Land of setting sun

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Anxiety grows with each hour now - soon I must head to Afghanistan.

Though seeing their father and husband off to war is a seemingly dismal thought in itself, the silver lining for my family is that they got to return to Okinawa, Japan, for the duration of my deployment.

Recently, we made the 25-hour journey to my mother-in-law's house in the tropical paradise where my wife was raised.

With an ocean-scented and sultry gust of wind hitting my face as I stepped off the plane at Naha Airport, I was soon reminded why the islanders consider Okinawa paradise.

I too consider it blissful and relished the three weeks I had there before returning to partake in combat skills training back in the USA, then the imminent deployment that lies ahead.

Nestled in a fishing village midway up the island with a breath-taking beach and coral reef full of sea life a mere five-minute walk away, my mother-in-law's house is truly heaven on earth. Night one I nestled snugly in bed and almost forgot that another world is coming on the horizon.

I awoke that night, as I do most nights, to memories of war, or perhaps it was anxiety about what may lie ahead. In either case, even in paradise, the conflicts of afar can reach right into your soul. Nowhere is safe from that.

Later that week, family gathered around, and we loaded some old photos on the laptop and watched the slideshow of memories trail by. I couldn't help but reflect on the pure and utter importance of family - something I'll miss desperately while downrange.

Back in the UK now, I spend quite a bit of time conversing with my friends at the local pub. Some of the older guys share stories of gallantry they witnessed here in the UK during World War II. Others enlighten me on British conflicts abroad.

It brings an ironic peace to know that generation after generation suffered for the lives we live. So must my generation - and time after time we do.

People wonder and often ask me how I can leave my family back in Japan, and be apart for so long. I suppose it's a belief that even if I'm wounded, harmed or maimed, I'll be home again.

In our own time, each and every one of us is certain to die. We can't pick the when or where. These are sacrifices we all continue to make for a better tomorrow. Some day my life's sun will set, but I pray it isn't during this deployment. When I die, I hope I'm retired and living a life back in Okinawa, in that land of the rising sun.