I flew in with approximately 200 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan for up to one year.
A flight that I barely made (Space-A), and one that I didn't expect to make turned out to be the highlight of my trip.
It was an honor flying with my brothers and sisters back home. And it was a great honor being in the receiving line of the best, most heart-felt welcoming I've ever witnessed in my 20 years of service.
What a wonderful way to come home after the whirlwind tour of Europe and a fantastic way to end my Navy career.
I am reaching a significant milestone in my life – 20 years of service to my country and the military. During my career in the Navy, I have had tremendous exposure to a wide variety of cultures and political landscapes. For example, I have deployed aboard several warships, served as the public affairs officer aboard a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and have been stationed in Japan, the land of my Grandmother.
Furthermore, I have been deployed three times to the Middle East and have visited many interesting places, on the edge of danger, on the edge of diplomacy, on the edge of the world -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Israel, and Afghanistan, to name just a handful.
I couldn't believe my fate. After traveling to six continents and over 40 countries all throughout my scattered career. The military taught me to become well versed in the international dialogue. I was often put on the front lines, sometimes without much preparation, as the Navy’s or even DoD's go-to-person when the public seeks an official statement of the military’s opinion on many hot button and newly emerging global issues. From Guantanamo to Asia Pacific to Latin America, I have served and represented the Navy and the Department of Defense on many issues over the years and have been put on the hot seat several times to discuss highly-visible issues.
Now, I start school on Sunday and will sit in the safe confines of a classroom and learn mostly from a textbook, not from a field manual
It had been a very long 17 years since I stepped foot in a university, backpack over my shoulder and yelled for the home team at the "Swamp" at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida.
Now I would be a Colonial, back to school at 42. Would I fit in? Would I fall out?
I thank my Country for the great, diverse people I have faithfully served.
And thank you sincerely to everyone who helped and supported me, especially Operation Welcome Home for giving our Heroes (and me) the welcome that they (we) truly deserve.