“Come back to me.”
Four words — that’s all my throat could muster up to come out. That’s all my brain could come up with as I was saying goodbye to my other half for a year. And while I was familiar with the occasional natural disaster activation and stateside deployment, this was the first time my husband would be overseas and away from us in a war zone. All the other times he left me to go “play Army” it was for a month here and there and we didn’t have children. This time, we had a three year old and a four month old.
I won’t sugarcoat it; there were some tough days. The washer and dryer went kapoot at the same time; the kids were sick often that winter with a terrible case of the stomach flu and RSV shortly after; and I was trying my best not to let my anxiety set in as I counted down the days until his boots landed safely back in the U.S.
It’s been three and a half years since we celebrated his return, and some days it feels like it was yesterday. I still think about those four words I whispered in his ears under that Oak tree. I see now how difficult that must have been for him. We were both starting new chapters of our lives together yet away from each other. The pages of each of our chapters would be filled with very different experiences. We were both fighting, just two different wars.
Today is Veteran’s Day and because it’s such a celebrated holiday in our home, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned.
- The saying is true, it takes a village. Before my husband’s deployment, I was naïve and stubborn. I’d like to say I’m no longer either, especially the latter but …
# workinprogress. The Afghanistan deployment taught me how important it is for one’s well-being to ask for help. I can’t assume friends and family are going to know what I need in order to help me out.
I have to speak up for myself and say something. I had to and still have to admit I can’t do it all. None of us can. I know God is always with me but he does give us family and friends for a reason. We were not meant to roam this Earth alone. Some journeys we walk alone with only God but some journeys we walk with someone along side us, whether they are with us for the long haul or for a short jaunt. God is always walking with us (I believe to our right) but that doesn’t mean he won’t send someone to walk with us on our left.
I had to let go of my pride that year and learn that asking for help was a sign of strength, not weakness. It was a hard lesson and one I’ll never forget.
- True friends are those who stick with you through a crisis. When the you-know-what is hitting the fan, you learn quickly who your true friends are — especially when it’s a long-term situation like your husband going overseas for a year. I am forever grateful for those who stuck it out with me and decided to build on our friendship instead of push it off to the side. They could have said they were busy because well, they were … we all are, right? I was busy, too, and yet they still made a point to check up on the kids and I, visiting when they could. I was also able to build some forever friendships with my fellow battle buddies – other military spouses. We relied on each other, especially late at night. Our conversations would help diminish the fact that the other side of our bed was empty. A deployment may be for a year but a battle buddy is forever.
- It’s okay to keep yourself busy to help pass the time but know when to take a break. As I mentioned before, I’m stubborn. Knowing when to slow down and take a well-deserved break is definitely something I am still working on but during my soldier’s deployment is when I learned first hand what it means to run yourself into the ground. I had run myself into a slimy pit or two and I didn’t even know I was doing it to myself. So while I had plenty to keep me busy and my mind off Afghanistan with two small children and a full-time job, I had to learn when to take a chill pill and relax. This is still a #workinprogress today.
- Hope is the second best four-letter word. When it comes to the list of top words love is at the top — always. Though my friends who love to cuss might say otherwise. The second is hope, because that’s what keeps us going some days. It’s the hope that tomorrow will be better, that the rough season we are in isn’t permanent (it’s not), and that time and hope together heal all wounds. We will lose loved ones, material things, titles, but as long as have hope for ourselves to grow, hope for something better, then we really aren’t as lost or as bad off as we feel sometimes.
I’ve learned a great deal as a military wife, many life lessons are still ongoing. I encourage you this Veteran’s Day to not only think about those who are currently serving or have served, but also think about the people behind the soldier.
Thank the veteran you know and love but don’t forget those on the sidelines – especially if you are one. Thank yourself, be proud of the love and support you give your soldier. It’s our job to keep the solider upright and moving forward but it’s also our job to catch our soldier if they fall. And who catches us when our soldier is using us as a crutch? The answer to that question is simple – God.
So this year, I’d not only like to thank all who have served in the military for their commitment to this country and preservation of our freedom, but I’d like to thank the supporters behind the soldiers also. My fellow supporters, thank you for sticking it out with me and doing what is best for your family, filling the gaps when necessary and keeping your soldier looking forward. Thank you and God bless.