Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 29, The 30-Day Photo Challenge

Day twenty-nine:  A picture that always makes you smile...

This is one of MANY photos we have like this; my husband returning safely from Iraq.  In this picture (the most recent) he is getting off the bus that brought him from Nashville, that took him from the airplane, that was in Atlanta, and before that Germany (or Ireland, I get confused we've done this so many times), and before that Kuwiat, and before that:  Iraq - 4th tour.  He has done 54 months in country - yes, you read that right.  Feel free to add up the math (that's  4 1/2 years for those without a calculator).

And he's returned.  Alive.  Am I being morbid?  No, I am not.  Many do not return waving at their wife and son on the sidelines, some return in a pine box.  The reality of that is slapping some of you in the face right now.  My husband has come home alive from a war-torn country four times now.  Yes, he has taken fire.  The reality of that is hitting some of you right now, too.

So a moment like this is what always makes me smile.  The hours, minutes, days, YEARS, apart are nothing compared to the moment he returns to my home, safe and sound.  So you'll have to forgive me if I roll my eyes when your husband will have to work the night shift tonight, or he'll be gone for a week on business.  You'll have to forgive my lack of sympathy if he doesn't do the dishes like you wanted him to, or is going to miss supper because one night this week he's working late.  Years people, years.  And I hate each time he goes, but I am grateful and proud of the work he does.  My husband is honorable, kind, smart, a soldier. 

This poem has been stuck on a binder I use all the time for 8 years now.  I've tweaked it to make the meaning more relevant for the time I've spent apart from my husband.  I think it says a lot:

Military Family Sacrifice

You probably didn't realize who was sitting next to you, 
who you were complaining to on the phone, online, in a letter.
You rattled on about how silly this anti-terrorist war is, and that it's just
 a political ploy.
 You said you'd never let your son run off to fight,
 and you'd throw a fit if they just sent your husband off
(I'll assume he hasn't joined either).

 At that point, I almost turned around and told you who I am.
I am a military spouse.

 Life in the military has never been easy.
It means low pay with no overtime,
watching your husband go to work with a fever because
 the doctor didn't deem him sick enough for the day off 
while many husband whine away on the couch with "allergies".
It means years of rules and protocol that wear on you
like a dripping faucet
late at night.

 We live with Terms like
"Exercise" which means 12 hour shifts.
And "TDY," which means your spouse is gone for up to 180 days 
(not a night, a weekend, or even a month).
And "Remotes," which means your spouse is gone for longer than 180 days
(not a night, a weekend, a month, or even six-months).
 And finally, "PCS," which means your whole family is going on this ride
(you don't get to live in your "home" forever - "home" is where you hang your hat).
 Don't get me wrong, whining is not my intent here.

 While the road we've been down in the military hasn't
 always been paved; it's been a good life.
 My kids know you don't wait to make friends because
 you never know how long they'll be here.
We know how precious good friends are even when miles separate us
and we know how to make new friends, build bonds, relish memories.
It wasn't always in vogue to be patriotic. Sept. 11 helped turn that tide,
 but flags are fading around here again.
My husband is TDY (temporary duty) right now. I'm not allowed to tell you
 where. I'm 26 days into a 109-day TDY
I don't really care if your husband is gone for three weeks.
I don't mean to sound callous, but I'll go out on a limb here and say
he calls you every night because his cell phone is in range.
It's safe to say no one is shooting at him and he gets to shower nightly.
There have been too many times I have needed him here.
 Forget the running of the home fort--there are kisses and hugs that should be
 taking place for me and my son.
I lie in bed and try to recall what his breathing
 sounds like next to me-or I
 hear the door open and try to envision him walking in
from work.
What I would give to hear his clear voice without
 telephone static and
 worrying about how much the phone call will cost us.
 Then the deep fear -
what if this separation becomes permanent?
Do you really ever think about that.  It's my reality.

 Distance is a horrible thief of what is precious,
 because it only reminds us of how precious it is.
You kept on talking for a while.
I then realized I was picking up your tab.

You could sit there freely and give your opinion
 because of the military families like ours.
You could ramble on about a moment or two missed, because 
I'm willing to miss YEARS of mine.
You could complain about the economy my family protects 
(and I assure you, the military life is a family endeavor).

 We are paying the price for your freedom, your mouth, your complaints, your whining.

 I've heard it said that soldiers of the past, present
 and future pay for the flag.
I disagree, we're the threads it's woven with.

This makes me proud, proud to be a military wife and any time I see my husband come home, it always makes me smile.  Perspective.

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