There are three things in life that are certain: death, taxes, and that Murphy will take up semi-permanent residence in a military family’s home the moment the mobility bag makes an appearance. Still, I’ve found that complaining about the problem does not make it go away any faster and only makes the cleanup take longer. Plus, it upsets the kids. Better to deal with it graciously and remember that a few months from now, it will make a very funny story. The day he left, I think I heard Brad Paisley’s “Behind the Clouds” a million times (thank you, my sweet daughter and Pixar!) and so that was all I could think of, and it’s become my go-to thought when Murphy rears his head.
I would be lying if I said that every deployment drags by, day after miserable day. Sure, my husband isn’t home, but I have sole possession of the remote control, no one has to know if I have a root beer float for dinner after the kids are in bed, and if I stay up until 0300 reading a really great book, no one complains about it. During his last deployment, when I was still active duty, I ended up with such an awful head cold that my commander sent me to the flight surgeon, sure I had walking pneumonia (I didn’t). I distinctly remember thinking as I went to bed that night, My head hurts so bad that if I heard him snore —even once — I might smother him. If I had the energy to lift the pillow. There are bright spots, if you look for them, and the trick is to take the time to look for them.
I would be lying if I said the military life was for everyone. But with less than 2% of Americans having military experience these days, it’s obvious that it’s not for everyone, and many spouses have difficulty accepting the fact that their husbands or wives can leave for months at a time with a ridiculously short amount of notice. In the last five years, I’ve heard women accuse their husbands of loving the Air Force more than they love their wives. I’ve heard wives threaten suicide and I’ve heard wives threaten divorces. And while I’m not a stand-by-your-man-as-he-walks-all-over-you kind of woman, at the end of the day (sometimes each day), each spouse has to decide that they love their service member and that their marriage is bigger than the Air Force. The moment you become angry at your spouse over a deployment and allow it to fester is the moment the Air Force wins.
I would be lying if I said military spouses are some sort of super-human. Most of us just love our spouses. While I’ve often wondered why he can’t do some other job, I know how much he loves what he does, and it would be selfish of me to give him an ultimatum regarding it. I may not have married him counting on deployments, but I lived a long time without him, and my parents didn’t raise a whiner. I love him, but “I am woman, hear me whine” just doesn’t cut it.
There are single mothers who do what I do every day for years on end, with no tidy “Expected Return Date” circled on the calendar. There were women during the Civil War who were lucky to get a letter from their husbands once or twice a year. There are wives right now who are meeting body bags. Deployments are my time to really see and appreciate what he does for me every day — even the little things — and a time for me to stand on my own two feet again.
In a way, a deployment can be a blessing. In the five years we’ve been married, we’ve been apart nearly a year and a half of that time. He may leave for a long TDY of six weeks or eight weeks or a deployment of four months or six months. Through the time he’s been gone, we’ve had to communicate either via Skype or by email, and because there’s very little margin for error, we have to work on saying what we mean. Then he comes home, and in a sense, we get to fall in love all over again. It’s like a new honeymoon every 18-24 months, courtesy of the Air Force.
So no, this lifestyle is not for everyone. My commitments to the mission, to the Constitution, and to the belief that America is still worth fighting for and protecting have to be just as strong and unwavering as his are. Even if I have the liberty to complain — often loudly — about our foreign policy or air my disagreements with CINC, when push comes to shove, I have to either decide that my marriage isn’t worth it or salute smartly and fall in line (although I will add that my salute looks snappier than CINC’s). Marriage is a team sport, and doubly so in the military.
To everyone who wrote me saying that they were thinking and praying for us this last week, thank you. My husband counts it an honor and a privilege to serve, and I count it an honor to be his wife. Thank you for your prayers and good thoughts, not just towards us, but to everyone who is serving, whether it’s the spouse taking that first step onto the plane, or the one who is waiting to cry until the one leaving can’t see their tears.
Image: http://www.marines.mil/unit/mcasmiramar/PublishingImages/2007/dsg1.jpg; public domain