Tag Archives: deployment

Determining Worth

23 May

A year was too long.  Six months were tough, but after that point the mind and heart begin to go places from which they cannot easily return.  This past weekend was Memorial Day, and I remember with great respect all those who have surrendered their life for the liberties we cherish.  The risking of one’s life is noble, but the year-long prison-camp lifestyle risks one’s soul, and I’m not sure that’s worth it.

I understood my husband’s desire to deploy. It was a mixture of duty and pride stemming from his military upbringing, military college, and being the only man in his family without a combat patch. I knew he’d never live with himself if he didn’t go, and I’d live the rest of my life with a self-emasculated man (which is arguably no man at all). Regardless, I dreaded the separation. He owed a debt of gratitude to the legacy that had raised him, and a true debt of service to the Army who funded his dental school, but it wasn’t worth his life (to me). I need him, for me, by my side, in my life, for my benefit. So every day I sighed with relief that he had made it one day closer to coming home.

Before my HD returned I decided I would force myself to accept that his deployment was worth it. I would convince myself to believe it. My route to this end was to say his sense of duty and honor were part of what made him the man Young G and I depended on. His love for us was inseparable from his integrity as a soldier. And so on.

A friend helped me realize that may e my HD needed to hear me say, “it’s worth it,” because maybe he doubted that. My friend said this would only be effective, though, if I believed it. My husband felt regret as he watched Young G grow from a nursing baby to an iPad-wielding toddler, and had missed the transition. My friend helped me plan a memory book detailing month-by-month of the year-long deployment, and in it I tracked the changes of our son. In one sitting he could absorb his boy’s development and see how positive his life was. This gift came from my heart and with it I convinced myself that my husband’s deployment was nothing to regret.

Then he returned and was altered. We had made it through sniper bullets and bomb blasts and were left in marriage counseling. On the very Father’s Day night I presented him with the memory book with my letter telling him “thank you; it was worth it,”he became viciously angry with me, shouting profanity and calling names. The next month he explained to a therapist that he wanted to be alone, because he couldn’t feel love, compassion, or even sympathy for me.

The night of the argument I paced the yard, cigarette in hand, planning my future with the possibility that my husband no longer loved me. Could I stay married to someone with such disdain for me? Then, as he blankly spoke to the counselor — with as much emotion as if he were reading an eye-chart — I wept. I wept because my perfectly good marriage was collapsing for no good reason. My crying didn’t even annoy him.

I had sacrificed my love, life, and future because of pride? Fuck that! I wept with disbelief and felt abandoned. He wasn’t dead. He was just gone. Like shattered crystal, my belief that any of this could be worth it was irreparably destroyed. For the life of me, Young G, and then the Littlest One I’d just conceived, the answer was “hell no! It’s not worth it”. What would I say, “at least our family was destroyed by him defending the country we love!”?

We don’t speak of these things now, though. That was merely my personal horror, terror, and nightmare. He didn’t leave me, he didn’t die, our family is happy and bigger and stronger now. He loves his memory book and we speak with pride about his service. But I’ll never forget looking that demon in the eye and the destruction it promised. I get a cold chill remembering that sense of abandonment, and in that moment I would have paid back every dime to have my husband love me.

All’s well that ends well, they say.

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More to Come

20 Nov

My husband’s deployment was the hardest year of my life — outranking two divorces in my childhood, the murder of a friend, and the cumulative effects of post-graduate depression — and yet it’s the hardest for me to write about because I don’t feel unique.  My husband blogs from his perspective, books have been written, wives military-wide have experienced this for over a decade, every previous generation has war-stories, and even a young teenage girl has published a memoir of her painful fourteen-months without her mother.  I don’t know how my experiences stand out amongst them all, especially when so many war-wives (even most of the ones I know) had it “worse”: their husbands engaged in combat, or divorced them afterwards, leaving them as true single-moms.  

My year of loneliness, single-motherhood, cynicism, and grief seems sometimes to only be unique (and interesting) to me.  

Regardless, I can’t shake the desire to write. 

He deployed from our military home in Hawaii in April of 2011, and was gone for 355 days. Our son was 15 months when he left, and two years, three months when he returned.  We packed up our home ourselves and put it all into storage, shipped my Volkswagen back east, and with only as much as I could fly with my son and I traveled the East coast from family to family for the entire year.  My son has been on 19 planes and 11 of those he and I flew solo! Lots of ladies go home during a deployment, though.  

It’s hard to know where to start, because the beginning seems to keep reaching further and further back.  Did it begin the day he left?  The day we found out he’d go?  Or perhaps the story begins when we fell in love?  More than likely the story begins with his own childhood as an Army brat.  Our whole story matters, though, because it wouldn’t have ended as well as it did if we didn’t have the foundation we find ourselves on.  Truthfully, without this deployment we would have never known just how strong a foundation that is.  Stress and anxiety threatened us (the unit “Us”) to a breaking point, but grace and humility healed us.

We both are forever changed, but thanks be to God we have changed together and not apart. Some of this I’ve already written about, but there is more to come.

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.

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sweet pea

14 Feb

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Two years ago today my husband sat across from me on our Valentine’s date and told me he would be deploying.  I was wearing my six-week old son on my chest, eating sushi.  We were stationed in Hawaii, so every date seemed like a dream, no matter what.  Even with a child, it was an idyllic place to celebrate.  Bonsai Sushi on the North Shore.  I stared off in the distance, and felt my mind leave our Family celebration as I absorbed what this meant.  Ever since my dear HD had graduated school it was beyond a doubt that he would deploy at some point.  Once he took his assignment in Hawaii, it also became certain that deployment would last one year.  No one avoids this, in his position.  Furthermore, he had no intention of trying to avoid it.  I saw it as one of his rites of passage.

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Addressing Anxiety

10 Feb

It’s been so long since I’ve written, but I miss coming to this journal. I’m certain that in a few years from now I will wish I had chronicled more of this deployment year, too. Perhaps I’ll write more as I begin to put it all into perspective.

Young G was looking at laminated photos of his father a couple of nights ago. In his broken-sentence style at twenty-five months old he said, “It’s fun… daddy home. He is workin.” The photos were of when my HD was home for two weeks in late September, and each depicted Young G with his father. Clearly my son remembered playing together, and the fun they had. Then he repeated to himself my answer for every “where’s daddy?” I hear: “He’s workin.”

We are at a friend’s house right now, and have come to the end of our stay with family. For the duration of this deployment – ten months so far – Young G and I have lived with family (mostly my mother’s and in-law’s home). It’s been a huge relief, obviously, to have had so much help. These grandparents have eagerly taken care of my son for me. The draining side is that it has made Parenting difficult, because I’m constantly under the scrutiny of a been-there-done-that (BTDT) mom. Not only that, but there were there and did that with either me or my husband. It gets fierce when I disagree with their methods, too.

The tension between gratitude and frustration creates anxiety.

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It’s Hard to NameThis Post without Quoting Hootie

30 Nov

My last post was written on Thanksgiving, using the iPad app, and I just realized it never posted. I think I sound pretty ungrateful in it! It’s pretty mind-numbing business being in limbo, and it is difficult to feel anything on a deep level, even gratitude. I sometimes miss the painful feelings of longing I once had at the beginning of this deployment, because even they have subsided and given way to this new-normal. My mind plays tricks on me all the time. It’s impossible to make sense. I crave simple things, and have come to question whether I deserve them or not.

Time has always interested me. It is an illusion, and does not exist in actuality. We like to talk about the “effects of time” when we see rusted vehicles and wrinkled faces. There are also “signs of the times” we mention when talking about violence in the news or hear political rock n’ roll. Sometimes we longingly reach back for “simpler times” as we embellish our pasts and become sentimental for romantic memories that are most often inaccurate. Because time is so illusory, we work so hard to measure it, mark its passage, weigh its value, and schedule within it. If you put five dollars in an envelope and forget to use it, then in twenty years you still have five dollars somewhere. If you put five minutes aside on your calendar and forget to use it, you’re screwed; it’s gone.

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Aside

It’s already Tomorrow

30 Nov

It’s almost 6:00 in the morning, tomorrow, in Afghanistan right now. My HD is waking up to Thanksgiving now, in a place that is cold and monochrome. It’s a regular work day for him, too, and not a holiday. Not a day off. He is treating soldiers in a clinic the size of a walk-in closet. He’s lonely and has no one to hug. The friendly smiles of his battle-buddies shared over a cigar tomorrow night will be warmest dose of familial love he receives, same as any day. We’ll talk on the phone, of course, like we do every day, and I’ll remind him I miss him and that I am proud of him. He’ll tell me we’re one day closer and that he loves me. Then I’ll share a story of Young G’s glory and we’ll sign off.

It’s just another day for him.

I’ve spent all day cleaning my mother’s little beach cottage, and cooking in her newly-remodeled professional kitchen. We’ve made cornbread for stuffing, a cranberry mold, field peas with snaps, pie crusts, and a red-velvet cake.

I have so much to be thankful for! But for some reason all I can think about is my husband. As I sit at the stool in the kitchen, chopping pecans, my brain replays memories of him slipping his arm around my shoulders and kissing me on the cheek. “Family” is never supposed to be defined without including him, and yet here we are, separated.

My son doesn’t know what the word “home” means and he’ll be two in four weeks.

My mother used to tell me, “home is where your stuff is,” but that means a storage unit in Hawaii for me, which is neither where I nor my husband are today (or tomorrow, as the case may be).

“Home” is where We are, and so here I am, homeless, separated, and ungrateful because there is no “we” anywhere right now. Just me. and him. and an entire day long of this planet between us.

I don’t know what this war is about. I don’t know why Afghanistan matters. I certainly don’t know why our troops have to occupy the country with entire miniature cities of camps that they staff for an entire year at a time! But those troops have teeth, and they need good health to do their jobs, and my husband is prepared to aid them. For that I am extremely proud of him.

For their sakes I have sacrificed my house and home, too.