Hmmm....where to begin?
Well, I did get to hear my sweet husband's voice on Friday. My cell phone literally did not leave my sight from about 6 a.m. that morning until he called at about 8:30 p.m. At that point I had slightly given up hope of hearing from him and just figured they weren't going to let them make any calls...so I could barely breathe when I picked up and it was his voice on the other end!
Friday marked the last day of Phase 2 where they received their final evaluations of their missions they planned and led and other tests they were given over the course of the Mountain Phase. This is where they were either given a "GO" or a "NO-GO." A "GO" would send them to Florida for the Swamp Phase (Phase 3) and a "NO-GO" would be a "recycle" which means they would have to start Phase 2 over from the beginning.
Johnny ended up getting "recycled" and started the Mountain Phase again this past Saturday. We knew going into this, that it was VERY, VERY common to recycle. I think they say 2 out of 3 guys recycle, and they also say to count on 2-3 recycles over the course of Ranger School. AND - to add to these statistics, 50% of the guys in Johnny's company recycled the mountain phase - which is a HUGE number compared to the other companies. Charlie Company (the company he was in) was the toughest to be in at the Mountain Phase. He said A LOT of the guys who got recycled just dropped out of the program and went home because they didn't want to give it a second chance....which means that they gave up their opportunity to get a Ranger tab because they chose to leave.
He was pretty down about it when he called Friday night and was dreading telling me, but had already decided to stay and give it a second shot unless I told him to come home....which I would NEVER do because this is such a HUGE goal of his.
I could tell by talking to him that the effects of Ranger School are definitely starting to wear him down. He talked about how he doesn't have to be sitting down to fall asleep. He hallucinates often. One time he saw a zebra (I can assure you - there are NO zebra's in the mountains of Georgia) and he said he remembers saying, "Wow, look at how pretty that zebra is." Another time he said he saw me leaning up against a tree out in the woods smiling and waving to him and he stopped to watch me but was quickly jilted because the guy behind him pushed him and yelled at him to keep moving. When they do missions, they walk for almost 24 solid hours straight up and down mountains with 80-120 pounds of gear on, while carrying a machine gun. Then they sleep for 40 min or less and do it all over again. He said he is constantly on edge and his mind is constantly working, even when he is sleeping. He said it is completely impossible for him to imagine coming home tomorrow and just hanging out and relaxing because that seems so far away and so different than the life he's been living the past two months that he can not comprehend it.
I tell you this harsh reality of his current situation so that you'll pray for him. Yes, we knew going into this, it would be tough (on both of us!) and that the purpose of Ranger School is to break you down on every level and then test you and see how you perform. Please pray for his endurance and strength - both mentally and physically. Also, for his motivation and drive to continue on, no matter what it takes, for him to get his Ranger tab.
The positive side of this recycle is that he gets a second chance to perfect mountaineering tasks and combat operations (things he has never been exposed to before this) so that he will be proficient on every level when the true test comes either in combat when he's deployed in a few months and/or when he moves to a Ranger Battalion. Everything happens for a reason. I just have to hold on to that truth because selfishly I just want him home - now. Another plus is that he changed companies and the RI leadership changed. He knows what to expect this time around and will be able to perform even better because of what he learned the first time through.
His new graduation date is September 26th. I know he will soar through these next 6 weeks and realize that it really was worth all this misery once that Ranger tab finally gets pinned on him.
Also - his birthday is a week from tomorrow. August 26th - he'll be the big 2-5! If you think about it, drop a birthday card in the mail to him...remember he won't get any packages until the end of the phase (which will be about Sept. 5/6)...but I know a card would brighten his day....he LOVES birthdays! He gave me a new address for him, but said it could change again later that day, so I'm hoping to get a postcard with the confirmed address on it in a few days. I'll let you know when I have it.