Ask them if they can remember the taste, feel and smell of riot gas from when they were in basic training. Ask them if they can feel the recoil of an M16 or the feeling of firepower behind a 50 cal. machine gun and the sound of the metal retaining clips falling all around you while you fire 550 rounds per minute nearly 1900 meters in front of you.
Ask them if they can tell you what Chili Mac is or SOS or grits or heater meals or what some call "the distinctive taste of Army coffee". Have them explain that first day in basic training or the meaning of the phrase "hurry up and wait", or what it means to stand at attention and hear the national anthem while the stars and stripes are ceremoniously hoisted up the flag staff.
These are some of the things that linger for a Soldier.
There are other things that linger too. Things that have nothing in particular to do with military service, but of which most Soldiers are keenly aware.
Things like, the smell of a spouses perfume, when a letter comes in the mail; a young son or daughters arms wrapped tightly around your neck; I miss you, I love you; a good nights sleep in your own bed; the picture of a new baby; stale, hard cookies; Levi's and a tee-shirt; menial tasks that have no ramifications; clean sheets; solitude; a good book; escapism.
Most of the world can relate to these in different ways, but for a Soldier they are the things that mean the most to us when we are away from all we know and associate with - home.
For me there is one more thing that lingers. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say I am not the only one for whom this lingers - the last shower before deployment and the first shower after. There is something about that last and first shower that "marks the moment" for me. There is no mistaking when this moment occurs, and so you take note of it. The hot water flowing over your head, down your neck and across the shoulders and back; the clean smell of skin; steam billowing up from the tile and the sound of the splattering water on the shower floor - you feel every drop down to the very last drip from the shower head when finally the water starts to cool.
That's what it's like to be a Soldier, you notice things. You try to remember things. You try not to forget what real life is like - you try to make everything that is important to you last as long as it can - you make it linger.