LA CROSSE, Wis. -- For a military member serving overseas, there are two dates they constantly keep in mind: the day at the end when they get to go home for good and the one that falls somewhere in the middle when they are given a short window of time to visit family and friends. Well that day has come for navy reserve man Doug Ehlers who has spent the last 6 months in Kuwait. "I was real excited and about 3 days out before I left I was thinking 'I have to leave them again too.'"
It's a bittersweet situation that at this moment, is a lot more sweet than bitter. "It was so great to see them. Walking out of the parking lot. You can see them on Skype, you can talk to them on the phone. But there's nothing like being able to touch and hug."
For the next 15 days Doug will try and take in much of what he has missed about home. The people, the environment. "It's green. Cause there, it's just flat with sand dunes."
Every moment together is precious but there is also a strange reality that welcoming a military member back home - is an adjustment for everyone. "I mean it's like, 'you're going to plug into our life and we have to try and figure out living together but it's just for a short time. So we just said, we're not going to think about you leaving again - all we're going to do is have the most fun possible. That's the goal."
And that has been the goal for Doug's wife Karen and his three daughters even while he was away. Have fun - stay busy. But unfortunately Doug hasn't been as lucky. "Everyday it's the same old thing over and over. So your mind starts to wonder and you have that much time on your hands and you think about your normal life that you left that you don't have. Face to face with your family."
The days home are a whirlwind. One-by-one going by, spent with family and close friends...but with a harsh reality always following close behind. "It's a great feeling to come back. But it's always in the back of my mind that I've got to go back and I've got seven months left."
"I know it's going to start all over again with the kids. It's just going to be another open wound. And we are not going to the airport. We're just going to say goodbye here...and be busy."
It's time once again for Doug to depart but it's a very different airport scene this time around. Gone are the tears. Gone are the heartbreaking cries. Today he leaves alone, just a man on a mission - to finish his mission and get back home for good.