On the flight home from Kentucky yesterday, I was seated with a 27-year-old named Matt who was on his way to Afghanistan. He will work in S-2, military intelligence, as a contractor. This will be his third time serving in Afghanistan. The first time he was a 19-year-old gunner on top of a Humvee. At age 24 he had retrained and was in an intelligence unit in Afghanistan. Now he was on his way back with no weapon and much higher pay. I know he is not serving in the sense of being a soldier. But IEDs don't discriminate and he will be working 12 hours a day, seven days a week in a very dangerous place.
Matt and I talked about flying long distances, hassles, chow, rockets, heat and dust. We also talked about civilian jobs. Matt lost his jobs when he came back both times. The employers had been supportive and intended to keep his job, but they went out of business. Like many soldiers, Matt is taking the contracting job because he will make more than $100,000 mostly tax free for the year he works in a war zone, and because he can't find a job that pays $20,000 back here. Matt and his wife have no kids. He is thinking of starting a business with the money he makes in the coming year.
When we landed in Charlotte, we each hurried off to connecting flights wishing each other well. I hope his year goes well and his plans work out for him. He went on inactive status with his National Guard unit. If he returns to his unit and the war does not end, he will be back in Afghanistan as a soldier within a year after this tour.