Thursday, April 15, 2010

Proud To Be An Army Wife

I am an Army wife and a civilian mom. My husband is an electrical engineer and a Special Forces soldier. The other day as I was turning on the first episode to the new season of Army Wives one of the girls said “Hey mom that show should be about you!”. Well, not exactly. Most of the time I don't feel like an Army wife. At least not the ones portrayed on that show. (which my husband says is just a soap opera.) I've never lived on an Army base. I've never had to uproot my family and move from station to station. I've been lucky to live near family and lead a normal life like everyone else...most of the time. But I never for a moment forget what it means to be the wife of a soldier. I have to be prepared for anything. I keep one eye on what is happening in the world and I taught myself a long time ago that there is no reason to worry until the phone rings...while hoping it never does.

The first time I experienced the phone call was 1995. Mike and I were just dating. One night in December of that year we were watching a news story about National Guard call-ups to help with what I now know was Operation Joint Endeavor. I off-handedly asked Mike if he would ever have to go do anything like that and he said he doubted that would happen. Two weeks later he was gone. He came back in August of 1996. That year was Army wife boot camp for me. I asked a lot of questions and quickly learned what I was getting myself into by dating a soldier. Obviously it didn't scare me off. By the following year we were married.

The next phone call came less than 6 years later in the Fall of 2001. Tuesday, September 11 began like many other days. I was taking care of our four daughters and trying to coordinate schedules with the movers. Mike was already living in Jasper and had started his new job the day before. I sent him a quick email with the dates that the movers would be arriving to pack the house and he sent me a short reply that went something like this: “That sounds fine but I may be gone by then, turn on the TV”. The world as we knew it had just changed forever. Three months later after we got moved and settled, he was indeed gone. I didn't know anyone in Jasper. My girls were 20 months, 3 yrs, 4 yrs and my oldest was 15, mad at us for moving her away from her friends but eager to learn to drive. It was challenging to say the least. I used to get really irritated at all the people who would say to me “I don't know how you do it. I could never deal with it” Well, I didn't have much choice. My kids needed me to be strong. If I fell apart then who would take care of them? Mike was gone until August 2002. Looking back I can only give credit to God for giving me the strength to get through that year. Although at the time, I was not asking him for help. It didn't even occur to me to pray or go to church like so many others were doing during such a difficult time. And yet there he was taking care of me anyway.

Here we are 8 years later and once again it's time to say goodbye. We've known about this deployment since last year. The date has been pushed back a few times but we knew it was coming eventually. I'm not sure it makes it any easier to know about it so far in advance. After going through a 1 day notice in 1995, a few months notice in 2001 and almost a year notice this time, it really feels the same. Our family dynamics are a bit different. The first time we were not yet married. The second time we had a house full of preschoolers and a teenager. And now we have 3 pre-teens and a crazy busy schedule. But every single time the one thing that never changes is that our family becomes splintered. Nothing is the same when Mike is gone. We miss him so much and time seems to drag by. The days ahead seem endless and my heart aches just thinking about it.

The past 6 months while Mike has been doing pre-deployment work in Louisville I've tried not to think too much about him going overseas. It's been enough of an adjustment having him gone 4 days a week. The weeks he's been gone for longer trainings haven't been easy either. But as hard as it is now, I know in the back of my mind the tough days are yet to come. The girls and I will settle into a routine. We'll go on with all of our activities. Birthdays and holidays will come around and we'll celebrate like we normally do. We'll pack care packages and write letters (probably emails). We'll send lots of pictures and share every detail of what we are doing back here at home. But it's the unknown that is the hard part. There is much he won't be able to share with us. We may not get to know the exact date they leave the country. There won't be a big farewell. The nature of what he does makes that impossible. We usually have IM or email contact but even that is not for sure. It could be weeks once he leaves before we hear from him. Those are the hardest days of all...the days without any contact and not knowing exactly where he is or if he's ok. We may get an occasional phone call and we'll be thrilled to hear his voice. And we will never for one minute forget that he is in a combat zone. His job normally keeps him in a safe area but thats only a little comfort. It's still a war and there are people there who would be happy to kill him if given the chance.

Today Mike forwarded an email to me with the official activation orders for his unit. He'll be home tomorrow for a couple weeks leave and then report for his mobilization. No surprise...I just now have it in writing. I know the time will go by too fast. There is a lot to do to prepare for him leaving. He'll pack up his life here and get ready to move away. It's hard to explain how that feels. He's mentally preparing for military mode and I'm left not really knowing what to say or how to act and usually asking the wrong questions and trying not to cry. And as hard as it is for me to say goodbye and settle into our routine here at home, I never forget how hard it must be for Mike. He has to leave everything behind. He'll miss all that goes on in his absence. As much as we will try to keep him up on what is going on at home, it never makes up for him not being here. He won't get this year back. The girls will age another year, move up a grade level and reach new milestones while he's gone. And for the first time since we've been together, he won't be here for Christmas. But I'm not thinking about that right now.

We will get through this. I now have many friends here in Jasper and family close-by to help with anything we might need. I know all I have to do is pick up the phone and someone will be here in an instant. But best of all I have God to lean on. This time I will pray. This time I will ask him to help me through the difficult days and thank him for all the blessings in my life, especially for the honor of being an Army Wife to an awesome American Soldier.

God Bless all those who are fighting for our country.


Julz said...

Hi Julie - I just read your blog about Mike's deployment. I'm here for you. If I can be of service in anyway, please don't hesitate to contact me, etc.
God's blessing on your family, and especially Mike and all who serve this blessed country we are privileged to live in.
Julie Beck

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