Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Army Wife, Army Life

Oh, the military journey.

As I am meeting more people who are in the active duty military, I am beginning to realize that despite our large connecting factor of being in the active part of the military, everyone's story is so different.

One of my neighbors, for instance, experienced her very first PCS without her husband, ALONE, because of an upcoming deployment. She has spent her first year all by herself on this post. Fortunately, her husband returned home about 6 weeks ago. She was telling me how excited she was to finally get some more furniture because she had promised him that she would let him pick some things out for their new house that he had never even seen yet.

Couldn't imagine that.

Another gal I met said that they got married, and then PCSed here. Then he had some sort of semi-minor surgery. He returned to work a bit too early before he was fully recovered, and long story short, he ended up in critical condition and spent weeks at Vandy Hospital recovering. Apparently it was pretty serious and was quite scary for awhile. Having just moved here, the poor girl had no friends here yet and family was practically on the other side of the country. Once that settled down, he deployed. His tour was extended, so hopefully he will return home soon!

Sounds miserable!

The point is, everyone has their backstory. Everyone has their own heartaches, pains, and struggles. I think that is what makes a military community so strong is that everybody needs support for one reason or another, or maybe several struggles all at once.

Thinking about things like these reminds me of a memory of a conversation I had with a new coworker several years ago. We had talked enough that she knew about my mom recently passing away, and the fact that my husband had just returned home from his tour in Iraq.

So you could say that I was sensitive.

She had THE NERVE to say to me, "I just don't get why people stop and thank soldiers, I mean, they choose to be in the military. Maybe you could explain that to me?"

I didn't have words for her.

I don't remember even saying anything to her. I think I just got up to go cut out some art activities or something. It made me so mad! Being that it was my new job and that there were sleeping children in the room, I felt it was not the time or the place for a discussion like that. I'm not sure how I would have handled it anyway given my state of mind. Clearly, she would never understand, so there was no point to waste my breath.

For your information, lady, it is SO much more than just saying "yeah, I think I'll be in the military". They don't call it "signing your life away" for nothing. You either literally give your life or sacrifice your lifestyle. Or both. And this is all by volunteering so that a draft does not have to be implemented to take away YOUR loved ones from YOU.

The "thank you" is for getting 2 weeks' notice that you are moving.

The "thank you" is for moving where ever you are told, whether that's in this country, or somewhere else in the world.

The "thank you" is for not being able to go home and visit whenever you like because of the restricted travel radius.

The "thank you" is for dealing with training schedules that constantly change, taking the soldier away from family, sometimes sending them to another base.

The "thank you" is for gee, I dunno...a deployment?!

The "thank you" is for not being together as a family during holidays, birthdays, and other dates of importance. Multiply that by 10 when there are children in the family.

The "thank you" is for being away from your support system when times are tough.

The "thank you" is for missing out on pregnancies, deliveries, and the baby's "firsts".

The "thank you" is for so, so many things; each family could probably come up with a dozen more. Easily.

I hope this answers that question for you, lady.

My original intent for this post was not supposed to be so...fired up...but I thought addressing that question from 5 years ago would help me. It's therapeutic in a way.

I almost feel bad that I haven't "paid my dues" as a military wife. We have no kids, and no deployments (yet) as an active duty family. It's been so long since his 2007-2008 tour that I sometimes forget it even happened. I think I have suppressed a lot of that time period, and it takes a lot of effort and emotion to dig up those memories. That time was my senior year in college, my mom was really sick and then she passed away, and Chris, who was my boyfriend and then fiance at the time, was deployed and encountered a scary event overseas shortly after her passing. I got my tonsils out right as he arrived in the states, and I couldn't even talk to him. Literally! I couldn't speak for a few days; thankfully my dad let me use the pricey text messages to communicate (back before texting was considered normal communication in my family).
His return home from his 2007-2008 tour in Iraq.

So far, even though it has only been a little over a year, I feel our active component of his military career has been normal typical ...quiet.

He has some scheduled training ahead of him this year. But here's the funny thing about that - training dates are always subject to change. It's kinda like that saying for crazy Kansas weather: "Wait 5 minutes - it will change". And that's how I feel when Chris comes home and says, "Oh hey, I have training for _____ weeks from (month) to (month). It's down at Ft. _____." I start mentally planning around it, and then he comes home and says "scratch that" or "the dates have changed".

I just reply "okay". That's about all I can do.

Things change all the time. Can't depend on any information, really, unless you have RECEIVED ORDERS for a deployment or a PCS. And even those can change, although it's not as often.

Oh, military life. I still can't believe that we live here. That we are active duty. We have waited a long time for this; this plan has been in place for many years. We talked about the military together back when we were dating. He wanted to join right away during our relationship; I basically told him "wait...I think I love you...let's wait a little bit before you leave me for the military". And then 6 months later, we decided the timing was better. 6 years later, we finally achieved active duty status after time spent in the Reserves and ROTC. Our life is just beginning, and I can honestly say after getting through our first PCS that I can't wait to see where this military life takes us, both where we live, and in our relationship as husband and wife.

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