Today is Memorial Day and a time to stop and remember those who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms. I am so grateful for the men and women who serve this great country. Today, I want to take a moment to also thank heroes we might forget to think about. First, I want to thank the families of our service people. To the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, children, husbands and wives, THANK YOU! You guys are so vital, and maybe we don’t express our gratitude near enough.
This past year I got a little taste of what military wives go through. It was about two weeks before Thanksgiving, and my husband came home from his weekend warrior drill. He had this odd look on his face I’d never seen before. I asked him if he was okay, and didn’t reply. He just sank down into one of the kitchen chairs and hugged me for a long minute. I laughed nervously, wondering what had gotten into him.
“Honey.” *awkward laugh* “What’s wrong?”
“Bagram. We’re being deployed to Bagram.”
“Bagram? Where’s Bagram?” I asked, hoping that Alabama was at the end of that sentence. Or Maybe Mississipi. The South was known for naming small one-horse towns after exotic locations.
Palestine, Texas. Enough said.
Yes, that was it. I was sending my husband to Bagram, Georgia for a month of training, mosquitoes and mud.
Note to self: Look up exact location of Bagram, Arkansas.
He buried his face deeper in my apron and mumbled, “Sweetie, Bagram is in Afghanistan.” His voice cracked. “I’m being deployed to Afghanistan.”
His words tipped my world upside down. I remember feeling very dizzy and then crying for days then weeks. All I could do is look at my husband and then think of him not being here. What would The Spawn do without Daddy?
***Note: The Spawn totally loves his daddy way more than me.
What would I do without my husband? I could barely pull our SUV in the garage without taking off the mirrors. And changing out the propane on the grill? I could easily wipe out half of Arlington, Texas just trying to make a burger. We won’t even begin to talk about the whole, You’re the husband so you get rid of any bug bigger than a flea agreement that is just part of every marriage license.
Everywhere I turned I just saw one more reason to start crying all over again. We went to our family ranch for Christmas and it was the best time I’d ever had, except then I’d watch my husband ride by on an ATV with The Spawn, both of them bundled against the cold and I’d think, He won’t be here next year. He might never be here ever again. This might be the last Christmas you ever have with him.
Most people cannot appreciate how difficult it was to find a man willing to marry me without the influence of psychotropic drugs or extortion. My husband loved that I played video games and that I knew every Star Trek episode and that I quoted Monty Python way more than was socially acceptable. I’d spent most of my life trying to find him and now he was going away and it was totally not fair.
Then I would feel so selfish and horrible. Why should I be so special? Countless other wives were going through the same thing, had already been through the same thing? Why was I an exception? And I knew I wasn’t, but I hated myself for wanting to be. I hated myself for praying my husband would spontaneously develop flat feet and then he wouldn’t have to go.
They did still kick people out for flat feet, right?
I so suck.
I love my country, and my family has been in the military for countless generations. Yes, we were the rowdy clan that got booted out of Scotland because we didn’t play well with the English. The military was in my blood and so was the life that went with it…and yet here I was still utterly unprepared.
Now, every time I drove home, I somehow managed to drive by every funeral home, cemetery and headstone manufacturer in the area. I saw more commercials for preparing a will than ever before. It was maddening. And I still had to blog and be funny and uplifting and I couldn’t even tweet about what was going on. What was I going to do without the support of strangers all over the world?
***Never underestimate the support of total strangers. It got me through Spawn knocking out all his front teeth.
Everything changed. We had to prepare for life without my husband. He’d be gone for almost a year. I had to make some major changes and learn things I thought I’d never have to, like exactly how the remote controls in our house worked, where all the flashlights were and how to change the line on the weed eater.
Might as well been back in the frontier days. Sheesh!
I started to notice all the things my husband did that I took for granted, then I’d sink into some more self-loathing. I loved my country, and I loved my husband. It all just hurt so much.
It didn’t help when I had military friends tell me that Bagram wasn’t that bad, that my husband had more chance of being killed in Washington D.C. than in Bagram. Okay, then why couldn’t he deploy to D.C.? Then I could at least visit.
It didn’t help when they told me that the time would go quickly or that my husband might not even go. Orders changed all the time, they told me.
I willed myself not to think about it. I had to prepare for him being gone and I didn’t dare hang my hope on his orders changing. I just had to prepare and it wasn’t like I was the first military wife to have to fly solo while her husband deployed. I would make this as easy for my husband as possible and this totally would make a great book one day.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, everything changed again. I got the phone call from my husband. His orders were canceled. He wasn’t deploying (this time). I’ve never been so happy about anything in my life, yet at the same time I feel guilty for my happiness. I know there are so many wives, so many families who don’t get this kind of reprieve.
Just so you know? I am so grateful for you. I cannot tell you how much I value your sacrifice. I valued it last year on Memorial Day, but not like I do this Memorial Day. You are made of finer stuff than I am, I know that.
So yes, thank you to all the troops and thank you so much to the families left behind. Thank you for your sacrifice.
Before I go, I would like to talk about one more type of hero that is easy for us to forget. War dogs. Many of these furry service pooches provide such a valuable service to our troops. To honor these unsung heroes, my friend NY Times Best-Selling Author James Rollins is calling for pictures to add to a Pinterest board dedicated to service animals.
Here are the details from Jim:
[WAR DOGS] I got all my ducks….or should I say, dogs…in a row this morning and created Pinterest Pinboard featuring military war dogs.I’m hoping to enlist members of the armed forces to share their pictures of their companions: at work and at play. If you are one of those folks, share them! Post your photo and story here on Facebook or just jump on over to my Pinterest page an pin your photo and story.
If you feel like sharing your OWN pictures of your four-legged companions being “warriors,” send those too! They could be serious, funny, poignant, or silly. I’d love to build a board of those pictures, too.Pinterest link: http://bit.ly/james-rollins-pinterest-pageDon’t have a Pinterest account? I’ll send you one. Email me here: http://bit.ly/james-rollins-contact
Again, thank you to all the troops, to all who are serving and all who have served. We love you and can never fully express our gratitude. Also, to those who live near Arlington, Texas, my husband changed out the propane. You are safe…for now.
Happy Memorial Day!