I hope my husband forgives me, I dug out a few of his letters home from Iraq for this post.
Dear War-weary Wife,
You, yes you, the one getting ready to embark on deployment number three, four, five… seven. You, pulling yourself together on the side of the road because you just realized he’s deploying again in a handful of weeks, when you swore he just came home. You, the keeper of the kids, runner of the house, fixer of the rebellious washing machine. You, who sent care-packages during initial invasion stuffed with food because they were losing too much weight too fast, and now are faced with the same situation as they draw down. This one is for you, for all of us.
There are times I envy girls embarking on their first deployment. I know it’s scary for them, and uncertain, and unknown. I know they don’t yet know what to expect, and that they have heard 13 million horror stories from other wives trying to drag them down. Yet, I still envy them, because they don’t know just how crappy it really can be. They don’t yet know the exhaustion that sets in around the eight month mark, when you’ve come so far, and still feel like there’s so much longer to go. They haven’t yet cried when his scent has left the pillowcase. They haven’t yet sobbed at a memorial when our friends are laid to rest, while we wonder if we are next to receive a folded flag. Yes, first deployments are rough, but I envy those women because they are not worn down before it even begins.
To you, the war-weary, seasoned wife, I ask to mentor these girls when you can, support them, teach them about grace, composure, strength, and for the love of God, OPSEC. I know it can be a lot to ask, but just as I may envy them for their certain degree of naivete, I do not envy the confusion, the lack of experience, or the fear. Scary thought, but we are now the women we once looked up to.
Oh, my friends, please be good to one another. Lean on your fellow spouses, the ones who understand why you can’t seem to shake that feeling today, why you sleep with your laptop open on his side of the bed. The ones who have held your hand in your darkest moments and will need you to return the favor. These are not just your friends, but your army-family, your battle-buddies, your sisters.
Battle the exhaustion and the hopelessness with laughter. Keep it at bay, and remind yourself that one day, these deployments will stop. Maybe it will not be this year, or the next, but retirement will come, even if the end of war does does not. Though we may be in the thick of this military life, too deeply invested to get out, to weary to understand how to push forward for another deployment, I know this too shall pass. We simply have to hold on and wait.
Though it may not seem like it at times, we are the blessed ones. We are the wives who have held them when they came home. Some of us have bathed and redressed wounds, and some of us have glimpsed the wounds that are hidden and too deep to bandage; but we are blessed, because we have pulled up to the table, spun the Russian Roulette barrel, pulled the trigger and they have made it through time and again. Dig through your scrapbook, so when a new wife complains that she hasn’t heard from her soldier in a few days, you can keep your perspective. We are the war-weary, the wives who went six weeks or more between phone calls when this all first started, the ones whose first letters came written on the back of an MRE box you knew had been rationed because there weren’t enough. We have survived deployments without cell-phones, email, internet, MWR calls, or Skype, and we can do it again.
Oh, my friends, my sisters. We are stronger than we feel, I promise you that.
Dig through those scrapbooks, read those first letters, and look at what our marriages have survived. Look at how we haven’t just coexisted, we have thrived! We have pushed through these years, from BDU’s, to Deserts, to ACU’s and Multicams. We have been left to run the home-front more times than we can stomach, and we have stayed. We have flourished! You may feel weak, exhausted, beat down, and lost, I know, because I’m there with you, begging for an end that feels like it will never come, but there is steel underneath our soft hearts. Do not underestimate the power you have to hold your children close, keep your husband strong, and bloom in your own right.
We know the fear, and have faced the possibilities, the doubt, the scars.
We have watched the numbers of the originals dwindle from retirement, ETS’s, divorces, and golden stars. We have lived years of goodbyes knowing that a kiss on the floor of the hangar may well be the last we’ll ever have. We have endured black-outs where we sat home in silence, waited and prayed. We have known that the only thing certain about his life is our love for it. We have wrestled with the terror, and we have soothed his away. Because it’s his job to defend us, and our job to protect him in every way we can. Years and numbers of deployments will never change that.