The day is like any other day until you get a phone call, “Babe, I’m deploying.”
To the average person, those words may mean nothing. To a military wife those words send a rush of dread, fear, and questions through a mind already flooded with them. Can you tell me where you’re going? Can you tell me for how long? Most questions cannot be answered…especially the hardest ones. Will you come back to me?
You’ve had some time to process and you try to pretend like that day will never arrive. You go through logistics and make plans for life apart hoping it will never come to fruition. Then suddenly you see the duffle bags spread out on the living room floor with shirts nicely rolled and socks wrapped tightly waiting to be checked off a list of essentials that are supposed to get your husband through the coming months. You know it’s real, but you aren’t ready for the reality to set it. Not yet. One more night.
As you close your eyes you finally allow every emotion to swallow you whole until you can hardly breathe. It feels like you won’t breath again until he’s home.
You’re strong for your husband, strong for your kids, strong for your friends and family back home who are so supportive, but also worry about you. That brave face remains until you’ve said goodbye in an incredibly intimate moment surrounded by strangers who have no idea of the dark fears racing through your mind as you send your soldier away for God and country. Once he’s out of sight you can allow a tear to fall, but you steady your voice to tell your children we’ll all get through it together. You know that’s true, though you’re not sure how. One of those strangers gently touches your arm and thanks your family for their service. You want to respond, but if you open your mouth you know you won’t be able to stop the emotions from spilling out so you just grin and nod. Then finally, in the dark solitude of your cold and lonely bed you sleep with the tv on to drown out your thoughts. As you close your eyes you finally allow every emotion to swallow you whole until you can hardly breathe. It feels like you won’t breath again until he’s home.
Yes, we sacrifice holidays, birthdays, and big events, but the hardest to sacrifice are the days and the moments. We sacrifice laughs and inside jokes and memories that are made apart. We sacrifice Sundays at church and life lessons. We sacrifice morning breakfasts and evening meals. The most mundane family moments are the most precious to a military family.
For months we connect with letters, then emails, then instant messages, and then voice calls and video calls as the technology in war zones progresses. Their tents turn to barracks and their chow halls turn to fast food and specialty coffee while outside those walls the very real danger of war still haunts them. You wait for weeks for any word. When it doesn’t come you try unsuccessfully to keep your mind from wandering to the worst case scenario. Then finally, a phone call, “Hey babe, I’m okay.” You can hear sirens and mortars in the background, but your mind zeros in on his voice because you know in a moment it will be gone.
Over time you’ve built a routine. More often than not you’ve built up a wall too. You try to balance living in the moment and guarding yourself at the same time. You find a tribe, rely on your family, volunteer your time, lean into work, find a hobby…anything to keep your mind occupied and the days short. Everyone feels the ache with each passing day, but the days pass nonetheless and we’re able to smile and laugh and just wait for the day our lives are whole again. Then, another phone call, “Honey, I’m coming home.” It doesn’t feel real. If you let it, those words might just take over so you try and steady yourself. You want it to be a promise, but you’re still waiting and still praying that he truly does make it home to you.
A sunny day finally arrives. Or maybe it’s raining, or it’s snowing, or it’s dark and damp, but in your heart the day is perfect. He steps off that plane onto the tarmac and you wave your flags and your kids jump with their signs painted in red, white, and blue. You’ve never felt so proud. You pick him out of the crowd of camouflage by his familiar gait and you can finally breath again. You embrace and breath him in and all is right in your world at least for a little while. You’ve been apart for so many months, but now begins the fight to put you family back together. It is a process of breaking down walls and reconnecting as a family side-by-side.
Military life is hard, but loving this military man is the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I’d do it again 1,000 times and until the next phone call comes along, I’ll love him like it’s my last day.