond anything they had dealt with before; they simply didn't have the facilities. However, at the time it felt like the army was trying to make things as difficult and painful as possible. We got on the plane completely drained. But finally, all papers signed, we were out - we were going home.

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