Freedom Isn’t Free

10 Sep

By the time the HD finally returned home from Afghanistan, I felt defeated.  I was entirely overwrought.  For two weeks his flight schedule home fluctuated and changed.  Every day we heard something different from the day before about which flight he’d be on, what day he’d return, and at what time.  At last, twenty-four hours before his expected arrival, he called me to tell me he’d checked his bags for the final, 20 hour flight.  I received the phone call on the play ground, watching my Young G play with a friend, and did not expect my husband’s words, “I got kicked off my flight.”  At first I thought I was misunderstanding some guy-lingo, but when he repeated himself, it struck me how defeated he sounded.

They were “over the weight limit” and pulled 15 men from the flight, and since his bags were checked, he didn’t get them back.  So he sat in limbo for 48 hours until a new flight was scheduled with only a few supplies.  Fortunately, he had some friends with him.

I spoke gently to my husband, calming him down and assuring him that after 353 days we could certainly endure a few more hours.  I soothed him as best I could, and saved my true, weak condition for my own private hell.

There was never a true, honest, reliable answer in which I could trust; instead I just had to relinquish all my personal will, and I would retrieve my husband at whatever hour the phone call occurred to tell me of his arrival.

All of the fight was taken out of me.  I felt beaten down.  I had no hopes, certainly no demands, and no expectations.  I simply awaited from moment to moment whatever the Army dealt me, whether it be a blessing or a blow.

Like a lightbulb I realized, “this is exactly how the Army wants me!” Images zipped through my brain as I recalled a time in the past where I felt the same way and my conclusion made the bile rise up in my throat,

“Being in the Army is like being in an abusive relationship.”

Without warning or apology the Army changes it’s mind from whatever it may have promised you yesterday.  Perhaps you feel the courage to refuse the new command; “This is unacceptable!” you cry.

“You ungrateful brat…” comes the response. “After all I’ve done for you?  Your family has a roof over their head and food on the table, healthcare and childcare… Do you know what it’s like without me? There’s a recession, people have been searching hopelessly for jobs and they would kill for a job like yours.  How dare you question me when I’ve given you what others need! Go ahead, try to leave me.  You won’t make it a day out there without me.  You’re ruined.  Then you’ll be the one begging me to take you back.”

So many multi-year contracts are signed because service-members feel they have so little to offer anyone else.

Then there are the times you nearly make it out the door, you’re feeling bold and empowered somehow, so the tactic is “retention bonus”.  Just like an abusive lover who knows how to make-up so well and be so kind.  They show you once again a glimpse of the soul you fell in love with in the beginning (but nowadays see so rarely).  They promote you, award you a bonus, move you to a thriving post with a job that lets you come home for dinner every night.

At other times the organization reminds you that you are just a replacement, and therefore replaceable.  There was never anything particularly special about you to begin with.

All the passion and enthusiasm you brought to the relationship, all the magnetic qualities that they extolled you for in the beginning has been hidden, buried underneath a uniform and bureaucratic conformity.  Just like the lover who extinguishes the qualities they initially loved, out of fear you will be noticed by someone else, or worse yet, recognize your own potential and strike out.

I spent two years of my life with an older man who extinguished my flame.  He encouraged me to accomplish great things within the boundaries of the box where he locked me, but the box was too small.  He belittled me and humiliated me.  Dared me to defy him and crushed me when I did.  He made me believe I was no good for anyone else.  He told me it was his job to protect me, but that he was the only thing I needed protection from.

He wasn’t the Heavy Weight Champion of the world, but when I left him I learned how similar my story was to every other woman’s who has suffered abuse.  I will not be owned, or censored, or trained how to think.

We are reunited now, for five months, and living peacefully in our new duty station.  It’s a calm sea right now.  I pray that my husband will choose me as his only spouse when the time comes for him to decide whether he stays in or not.

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3 Responses to “Freedom Isn’t Free”

  1. justme3362 27 March, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    I’m just exploring your blog now. This post describes abuse so well. Funny how we can see the abusive qualities in just about any situation it pops up in. I’m catching up, glad to have found your blog!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Taking Time to Make the Time | Inside Out - 28 October, 2013

    […] HD returned from Afghanistan I was overwhelmed with how similar the Army is to being in an abusive relationship, and like a bad boyfriend the Army made itself tough to leave.  My HD and I are practical planners, […]

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