Thinking of the word deployment, one might think I will soon be on a mission with the United States military tracking down terrorists. Though I will be on a mission when I travel to Africa (my destination), it will not be a mission that will find me back in uniform, armed and along side my fellow comrades; instead I will be conducting this mission as a college student. Working alongside other Long Island University students, our mission will be to fly into Rwanda, learn about the atrocities of the 1994 genocide and hear first hand what one may have gone through and how they still suffer today by interviewing the survivors.
One may never get an opportunity like this in their life, and I know this will be an incredible experience I cannot pass up. Since being back home from the service back in 2003, I realized I miss being able to have an opportunity to be sent overseas. Hearing about my college planning an Africa trip and taking the exact days off I had planned to take from work, I realized this was my chance to do something pretty awesome in a long time. So today I am two days away from boarding a plane that will bring me to a destination, Africa.
So as I sit here in front of my computer typing this with bags and stuff scattered about my room, I’m beginning to get that feeling like I had the night before I deployed to Saudi Arabia (PSAB). The nerves are kicking in a little, making me wish I was already done with packing and I was already there and settled in. I know when I arrive there it will be an amazing feeling, a feeling I don’t get when I visit other states here in America. Traveling overseas is just a one of a kind feeling, however what kind of feeling will I have when I am face to face listening to the voices of people who survived genocide.
My deployment to Saudi Arabia was a great experience, though I only spent one day in the city of Riyadh, to go shopping and see how the Saudi’s live. This trip will give me 10 days of experiencing how the people of Rwanda and Tanzania live and allow me to really learn about their culture and the wildlife that inhabits the land. As college students, we are going there to not only learn about the tragedies of 1994, but also to donate to a local mental health facility. We will bring the patients of this facility some gifts from America and also bring some school supplies and toys to local children. I feel will make the trip, being able to put smiles on faces that have very little compared to us here in America.
So I have a little more packing to go and some mental preparations to prepare myself for leaving home for a couple of weeks, but mostly to prepare for what I will be faced with when I arrive at the mental health facility where I will meet and hear the stories from survivors of genocide. I’ve never experienced anything these people have, and cannot imagine the horrors they still live with on a daily basis.
While in Africa I will be taking as many pictures as possible and as much video as possible. I hope to be able to share my experience with everyone who follows Transitioning Veteran Blog and give them a better picture of what one may go through while studying for a short time abroad. With the help of the Veterans Affairs Post 9/11 GI Bill, this trip is possible. I was able to save some of this money to be able to pay for this trip and by sharing my experiences, I hope this will give other Veterans yet another reason to attend school.
So Transitioning Veteran Blog will be silent for the coming weeks, though once I return I will have plenty of stuff to share with you all and hopefully give you a better understanding of what it’s like to study abroad. -Steve
Let the Journey Begin!