I don’t know how you do it.
I’m not strong enough to be a military wife.
|2003: Dropping Jason off after he volunteered to return to
his unit in OIF 1 after his eyesight recovered from his wounds.
Chances are, if you love a man in uniform, you’ve heard this said to you. I know I have, and oddly enough, it’s been spoken by some of the closest people to me. But some people just don’t get it. First off, I’m not strong. We military wives do the same thing every other wife and mother does. We just happen to have periods in our life where our husbands are a wee bit far away, and perhaps getting shot at. Yeah. But for every woman I know, this wasn’t a choice. None of us woke up and said, “gee, I’m Army Strong (I hate that line, by the way), so I think I’ll go find a soldier and become an army wife!” Really? Do you think that we went tag chasing because we wanted the lonely nights, the 5 minute phone calls over static-plagued lines, the overwhelming fear of the doorbell? No. It was never a conscious choice, at least not for me. Most of us fell into this lifestyle because of one simple fact.
We fell in love.
I was two weeks past my nineteenth birthday when a friend took me to sing karaoke. This guy sits down next to me and he asks if I can sing. When I look up, I’m sunk. This guy is way tall, with brown hair and green eyes. It was like he had walked off the page of my wish-list in my diary. He asks if I’ll sing “Wild as the Wind,” and I respond that I just don’t know that one, so he picks another. So we get up and sing. Well… if you know Jason, you know… Sigh. At least he kept the air-guitar under wraps that time. I love him anyway. 😉 Anyway, we sit back down and exchange the normal niceties. I tell him I’m in college, and when I ask him what he does, I get a grimace as his response. “If I tell you what I do, I bet you won’t talk to me anymore.” Seriously? What is this guy? An axe-murderer? Bank Robber? Nope. He’s a soldier. I grew up in the army, so how was that a bad thing? It was the only life I’d ever really known, and no one really thought of war back in 2000. The only second thoughts I had at that moment were due to the stigmas attached to young G.I.’s. “How about this? You give me your phone number, and I’ll drop you that CD so you can learn ‘Wild as the Wind’ for next week.” This was the moment that changed my life. I can tell you right now, deployments, wars, shrapnel, empty beds; none of that even went through my head. So yeah, okay, insanely hot guy. I’ll give you my number and we’ll see if you actually call.
No 3 day rule for him. No games. He called the next afternoon, and I found myself bringing him ice cream because he’d just had his wisdom teeth removed. We’ve been inseparable ever since.
So you see, there was never a choice to be strong, or a moment when I said, “Yeah, I can handle that.” We fell into this. We were engaged before 9-11, and my hopes for a “normal” future fell with those towers. This is our normal now. So when people say, “I’m not strong enough,” I laugh, because neither am I. There are days when the dishes sit in the sink, the laundry stays un-sorted, and I just want to waive the white flag at the US Army. Yeah, you win, now can I pretty please have my husband back? I never do get a response from Uncle Sam on that one…
So why? Why do we do this? Why do we stay? I can’t answer for every other military wife, but I can tell you my reasons. Yes, I have four very good reasons who are sleeping right now, thank goodness, but they aren’t the main reason. The reason I do this is because just seeing his face on Skype, hearing his voice on the phone, seeing an “I love you and I can’t wait to get my arms around you,” on IM is worth every moment. I would rather sit at home and cringe at the doorbell than spend a moment that I can’t call him mine. He may be 7,000 miles away, but I still feel him here because we’re only separated by distance, not heart. Yes, this year is tough, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a year out of the rest of our lives. I refuse to entertain the thought that it could be our last year. Oh no, that way lies madness.
I do this because one day, we won’t do it anymore. One day, he will retire. One day we will look back on these years of craziness and uncertainty, and smile that we came through stronger and more committed than ever. It’s not about being some insanely strong “Hooah” army wife; it’s just about being me, and Jason being him, and us being together. If the price I have to pay for getting to love this amazing man is a few years of anxiety, some tears, and a few gray hairs (which have yet to appear, thank the good Lord), then I made a heck of a bargain. Because really, when I think about the next 70 years we’ll have together (yes, I plan on being old and wrinkly with him), then what is just a few years out of that in comparison? Nothing. Just a blip on the timeline of our life. And even knowing what I know now, I would give him my number all over again. He’s it for me.
So for those of you who say you’re not strong enough, or you don’t know how we do it, just remember this. We are not so different, you and I. At some point, you gave a boy your phone number. 11 years ago, I did the same. Maybe you married the love of your life. I did as well. I can tell you right now that I don’t love my Aviator any more than you love your software salesman (that’s for you, Kate). I just have to prove my love a bit more often. The only difference between us is that mine wears a uniform that means that from time to time I have to share him with the United States Army. Yes, the dirty mistress. But, in the grand scheme of things, I’m okay with that because he’s mine. He’s mine! Mine. I would survive anything and endure all just to be able to say those words, even in the middle of this deployment. That’s what’s it’s about.
So, Army strong? Nawh. Love strong. This is why we do it.