But I remembered this kid, no problem. He took my class right after Addie was born, and always teased me about the crib I had in my office for days she came to work with me. He was a pretty average student, pulling a C, but a good kid, participated in class, friendly. A few weeks before the end of the semester--four years ago--he came to see me because he was about to be deployed for Iraq and was having to withdraw from class. From all his classes.
The same thing happened two years ago. He stopped by my office to see if he could finish up my class via an independent study. I said that would be fine, but he got deployed a second time before we could get it figured out.
And today, again. Wanting to know if he can finally do that independent study, this time from Iraq, where he is headed for his third and final tour. He has one year there, then one year to finish here, then he'll hopefully graduate and start something looking like a normal life. "At least, that's what I hope," he says.
A lot of if's in there. He has to survive this next year in Iraq (over 4,000 Americans dead there now, and maybe 90,000 Iraqis). And then when he gets back, he'll have to fight like hell to get his GPA back up, which has taken a beating from all of these deployments, and from his struggles trying to re-acclimate to civilian life. "I forget about obvious things that happen here, like Christmas," he told me. "We don't have holidays in Iraq. Time moves so much slower here." He didn't go out to eat for his first three months back, asking his ex-girlfriend to pick up take-out all the time because when he went out on the road he kept hearing IEDs and going into convoy mode, on accident, on the freeway (which seems to involve running cars that might cut in front of you off the road).
So he'll also probably need some psychological help, which the army doesn't seem to be too super at providing at the moment. And then an employer will have to take a chance on him, what with his shitty gpa and the fact that he's a little twitchy.
I didn't ask him what he thought of the war, generally. That doesn't seem a fair question to ask someone who has given up the better part of four years and withstood general craziness. I didn't want him to think I was baiting him into criticizing the world he has to go inhabit now for another year. Maybe I should have asked, given him a chance to tell that story. But I didn't.
It'll probably all work out fine. At least, that's what I hope.