Unless you’ve been through a deployment, there’s no way to describe the feelings inside the hangar when you’re dropping them off. Overwhelming sadness, desperation in a kiss, laughter to stave off the madness, and hopes and prayer that they come back alive.
Because I know some of you reading have never experienced this, I asked super awesome ninja photographer Ginger Lashley to sneak some pics. My one caveat? Once she snapped a “pretty pic,” well, as pretty as it could be after a night of crying, I didn’t want to see her. So a huge thank you to Gypsy Thorn Photography for capturing our See-ya-laters. My only hope is that if you haven’t been here, standing on the floor of a hangar with fear dripping ice along your back, that these pics help you understand what our soldiers are giving up, and what we wives are holding on to.
This is Deployment in Pictures.
First, you take the pretty picture,
even though you’ve been having crying fits off and on for the last 24 hours.
Kisses are a little more desperate, trying to steal every
breath from every second until you have to let go.
You’re standing there, counting down the minutes,
wishing you could pause time and delay the inevitable,
but all you can do is watch the clock.
You’re having intensely personal moments
in the middle of a crowd.
There’s a moment you give into the misery
you know is about to overwhelm you.
Moments when nothing about this is beautiful, or patriotic,
just ugly and heartbreaking.
And in your head is this fervent prayer of desperation on both
sides of this marriage, “Please, God. Just let them be okay.”
So you hold on a little tighter for just a few seconds while you get
your composure back, because you know that while these seconds
are hard, it’s the next few minutes and the actual goodbye that
has the power to destroy you. Some of us have the extra fear as we press
right up against the scars that almost took them from us during previous deployments.
But you do your best to push it aside, and try to enjoy
these last few moments that you have with him.
You even laugh just a little bit.
And you hold tight, memorizing the feel of his hand in yours.
And though you’re experiencing this in a crowd,
everyone around you is feeling the exact same way.
You steal your last “for-now” kisses.
For me, because I don’t stay for formation, these
moments are about gauging my breaking point,
when I know he needs to walk me to the car.
But I know, as we head to the car, this is about
to suck. And by suck, I mean wreck me.
See that flower hanging my rear-view mirror? It’s the silk lily I wore
in my hair as we renewed our wedding vows in Capri this year.
It hangs there as another reminder of our amazing 11 years of marriage,
and that some times, in the army, things work out if you have faith.
And once you’re at this moment, there’s so much you need
to say, but nothing you can.
There’s an extra edge of fear today, two officers sent on advanced
party have been killed, and suddenly this becomes all too real.
But still, he has the power to make me laugh.
So I try to leave, to walk away from him, and I get about a step away
before the fear clogs my throat that this could be the last time
I hold him, kiss him, feel his skin under my fingertips. One
step, and I’m back in his arms, clutching onto his uniform,
scared that I won’t be able to walk away on my own this time.
But I do. Because I know it’s what he needs, to send me home
so he can get in formation and do his job. So he buckles me in,
the last measure of safety he can give me, and passes his #1 letter
to me as I tell him I’ve already hidden my #1 letter in his sleeve pocket.
He kisses me. Again. Again. Once More.
Then I drive home to crying boys whom I can’t seem to console.
And he goes to war.