|December 31, 2007
I look back at the time my husband was “shipped off to war” and I think I should have taken better care to journal my thoughts at the time. I guess I thought how melodramatic. I think I felt I was above the civilian wife drama. I suppose I had some fear, and certainly there were some very realistic moments I did look out my window for men in uniforms with a folded flag, because that WAS real. But somehow as a disabled Veteran and a Sergeant in the US Army I was cursed with a double edge sword during the year of ’04.
It started years earlier at Fort Bragg when we had our son in 2000 and we were tired. Tired of the BS and Army life, and what kind of life it may mean for our son. My husband had re-enlisted I think practically on my labor bed for Germany, but decided later he wanted out and took the Family Care Plan route to “escape.” I on the other hand, had a barrage of medical problems and was awaiting a medical chapter. So there we were with my husband 2 hours away in an apartment and myself and our son still at Bragg for 6 more months. I was released 5 days before 9/11 and remember that day like it was yesterday. We both were home that day, I think a Tuesday, and watched and cried in horror.
One month later, we moved to Texas from N.C. My husband re-enlisted for the Army Reserves in 2003, having felt he reneged in some way to fulfill his Army duties, career, and himself. Two months following that decision, he volunteered to go to Iraq.
Ironically, he also had put in an officer’s packet during this timeframe, and with a week prior to their departure for Iraq in April 2004 he was approved. I recall being with him at his unit that day (to get an ID card or sign something) and he received the word from the LTC. There seemed to be an overwhelming consensus that my husband’s decision was an easy one to make; take the commission and stay stateside. I remember my husband and I looking at one another and saying what is so easy, that he could take the commission after his tour in Iraq. The LTC told my husband to take me to lunch and “discuss” this decision.
It was so funny, we ate Mexican and by the end of the meal, we finally said we better talk about it. It seemed pretty clear what my husband needed to do and what he had to do, both ethically and morally for himself as a soldier and man. He was going, to fulfill more than an obligation, but an unwritten code of duty, service, and loyalty that unless one raises their hand it is rather difficult to comprehend. I understood. Then it became real.
So much I learned months and even years following my husband’s graciously short 7 month tour in Iraq. I knew of the Mortar round bombardments they received almost daily, the times they moved and why(ish). Once during a phone call, they came under Mortar fire and he said “gotta go mortar rounds are coming in” and the line went dead. Seven days without word. I really thought it may be possible to die of dread. Every morning I peeked out my window fearing a government car in the driveway. I knew men in Class A’s was a bad sign, regular fatigues a better sign. I could have killed my husband when he did call as if nothing happened, as if I was not worrying for a week.
I later learned their bus parked in front of their dining facility was bombed when they were supposed to be in it. A random act called “change 101” called them away to an impromptu briefing that more than likely saved their lives. Pictures of the bullet holes in their vehicle (a Hyundai Santa Fe mind you-great government dollars at work) showed that by sheer chance alone their lives were spared. Learning that despite their mission “to train the new Iraqi Army” they did do some urban tactical missions and weapons were fired. So much I knew; he knew I knew. A soldier knows, and I know he wanted to shield me from that knowledge as his way to protect me and his son from worry. However; the media did not help during this time to add to the stress. Our son was 3 ½ and turned 4 while he was away. We prayed every night together to bring him home safely. It was the hardest time, mostly because of the lack of information, limited telecom, and the media. For once I wished they would show some of what my husband saw, the people running up to them in the streets they were patrolling with rifles in hand to touch them. Thank them.
This year we marked 8 years married and finally having spent more time together than apart. But rumors are for another tour…Iraq, Afghanistan, wherever, but this time 7 months will not be our luck. Chris is now an officer and may be taking command of the company. A leader. This time I fear he cannot escape unscathed and fortune may not be on his side. I have for some time now had a feeling this time would come, that he would be sent back, but that he may not come home. This sense has been strong for reasons I cannot describe. I know he has said he would not volunteer to go to the sand pit- hell hole again, but when push comes to shove; he will lead. I also know to never hold my breath for the Army and change 1001. I will never be surprised until the foot climbs the plane stairs. I guess I should not worry about what is not- yet. We have always made it, and will.