2 1/2 years ago, we gathered to farewell the Tigersharks in military style, with ballgowns and dress blues. Somehow, these years have slipped by through a deployment and 18 months of dwell time, and we’re here again. But something is a little different.
Last time, it was joyful, and raucous, everything we needed it to be. Sure, there was solemnity of military ritual, the speeches, the table. But this time, desperation clings to us in every toast, every kiss, every dance. You see, we’ve been here before, this marvelous group of friends we’re so blessed to have. We know what’s coming.
I wanted our pictures on the airfield, with Apaches (our husbands’ dirty mistresses) in the background. When I brought it up to our friends, they jumped at it because we knew it would be phenomenal. We aren’t counting on the frigid temperatures, snow, and hellacious wind, but it is Fort Drum, so it seems pretty fitting. Our photographer, Joy Davis, sticks it out with us, even when my skin freezes to numb and my dress blows away (see that wind right up my skirt?), she doesn’t complain once.
Once I fix my hair, remember, hellacious wind, we head to the ball.
“The sun never sets on the 10th Mountain Patch.” That’s what we are told by our guest speaker, General Piatt. “This has been a brutal training schedule, and I have one order for you… slow down. Don’t deploy until you’re ready, until you have to and they call your name on that manifest.”
Jason’s arm is around me, his mouth pressed against the skin of my shoulder in a kiss, but it feels like he’s already gone, like he’s never really been here. It doesn’t matter how tight I hold his hand, there’s no force of nature that can hold him here.
The table that sits alone, reminding us of fallen aviators, isn’t so ceremonial this time, as much as it is a reminder. Ken White. Brad Gaudet. They’re in my mind as we raise our glasses and toast, and I can’t help but think of their wives, and how our battalion had danced so care-free at our last ball. As beautiful as this night is, that table is a reminder that sometimes they don’t all make it home.
It chokes me, that sight, and I send up a fervent prayer that Jason’s name is never uttered in conjunction with that table. Please, God. Don’t let this be the last time we dance.
But we push it to the side, and we dance. Jason has the DJ play our wedding song, and we spin around the floor as I sing softly to him, knowing that every minute of worry, the tears, the cold, shattering fear is all worth it for these moments I have him for.
Then we party.
These men are so gorgeous in their uniforms; that hasn’t changed. Jason has a few more medals on his rack than the last ball, and I’m always impressed to watch it grow. Okay, really, I was just looking for an excuse to publicly say that he has a nice rack. 😉 I love Jason in blues, and always have. The minute I see him put them on… well, let’s just say I’m plotting how to get them off.
The girls are beautiful, everyone wearing dresses we shopped for, hair we talked about, jewelry we debated, bought, or sent away for. My mother sent me her diamond tennis-necklace, and I carry my grandmother’s clutch, bringing with me in spirit two of the military wives (and officer) I admire most. I’m not alone in that, we all carry something special. The Mad-Painter bought us all bracelets, symbolizing the days we were Fox Company, because Spades just aren’t as pretty, and as our little group wears them, it feels more like a bond, a promise of sisterhood, than sparkly bracelets. This group of women left behind, we’ll stand for one another, I have no doubt.
We dance, and drink, let’s be serious people… the night away, until it becomes tomorrow. Now the ball is over, and all we have left is block leave and goodbyes. But these memories will hold us over until we’re back on the dance floor next year welcoming them home again.
Farewell to our men. We’ll be waiting.
|Definitely the hottest company of attack pilots I’ve ever seen.|
|You always need a trashy bathroom pic.|
|My personal Superhero|
|Baby is ready to go HOME.|
Oh, and Jason… I love you. Now, forever, and always. Farewell, my darling.