There were rumors on a daily basis and I was really getting sick and tired of them. At first, we would get our hopes up when hearing we were next to go home or that it would be within the next week. We would be told one date and then another. After a while, I stopped listening to them.
There were also rumors about the inspection of our bags before boarding the plane. The official word was that we would not be allowed to take any weapons home. I had kept two AK-47 rifles as souvenirs. I really wanted to take home at least one of them. Someone told me that they may allow me to keep it if it was deactivated, meaning it it could not be fired. There is more than way to do that. You can weld an empty magazine to the receiver, weld the top side to the receiver, weld the selector lever in the Safe position, and finally and most importantly, welding the bolt carrier to the receiver will most definitely render it useless. But they made it clear that we could not take any firearms on the plane and the U.S. laws didn't allow us to mail them home either. So I had to get rid of them.
The rumors surrounding the pre-boarding inspections were flying around all the time. One rumor stated that they were going to make us dump our duffle bags out and go through everything. Another rumor was that if you were caught with anything you weren't supposed to have on the plane, that you would be busted down to Private. There was even a rumor that an officer was demoted to Private when he was caught smuggling an Iraqi officer's pistol in one of his bags. I'm sure that was false, but the effect of the rumors was enough to make you think long and hard about any attempts to try your luck. Especially when we heard the rumor that your entire unit would be bumped out of line of going home and have to start the waiting game all over again.
But finally, the time had come that we were going home. We got up very early on this morning, packed up all of our belongings, folded up and turned in our cots, and loaded up on the shuttle busses to go to the airport. Once we were there, we did indeed face an inspection. We lined up along these long, narrow tables where we were instructed to dump out all of the contents of our duffle bags so that the inspector could come by and check them out. This was nerve racking because I just knew someone was going to try something stupid and we would all have to go back to camp 15 and wait all over again while some other unit took our place on the plane. But we were cleared and told to pack everything up. They were then loaded on the plane as we were boarding it.
I don't know how long we were waiting on the tarmac, but I do remember when we finally took off. I kept thinking to myself that this isn't really happening. This must be some dream that I will wake up from and I'm still be in Saudi Arabia. I had thoughts that even if it's real, we'll be shot down by an Iraqi missile or the plane will explode by a hidden bomb planted by terrorists. Looking back, I guess I had become paranoid of all things. I had deep down fears that I couldn't really expect to make it out of here alive. Even when I returned home, I had dreams that I was still over there. In fact, I woke up one day thinking I would see the sky when I opened my eyes, but instead, saw the ceiling of my room.
But the reality of it all set in as we lifted off. Someone asked what time it was because he wanted to know the exact time we left Saudi Arabia. Being curious myself, I looked at my watch. I don't remember the time (probably around 7 am) but what I do remember is seeing the date on my watch. I was so preoccupied with other thoughts that I didn't even realize what day it was. It was April 15th! If you remember, I had prayed that God would not only end the war, but send us home by April 15th. I felt like my heart just skipped a beat. I sat there in amazement. I called it the Gulf War miracle because I credited God with answering my prayers. My prayer that I lead prior to the ground assault of a quick victory, and my prayer of ending the war and allowing me to go home by April the 15th. If we had left any day prior to the 15th, it would still be an answered prayer, but leaving on the exact date of the 15th was like God removing any doubt of a coincidence and making it very obvious that He not only heard my prayer, but saw fit to answer it on a day that would make it perfectly clear that it was His doing. I laid my head back in awesome wonder. How great and awesome is our God!