How 'Battlestar' Brought Me Home From Iraq One of the troops' favorite pastimes in the combat zone is watching the science fiction show Battlestar Galactica, says Capt. Nate Rawlings. As he prepares to leave the Army, watching the finale helps it all seem real.
NPR logo How 'Battlestar' Brought Me Home From Iraq

How 'Battlestar' Brought Me Home From Iraq

It comes at a different time for every returning soldier: The fairy tale ends, and he must begin the rest of his life. The first few weeks after returning from a combat deployment, soldiers adjust to polite society in various ways. Those with children may delve into family life, making up for lost time.

Some buy new toys — cars, boats and motorcycles — in an attempt to recapture the adrenaline rush of combat's most intense moments. Some look for their answers in taverns or bottles of their favorite liquor. For many, the return home provides opportunities for all three.

As the moments home accumulate, the fairy-tale feeling wears off, and there is a moment when the soldier realizes that, though he may be slightly changed, he has returned to his previous life. Mortgages and bills have replaced bullets and bombs.

Capt. Nate Rawlings and a friend are transposed into the world of 'Battlestar Galactica.' Photo Illustration, Courtesy NBC and Nate Rawlings hide caption

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Photo Illustration, Courtesy NBC and Nate Rawlings

My own wake-up call came from an unlikely source: the finale of Battlestar Galactica. One of our favorite escapes in Iraq, DVD copies of the science fiction series circulated around the small outpost where I lived; as new episodes were released, we passed them around as quickly as time between patrols would allow.

Intense debates about the fictional universe took place over meals, and even those who disliked science fiction found a respite in the series. We identified with the themes of heroism and friendship. The characters in the series spend years fighting a seemingly endless war, celebrating small victories while they mourn the loss of great friends. Though our situation differed greatly from the Cylon War, the series contained many strong parallels to our own experiences.

About a week after returning home, the Battlestar Galactica series finale was broadcast after a 10-hour marathon of the season. A group gathered at my home, outside of Fort Hood, Texas. With good food and our favorite beer, we watched the end of one of the small, but pivotal parts of our lives this past year. As each character's journey came to an end, it felt like we were leaving good friends behind. This group of young men who had rushed to support each other under fire more times than we care to count will go their separate ways in a few months. Many of us will leave the Army this summer, while others will move on to other assignments, including preparing for future operations in Afghanistan.

For me, the reality of leaving the group of friends I have come to know and love during my military service is a crushingly sad aspect of the newfound reality. The fairy tale of the return has reached its finale. But before we scatter to our future lives, we will send each friend onto the next stage of his journey with a big hug and the Galactic adage, "good hunting."