Tomorrow I'll be leaving behind the state I've called home for the last four years. I came to Washington in the winter of 2004, stationed at Ft. Lewis outside of Tacoma. It was my first time west of New Mexico, and my first time away from home. I was starting a new life in the Pacific Northwest. Flying into Seattle, the change of pressure from my home state of Texas made it feel like someone was standing on my forehead. But I still couldn't take my eyes of the sparkling blue water of Puget Sound and the deep green trees sprinkled around long, car-filled bridges.
I didn't have much time to take kayaking lessons or frolic on the streets of Seattle. Though the unit I was assigned to had just gotten back from a tour in Iraq, we'd immediately start training together. Anyone who has spent time at Ft. Lewis knows the dreaded trails of Yakima Training Center, a sprawling training facility in eastern Washington. It's practically a desert, with its rolling hills choked by sagebrush.
We went there twice, each for two weeks, to train for our eventual deployment. Both time were ferociously cold and miserable. Showers were available if you wanted to pour a water bottle over your head, and going to the bathroom meant walking to the next hill over, digging a hole and squatting over it. It was one of those things that was miserable at the time but remains a fond memory.
Strykers in a circle formation
The view of our platoon's vehicles from my newly dug shitting hole
Doc and I both came back from summer leave in 2005 early and decided to spend our last day discharging firearms in a national park. We drove towards Mt. Rainer, trying to find an empty stretch of road to quickly expend some rounds. In the back were two vintage rifles, an old SKS and and a CZ-98. I was never gun savvy but I was very fond of history. I was looking forward to shooting the CZ-98, a carbon copy of the rifle the Germans used in both world wars.
On the way to shootin' guns
We were deep in the woods when we got out and shot rounds for a minute or two before leaving in a hurry (it wasn't entirely legal). On the way back, we crossed over a rickety bridge that dropped down to one lane. It was probably a bad idea to get out and take a picture, but the backdrop made it irresistible. I love Texas, but the scenery is nothing like it is in Washington.
Last month, Lauren and I spent a weekend at Ocean Shores, a resort town on the Pacific Ocean. It was sunny and cold, but luckily it was windy enough to fly a kite. It was a dream to run up and down a largely deserted beach like a kid. Six months earlier I was patrolling the most dangerous province in Iraq. Suddenly, I was on a tranquil beach without a care in the world.
Lauren flying an octopus kite
Tomorrow, Lauren and I are putting Washington behind us as we start a new life in Austin, Texas. She spent her whole life in Redmond and Seattle, and me, just a fraction of it. More or less, I enjoyed my time in the Northwest. The weather and the people leave a bit to be desired, but you'd be hard pressed to beat the view.
So goodbye, Washington! You were kind to me when it counted. Maybe one day I'll come back to visit.
Lauren says goodbye to the ocean one last time