by Green Dragon
Hardships of a mother in the army.
|I sat there holding my daughter tightly in my arms; in my heart knowing it would be months before I ever saw her again. She wouldn’t know what happened to me till several days later when I didn’t come home. She was a little over three and had seen me spend a lot of time at work and away from home, for her this was just another day. It was 27 February 2003 and I was leaving for Kuwait and ultimately into Iraq for what eventually would be called Operation Iraqi Freedom. I only had hours before I departed; all my TA-50 was packed in two duffel bags and a rucksack sitting in the SUV outside my door waiting to take me to Cambrai Frisch Kasern in Darmstadt where my unit would then bus me to Ramstein for the flight out. How was it that I could spend so much time away from my family and still be considered to have one? Historically I had been married a little over three years and had physically resided with my husband a little over a year of that time. With my daughter, she was rolling quickly through the three-year range and I had played mom for only a year and a half, if all the time was added up together.
I am an Active Duty Female Army Officer; my husband prior military gone contractor still spent just about as much time away from home as I did. Our challenges had been great over the years, all conquered with forgiveness and inner strength. Both of us were veterans of divorce, oddly while performing our sworn duties for the military. He had been deployed when the divorce papers were delivered; I had come home from school to deliver my own. We were stronger people due to the adversity of our situation, but that doesn’t mean those times had not been challenging, because they were.
He didn’t stay to see me off that night; we knew the last time we had said good-bye for any length of time a grown man had cried. It was at the St Louis airport, I was staying in FT Leonard Wood MO to attend the Officers Advance Course for seven months and he was going back to Germany to continue his job as a contractor. He had our daughter in his arms and we had just hugged and kissed as a family for the last time before he turned and walked through what I would always consider the forbidding gates, the point of no return when someone goes to catch their flight. Turning with a smile he walked away, our daughter draped over his shoulder looking at me frantically screaming mommy, tears running down her face mirroring the tears in mine as my heart was ripped from my chest like so many leaves from a tree during a storm. His heart was breaking as well as tears poured forth from his eyes; he would not turn around to allow me to see his pain as he clutched our daughter tightly knowing she couldn’t stay. So that fateful night of the 27th Feb 03 he dropped my bags off at the road side, stayed around a few minutes so I could pick up some last second items and then I placed our daughter into our vehicle and wished them both good night, telling them I would be home as soon as possible. Knowing fully well that it was all a lie and that as soon as possible was going to be months if not a year down the road.
We arrived at Ramstein, the first step of many in a long and arduous deployment process. First you load your gear onto a truck that you hope makes it onto the same flight you’re on. Then you enter a large metal shed to wait, cots filling the interior from make shift barrier to make shift barrier, soldiers in various forms of waiting, wanting nothing more than to move on and move out. We arrived around 2300, we didn’t leave till 0430, and during that time we waited, cold with nothing more than the cloths on our back, trying to sleep. We departed by 0500 to the flight line, the flight out delayed twice. Finally, seven hours later we boarded at 1300; later we were informed that this had been a smooth, uneventful, quick, and efficient trip. The last time I checked a days wait was not considered quick, smooth, or efficient by any means.
We arrived in Kuwait the 28th Feb 03, I knew I was at the epitome of my career when I owned three seats on a Boeing and I was carrying an M16, two computers, two bottles of water and a roll of toilet paper. I would reminisce about that flight and its great service months later, better than any commercialized flight. I guess I never understood why someone would want to be woke up every ten minutes for a drink and then to be fed in the middle of the night, not once but twice. They quickly ushered us off the plane wearing flak vest, load bearing vest (LBV), weapon strung over one shoulder, computers and misc. items slung over the other adding minimally an additional 100 lbs of weight to our bodies. Our first introduction to Kuwait was keep your head low, move quickly and get on the bus. We did just that, past two tactical vehicles taking ID cards to scan us into the system in order to receive all those extra combat pay benefits, then packing us like sardines onto a bus. There was no declaration of war at that time, yet we had enemies in a country that was considered our friend.
Upon arrival to our next location we received a quick threat and country brief, I guess it was quick compared to everything else we had received up till then. Then we waited, placed into mostly empty Bedouin tents to find what comfort we could on hard wood floors while waiting another five hours for the next bus out. The monotony only broken up by the arrival of our gear as we tried to relocate everybody bags. The bus arrived, repacking us like small fish into a can, which most of us were starting to smell like, for another three hours to be set down into the world largest hottest sandbox.
We hit the ground running, the thoughts of family and friends the farthest in our minds as we listened to tactical radios and read classified reports posted daily referencing the chances of war starting. We were in almost as much flux as the enemy wondering if the war was ever going to kick off, and when. Most of us had spent our whole careers training for war, hoping it would never happen. Peace keeping operations fine, international operations fine, field problems no problem, we know after a certain amount of time you go home and get your life back. When you do the real thing, you eat, breath, sleep, live nothing but combat operations in one form or another. From canned/bagged food for weeks on end three times a day, to baby wipe birdbaths that do no good after a while, to the sandy hot tents you work and sleep in.
But it wouldn’t be long before thoughts of family and friends crept back into our thoughts. The war was kicking off, we could feel it in our hearts, and we could hear it in the air. The border between Iraq and Kuwait was just up the road, our engineers were prepared to take it out, make it passable for combat units and follow on support. We listened to every operation intently wishing for our soldiers to make good on the fact that we were considered the best army on this planet. Then the deaths started, first over in the Marines area then our own, each death wracking our minds and bodies warning us of just how infallible we are and I wasn’t ready to leave my husband and daughter to fend for themselves quit yet. The tactical radio gave us our initial report and the news expounded on it, reminding us hour after hour, day after day that we had lost another. Almost every day for the first three weeks after the war was declared we found ourselves running for bunkers or anything else that would supply overhead cover as rounds rained in on us. Convoys being ambushed and diverted off the main routs into towns, dead American bodies being paraded in the open, white flags flown by an Iraqi just to have that same Iraqi pull forth a hidden weapon to rain death down on the soldiers trying to help. This was only surpassed by human shields of women and children and the blatant forms of terror dished out to those who were not Sadams own. We saw that the Rules of Engagement (ROE) could have been written by Sadam and his own. All based off the atrocities that these people performed on a day-to-day basis in their own little world of Allah and their twisted concept of a holy war. How do you fight millions of twisted minds that have nothing better to do but kill the infidel?
Three fateful weeks after the war had been officially declared I made my first phone call from Kuwait home to my mother. I could hear the sound of my mothers voice on the other end, she was crying, I could tell they weren’t tears of sadness but relief and joy that I was still alive and well. She was frantic every time something happened in the world and it depressed me trying to tell her that I would be fine, because sometimes I just didn’t know myself, but it sounded good. My heart would tear a little each time I called home to my mother or my own family. My mother’s frantic voice asking where are you at now, or my daughter telling me that I’m Sabine’s mommy, the tears flowed, but my voice never broke. I was strong and I was in the military, no one signed that dotted line but me. But why did it have to be so hard, why did the tears come unbidden every time I looked at her picture or read an eml by my husband. Why did I cry when my mother became frantic, why did this job have to be this challenging.
Today, five months into the deployment I sit in Baghdad looking at my daughters’ most recent pictures. She is a little taller and has a great rosy smile; I was embarrassed when I asked my husband who the little girl in the picture was, I didn’t even recognize my own child. He smiled and patted me on the back and started to tell me about all the fun they were having together. This week and the next he is in Iraq with me, I miss him greatly but understand that this will not last forever, only another six to eight months.
23 July 2003
CPT Jeanette Husman
HHC, 22nd Signal Brigade