"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Missed Joy

A package arrived yesterday, covered in footprints and a rainbow of hands, and for just a moment my heart sank thinking that one of his packages had not made it to him. But then I realized that he had sent us a package and I called Logan over to help open it. And there it was, Logan took it and we sat down and opened the cover.

"Twas the Night before Christmas, and all through the house..." C's voice came through the book as Logan turned the pages, pointing to the pictures and talking more and more.

"Santa!" he said, pointing to the rosy cheeks and snow-white beard. "Presents!" he screeched as he pointed to the over-filled sack.

C would have loved to have seen that. I couldn't stop thinking of how much he would have loved to hear him say, "Santa!"

This is the first year that Logan has any understanding of Christmas. He gets so very excited about the lights on the tree and on the houses and even on people's cars. He smiled as he sat in Santa's lap and told him how much he wanted a Buzz Lightyear for Christmas. He showed Santa his little brother and high-fived him as we left. He enjoys the Christmas Train in the mall and the music and the excitement. It is so wonderful to see.

And C is missing it.

This may be one of the hardest times for Military Families to be separated from their loved ones. During a time when it is so very important to be around family, we do not get to hold onto the one person closest to us, dearest to us. It is so very difficult.

I love that Logan is understanding Christmas in a way that he never has before. He wouldn't even open presents last year - he just watched everyone else. I love that he is excited and loving everything that is happening around him. I love how much he is loving this holiday. But I hate that C is not here to share in that with me. I want to take these moments and preserve each one so that he can experience it, so that he can know this time, so that he can feel the same happiness that it brings me. And it is so very frustrating that I cannot do that. It is so very frustrating that the first Christmas that his first son really recognizes, he will not know.

So this week is hard. Seeing the joy in my son's face always brings with it a tinge of sadness because C does not get to see it. I wish more than anything that I could bottle it all up for him, save it, hold onto it, so that he can see it. But we do not get to.

So I will smile for our boys, I will video whatever I can, I will hold them and laugh with them and treasure them with everything that exists within me.

I will laugh when Eli chews on a santa hat and smile my biggest smile when Logan jumps up and down when Santa brings him that massive Buzz Lightyear that I know he will love. I will continue through another day, giving the most of me to our children, because at the end of it, another day has past. At the end of this day, we will be one less day away from when he comes home to share in the joy. That day, will be an amazing day.

Merry Christmas to those so very near and to the many so very far away.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Sacrifice

"The gifts arrived today," his voice was excited but he was trying to make it not seem so. "We put them all under the tree - I'm not letting them open them until Christmas."

"That's mean," I told him, laughing because of how cute I thought that actually was. "How 'bout Christmas Eve?"

"No. Christmas." he said firmly. "Well, maybe. We'll see."

The high school where my sister teaches donated amazing gifts to C and his soldiers. I am so incredibly excited and amazed at how these kids pulled together for these guys. Anytime a person, an organization, a school comes forward asking to help our soldiers it gives the greatest joy. Not just because of what they give - anything would be appreciated - but simply because they are giving. It is the act of kindness - the recognition of the sacrifice - that brings with it such re-affirming hope that people do understand what is taking place.

I promised one of my dearest friends that I would take a small break from this blog. Our lives are fairly busy at the moment and she has fallen behind on reading. People approach her asking about it and she would not have read what they had yet. But right now I am breaking that promise, because something (and I won't say exactly what) has gotten me fired up. People need to get their heads screwed on a lil' bit tighter for a moment - and I think I need to help.

I watched a video on the internet where Brit's were interviewing Americans and they asked a few simple questions. I am not going to go into all of them because I could talk for hours but the main question that people couldn't seem to get was "When was 9/11?" And so many people couldn't get the year, but MANY people couldn't get the MONTH. Are you kidding me?! 9/11. What has happened to this country?

I have said repeatedly that this is not like the wars of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers. This is not the same world. The threat is different, the enemy is different, the strategy is different. But the understanding of our military is also different. The very idea of patriotism seems almost non-existent. The thought of sacrifice seems to be more shunned than honored by the majority of Americans. When did this happen? When did we become a nation that can't remember the most horrific day in most of our lives?

Our soldiers sacrifice - their families sacrifice. And to say that is not a shameful thing. It is a very true statement, it is an honorable living, it is a proud life. I have also said repeatedly that it seems to me that the media and many political figures speak of this war like it was forced on them. I recognize that they did not choose to enter into this war but they did choose to fight in it. They chose the sacrifice. By choosing to love a soldier, we also choose the sacrifice.

I do not think that anyone would disagree that we live in an incredibly selfish society. This must be why this whole concept of serving one's country must seem so "forced-on-them" by some people. This self-indulgent culture must be why so many people view this career as "unfortunate." The "Why would anyone choose this?" way of thinking.

Someone has to choose this. Someone has to be willing. Someone must see the same thing that those that came before him or her have seen. That this nation has been built on the blood. That every roadway, and building, and home has been built on the backs of those protected by the men and women who join arms and shield this nation from everything outside of it. And maybe that is the problem - we are too sheltered, too safe. We have known a "good life" for so long that we cannot understand what would happen without these soldiers.

What would happen if they all suddenly didn't "go into work"? If they all suddenly decided not to do their job? If they all suddenly decided that "someone else can do it"? What would happen to this nation?

We would lose it.

Not in a year, not in a month, not in a week. That day. This nation would crumble to its feet, this nation would lose it safety, this nation would lie in ruin that day.

Why is this sacrifice shameful? Why is this sacrifice unfortunate? Why is being selfless so difficult to respect?

These men and women will secure your today, your tonight, your tomorrow. And when I say secure, I mean literally protect your life - your natural obliviousness to the possibility of terror - because they will choose the sacrifice.

Not just because someone "has to" - but because "someone" should.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beyond the Vows

Oh where to begin with this. Questions and non-questions have been hitting me left and right about this and I have gone back and forth on whether or not to address it. There are many things that I have been asked that I haven't addressed for multiple reasons - I don't want to get political, I don't want to be divisive, I don't want to offend. That isn't what my purpose is with this blog. I want to bring people together. I want to strengthen fellow military wives, I want to allow seasoned wives to reminisce and offer their experiences, I want those who are not in this life to understand it. But when it comes to questions on commitment and fidelity I hesitate to address it because it seems like a no-brainer to me. But I have been asked it by soon-to-be wives, by good friends, and by not-so-close people so I know it is on so many people's minds. So again, this post will be very much my opinion. It will be the way I see it, the way my marriage works and the way my husband and I live our life. While I would like to hope that what I feel is what every military spouse feels, what every married couple feels, I know that that is simply not the case.

Divorce is a big issue in the military. Infidelity - by soldier and spouse - is a huge factor in that. That is the reality. Those are the facts. My husband and I have seen some horrendous, awful, nasty divorces over the last few years. He has had to work directly in the middle of them, attending court, dealing with finances, child custody, property battles - all while a soldier is deployed. And while it may be so easy for some to understand why this happens, to understand why a marriage becomes so irreparably broken, it stills breaks my heart to see this happen. And it may be because I am still very fresh in this but I know spouses who are nearing retirement with seven, eight, nine deployments under their belts who are still devoted to their soldiers and whose soldiers are still devoted to them. And I am not saying that they have not had times (and I know they have had times) when they have wanted to walk away, when it took everything in their heart to not throw their hands up and say "I am done." I know that they have had days, when they were packing up a house for the ninth time, or decorating the Christmas tree for the seventh year alone, or potty-training the third child without their spouse, or shoveling the two feet of snow in the driveway when they had to question why we do this.

It starts at the vows.

I take you to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

The words are simple, easy to say, quick from start to finish. But there is so much in those words - such incredible promise, commitment, finality. And I don't think people recognize the finality of it anymore. I believe in the vows. I believe in the words. I believe in the promise.

"I promise to be true to you." To my complete astonishment, this is what I think people find to be the most fascinating and unbelievable about what we do. I took my husband as my husband. I chose him - only him - to be with me in this life. When I took his hand in mine and placed a ring upon his finger, I did so knowing that he would be gone for years of our life together. That for half of the beginning of our marriage I would be without him. That does not give me a pass. That does not give me a pause on this promise. "In good times and bad." I am pretty sure you all can figure out what the "bad times" would be considered. Yes, those 365 days that he is not here every other year. Those would be the bad. And I will always be true - he is my heart, he is my life, he is my husband. I won't be with anyone else. Now narrow your eyes and pick your jaw up off the ground when you ask an Army Wife why she stays faithful. She stays faithful because she made a promise like any other spouse. The promise is the same - the sacrifice is great.

"In Sickness and in health." Lord, I pray that we only know health. For those who understand what is involved when we choose to love a soldier - the idea of "sickness" is different for us. My husband has said that one of his greatest fears is the loss of a limb. He has seen friends return without their legs, with parts of their bodies missing, with parts of them unrecognizable. I know that this, as a family, would be our greatest struggle, greatest challenge, greatest trial. My prayers are always with the families that endure this obstacle, this tragedy. There is little more inspiring than to hear a wounded warrior talk about his/her journey back - the recovery, the willingness to continue. I cannot imagine if that day were to ever come. I pray with everything in me that it never does and if that is not the plan - that our family will endure with strength and grace.

"I will love and honor you." I hope that in everything I do, everyday, I honor my husband. I hope to honor him as a soldier, as a father, as a friend, and as my partner. I am incredibly proud of who he is, what he chooses to do, how he chooses to live. That never ceases.

"All the days of my life." There it is - the finality. ALL the days. The days that he is home but isn't really home because he is training in the field, or working late at the office, or on TDY. The days that he is home beside me, holding our children, fixing the sink, grilling steaks, being present. The days when he is over six thousand miles away, without electricity (off and on), in below freezing temperatures, in the desert, missing his family. All the days.

I do not say any of this to say that this commitment is easy. There is nothing easy about choosing to love a soldier. The simplest tasks become harder, the most basic routine becomes twice as involved. I have to reaffirm my vows daily in this life because I did not just make them on that day years ago. I make them everyday as I re-choose him, as I re-choose this life.

Ofcourse there are so many parts of it I could do without. I could have not moved four times in a year (one move in my first trimester, one in my last). I could have not pushed up a wedding by four months to adhere to a rumored deployment date that didn't happen. I could have not had my son's second birthday with his daddy absent. Of course those things are difficult. Of course it is a battle to keep going. Of course I want my husband beside me.

But I chose him - in good times and bad.

Its in the vows.

I choose to love my soldier - for all the days of my life.

A Beautiful Poem written by a Hero

I did NOT write this. I just recently heard this and thought it was beautiful. If you have already heard it, it will most definitely not hurt to hear it again. I am attaching the words with the web address for an incredible recording by Father Ted Berndt and his daughter Ellen Stout.
Originally titled "Merry Christmas, My Friend" and written by Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt in 1987.

Remember our Soldiers during this most difficult time of separation.

A Soldier's Silent Night

Twas the night before christmas he lived all alone
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone
I had come down the chimney with presents to give
And to see just who in this home did live

I looked all about a strange sight I did see
No tinsel no presents not even a tree
No stocking by the mantle just boots filled with sand
On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands
With medals and badges awards of all kinds
A sober thought came through my mind

For this house was different it was dark and dreary
I found the home of a soldier once I could see clearly
The soldier lay sleeping silent alone
Curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home

The face was so gentle the room in such disorder
Not how I pictured a lone british soldier
Was this the hero of whom I'd just read
Curled up on a poncho the floor for a bed

I realized the families that I saw this night
Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight
Soon round the world the children would play
And grownups would celebrate a bright christmas day

They all enjoy freedom each month of the year
Because of the soldiers like the one lying here
I couldn't help wonder how many alone
On a cold christmas eve in a land far from home

The very thought brought a tear to my eye
I dropped to my knees and started to cry
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice
'Santa don't cry this life is my choice
I fight for freedom I don't ask for more
My life is my God, my country. my corps'

The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep
I couldn't control it I continued to weep

I kept watch for hours so silent and still
And we both sat and shivered from the cold nights chill
I didn't want to leave on that cold dark night
This guardian of honor so willing to fight

Then the soldier rolled over with a voice soft and pure
Whispered 'carry on santa its christmas day all is secure'
One look at my watch and I knew he was right
'Merry christmas my friend and to all a good night'


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Daddy's Song

My son - Logan - has been having a difficult time at night. He hates going to bed. Not because he doesn't want to go to bed but because he wants me to lay down next to him until he falls asleep. I was not understanding why he was suddenly doing this until last night and I couldn't help but cry for the smallest moment.

He pointed to the other pillow on his full-size bed. "Please, daddy," he said. He's been calling me daddy lately. C knows and he thinks it is funny. Mainly because Logan knows I am "Mommy" but I really think he just finds it to be funny how much it drives me nuts. He usually laughs when he is corrected, smiles, and says, "Momma."

"Sit, Daddy, Sit," he continued. He wanted me to lay beside him until he fell asleep again and I didn't want to fall into that habit.

"No, Boogah (my name for him), its time to go Night-Night," I said, brushing his hair with my hand.

"No, Daddy, No, No, No." The tears started flowing down his face.

"Mommy, baby. I'm Mommy," I reminded him.

"No Mommy ... Daddy!" A dagger ripped through the center of my chest. He wasn't calling me "Daddy." He was ASKING for Daddy.

Why hadn't I realized that. C laid down with Logan every night until he fell asleep for the last few weeks before he deployed. Something had happened to make Logan want that again and he was so horribly upset that he couldn't have it.

I breathed deeply and held his hand. "You want Daddy, don't you, baby?"

"Ye-e-e-a-ah," he stuttered as his chest heaved up and down. "Daddy, please?"

I laid down beside him and handed him his pillow with C's image on it and held him.

"Do you miss Daddy?" I asked while lying beside him.

"Yes," he answered as he kissed the pillow and held it close to him.

"He misses you very much too."

"Yeah," he said now touching my face. "Sing," he demanded softly - still with a broken voice.

"Daddy's song?" I asked knowing what his answer would be. He nodded, still with his tiny hand stroking my cheek. "I wish you freedom / I wish you peace / I wish you nights of stars / That beckon you to sleep ... " I began. And I laid there and waited until that little hand fell from my face and his breathing slowed and steadied.

Last night was a battle. So much of what we have to do involves being both mommy and daddy. We break ourselves into two trying to keep daddy present while still very much being mommy. And we cannot take their places. My son quite simply didn't want me last night. He wanted his best buddy and he became so frustrated that I was not understanding that.

Last night was a night to not be strict - to not worry that this would develop a habit. To not care that he might want this every night if I gave in this one night. And I will say for now that I will not do this again, because he is growing and this is such an important time to develop good habits and learn good lessons. But last night, for both of us, I needed to hold onto him while he was needing his daddy so very much. I needed to be there in that moment - as much for him as I did for me.

But the next night will be different. The next night I will sing him his song, kiss his forehead, and walk away. Even if he asks me not to, even if he asks for his daddy, even though the ache will rip through my heart again, because life will not stop. His time to learn will not wait until Daddy comes home. His time to grow and to develop cannot be paused. We will not get to go back and redo these moments just because we have to handle them without the other parent here to help. Life doesn't stop. It does not stop.

Tonight Logan is cuddled up to his pillow, hugging it tightly against his chest. He misses his daddy so very much. Every day I try to picture the first time he sees him again. I picture his face, his words, every move he will make. And the image I have created in my head brings the tears to the edge of my eyes every single time.

That day cannot come soon enough.

"I wish we were together / I wish I was home / I wish there were nights / Where I was never alone / I know I've said it / But I'll say it once again / I wish I could be there / But I can't"

The Daddy pillow I talked about is a "Daddy Doll" which I HIGHLY recommend to families with young children for a deployment. The website is https://www.hugahero.com/
My boys really do love theirs.

And the song I quoted is "Gavin's Song" by Marc Broussard. Logan calls it "Daddy's song."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


When a dear friend called me earlier in the morning, I answered immediately. It didn't matter that I had two jars of baby food in my hand and two recently awoken children ready to eat. She wouldn't call at that time to just talk - she would call because she needed to talk. In the shortest second my mind processed everything that could prompt the call and all of them circled around the death or injury of a soldier. Was it her soldier? A chill ran down my spine. Was it one of his men? Was it another commander? They had already lost one Company Commander. A day that hit so close to home for all of us.

It was not her soldier. It was not one soldier. It was six soldiers. They all belonged to her Battalion. They all were connected to her and her husband in some way. They all gave their lives protecting ours. My heart ached for her. This was not their first loss, not their second, not their third. This loss placed them in the double digits - just over three months into the deployment. This unit is worn to its bare emotions. They should be broken. They should be horribly weary. They should be so very tired.

And they are tired. They are broken right now. They are worn from the whirlwind of emotions involved in the unrelenting losses of these brave soldiers. They are fearful that there will be another loss. They are fearful that their soldiers will not return. They are fearful that this nightmare will not end.

And I am not going to talk about honor. Yes, there is the greatest honor for each of these soldiers. Their sacrifice will not go unremembered. There deaths will not be in vain. I have said so many times how much honor should be given to the fallen. And I still strongly believe that - but today the horrendous battle that exists within the minds of these families needs to be talked about.

On a day like today - when the pain from this loss has reignited the pain that had not yet healed from the last deaths - it is so hard to not just wallow in the despair. There is so much agony suffered by the Army community when a loss like this occurs - so much hurt burning in those closest to the fallen.

But I know one of these family leaders. I know her well and I know her spirit. I know her incredible tenacity and ability to comfort and support and empower those around her. The determination and strength within this unit will overcome the despair they currently feel. They will band together, as they have so many times already, and be strengthened by each other. They will mourn the fallen. They will comfort the families that have been left behind. They will hold onto each other and pray with and for each other and get through this day.

It is hard to see the end at a time such as now. It is hard to focus on anything but the next day and then the next. And as they focus on one day to the next to the next, the end will come. They will hug their soldiers with deepest gratitude that they get to hold them and feel them breathe and touch their faces. Not all days will be as this day. That day will come.

It will come.


Please keep the soldiers and families of the 1-61 Cav of the 4th Brigade - 101st Airborne Division in your daily prayers. I always ask for prayers for our troops - the prayers should never cease. But as you pray for our military men and women, please, in the next several days pray for comfort to blanket this unit, for strength to flow from their leaders, and for healing to enter into the hearts of those who mourn the fallen.

My prayers are with them.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Over the past two weeks I have been extremely humbled by the willingness of people to give to our soldiers. These men and women are about to enter what is quite possibly the most difficult period of separation. While we decorate our trees, bake cookies, sing songs, attend parties, hug the ones we love, they do not. While we either enjoy the snow or complain about the lack of coolness (for those of us in South Louisiana), they put on layer after layer after layer to head out into the harsh winter Afghanistan holds or maybe just to sleep if they are not fortunate enough to have good heat.

"You can go ahead," I smiled and gestured to the lady behind me. "I am going to take a while." I nodded to the double stack of boxes waiting by the counter. She was the fifth or sixth person I had said this to. But I felt awful - only one person was working the counter and I knew I would take up so much time.

"You need to stop doing that," Michelle said after I had let the cute, older lady who "just needed a pack of stamps" go ahead of me in line. "It isn't going to stop. You'll be here till lunch!" She had come to know me well. Her and one other postal worker always helped me. I knew she was right. I told her this one lady was the last one. I promised.

I stacked all fifteen boxes onto the counter a few at a time. She barely checked the forms - we'd been through this so many times before. Luckily, I hadn't forgotten to sign anything or check "gift" or put an amount.

"What are all those boxes for?" the second woman behind me asked.

"For soldiers - we stuffed Christmas Stockings for them." She smiled. She was the mother of a soldier. Needless to say, we spoke nearly the entire time the packages were being processed. Michelle chimed in from time to time. I became far more aware of the line increasing. Where had all these people come from?

And then I started hearing it. She wanted me to hear it. A boot tapping, heavy breathing. I looked - her arms were across her chest, she was staring hard at me. "Oh God," she repeated over and over again as she shifted her weight from hip to hip. She did not appreciate the wait.

The contrast was incredible. Two women standing directly beside each other with two totally different attitudes. One growing more and more frustrated - even with knowing the purpose. The other asking for an email address so that she could be involved with the next drive. It is amazing how some things work.

"Don't worry about her," Michelle kept saying. "Don't apologize. Don't worry about it." She could tell that I felt horrible every time I looked back at the growing line. We talked about what was in the packages - not in the listing customs kind-of-way, but in the true interest, keep my mind off the line kind-of-way.

When I was putting the customs labels together and closing my wallet she looked me straight in the eye and said, "You're doing a good job." It caught me off guard and it took me a second to smile. When I did, it was sincere.

"Thanks, Michelle. I'll see you next time." I exchanged a few more words with the Army Mom and headed home.

I had not done a good job. So many people around me had done a great job. And because of how rarely it usually happens, every supportive action is just a bit overwhelming. When I put out there that we would be collecting items to stuff stockings for C and his soldiers I did not expect the response we received. It was incredible. People that I had not talked to in many years sent me messages wanting to help, mothers of old classmates, church members, friends of friends. Something incredible was happening and our soldiers would greatly benefit. We stuffed (to the max) 24 hand-sewned, donated stockings and sent several boxes of items that would not fit in each. A business donated and shipped a tree and lights for each soldier. People donated money to cover shipping. One small company donated chocolate-dipped and drizzled pretzels for each soldier. Hand-warmers, home-made cookies, candy, toiletries, hand-written cards - it was incredible. An old classmate, who is now a teacher, took the time to really speak to her students about the importance of Veterans' day and our soldiers and what they stand for. They were so excited and involved that they asked to make something and they did. They made the cutest paper eagles for each of our guys. Another old friend who I had lost touch with wrote a note to each one of C's guys to be placed in each stocking. I was amazed by her firm and unwavering support of those who serve this nation and her ability and desire to express it. I know her letter to each man will bring a piece of home, a touch, while they are away.

There is something that happens when someone shows such strong support for our soldiers. When a stranger offers to buy a soldier a coffee, when an old friend offers to help like no time has passed in between, when a mother wants to help anyone who takes the same oath as her son, something happens inside of us. We feel a little stronger, we feel a little more understood, we feel just a little more whole. Because that pride we have - while it does not go away - needs to be rebooted. That love that we have for this nation and the men and women who save it can make us feel alone. The hope we have for our tomorrows can sometimes seem to be in vain. But when someone gives us that look - that look that says, "Thank You" - with the deepest emotion, that same tear-provoking pride we know - gratitude floods our bodies. Complete understanding and absolute gratefulness reads through our eyes.

It is so easy to feel forgotten. It is so easy to feel alone. When we have one of these moments - when we see and know that people will do anything to support them - they support us. They carry us for just a moment. Lighten the load. Strengthen the heart.

Our soldiers will not have turkey today - they may not have a hot meal. They will not listen as their friends and family gather to Give Thanks. They will not hold the hands of their loved ones or give hugs or enjoy baby kisses. They will give thanks for their families as they continue their mission.

No matter their exact purpose, no matter the exact order, their overall mission remains simple. To allow us to continue to Give Thanks. To allow us to continue to live in these comforts. We continue to receive, daily, the graces that were afforded to us many lifetimes ago. They continue to Give, daily, their time, their sacrifice, their lives so that we may always receive.

Give Thanks.

Give Thanks for the soldiers who will not have this day in the way that we do. Give Thanks for the fathers and mothers who will not hold their children today so that you can hold yours. Give Thanks for the sons and daughters who will not enjoy their mother's best dishes so that you can continue to share those recipes throughout the generations. Give Thanks for the spouses who will not hold their husbands' and wives' hands as they bow their heads so that you will never lose the right to bow yours in prayer. Give Thanks for these men and women who have given up this time to preserve yours.

Give Thanks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Half-A-Lifetime Away

"I've missed nearly half his life, Megan." I hadn't thought about it like that. I hadn't seen it that way at all. But it was true.

He had.

He had emailed me back from my nightly email on what the boys had done. Eli was trying to walk, he was beginning to stand alone and he had done a full-on pull-up on the outside part of the pack n' play. He literally lifted his body inches off the ground. All still while being the size of the average 6 month old. He was struggling with hearing it all. He didn't want me to stop telling him, he wanted to know what was going on back here but it hurt him so badly to know how much he was missing. Eli was 5 months old when C left for Afghanistan - he is just over 9 months old now. He will miss his first birthday.

"I will have only been around for one of my kids' birthdays when this deployment is out." Another truth. He was here for Logan's first birthday - which we didn't throw a birthday party for. We had a welcome home get-together for our friends who had just returned from deployment and a private celebration with just us and C's parents later that night. He had missed his second birthday. He was at JRTC at Fort Polk. He will not be here for Eli's first birthday or for Logan's third. It broke my heart that he was thinking about this.

His plate is too full - he has too much responsibility on his shoulders - to worry about things he cannot change. But I cannot stop him from worrying, from feeling the pain of it. My husband knows how much I want to make everything okay and so often he has to remind me that some things are out of my hands.

I am a fixer. This can be a harmful thing as much as it can be a helpful thing. When there is a problem, I analyze it, I look at the options, and I fix it. It makes me a helpful resource for fellow spouses, it makes me a good problem-solver, it makes me a dedicated volunteer. I always want to help - which makes it oh-so-difficult when I cannot "fix" something.

I cannot tell you how much my chest tightened when I read his words. "I know it is part of it, but it doesn't make it any less difficult." I know how much he was missing his boys and there was nothing on this earth that I could do to change it. I was so frustrated, so defeated, so torn apart inside. To tell him what is going on here hurts him, to not tell him hurts him, and even with how much is jam-packed into his day, his mind cannot erase that reality.

It is such a heavy guilt that soldiers carry. And that does not mean for a moment that they regret what they do, as much as so many outside of this world seem to think so. Their hearts are heavy because they know what they are missing - because they know that they truly are missing pieces of their children's lives. I know that part of C feels like he is failing his family and it may be impossible for him not to feel that. I want so badly to take that pain from him, to keep his mind from going there, to stop him from taking everything upon himself. He has never failed us. By being where he is and by doing what he does, he does not fail us. It doesn't matter how many times I tell him how proud we are, how many times I say how much he is supported, how many times he hears that his boys are okay - he will not be able to erase that feeling. But I will continue to say those things because as much as they may not "fix" what he feels, they are important for him to know and to remember and to be reminded of.

I do not know what happens in the minds of other soldiers. I can only speak for what I know of my husband. They all process things differently, they all cope with the separation in different ways, much like how we who stay behind all cope in different ways. But it is difficult to know how to help him in this. He doesn't even know how to help him through it. Part of me wishes he could just shut us out if he needed to, to turn it off so that he didn't have to feel what he is feeling, but I know that that is not my husband. It isn't something I would truly want him to be able to do. Part of me finds so much comfort in how much I know he cares for our family, how much he does for us, how much he worries. I want nothing more than to make him feel the comfort I feel, how incredibly fulfilled I am by this family.

But when he comes home, his son who was only rolling will be walking. He will be beginning to speak. He will be trying to keep up with his older brother. His son who was saying a few words will be talking non-stop. He will be taller, he will be smarter, he will be older. His children will not be the same boys that he knew when he left. And I wish so badly that we had Skype. I wish he could see them as they grow. I cannot express how much it breaks my heart that he cannot see them, hear them, play with them.

I cannot fix this. I CAN NOT fix this and I cannot put into words how much that twists my brain and squeezes my heart. I can only pray that he keeps the strength, pray that his heart is comforted, pray that his mind is at ease. And I will continue to let him know that Logan can count to 15 and that Eli must be destined to be the smallest body builder in the world because as much as it hurts to know he is missing it, he wants to be part of it. He wants to be involved because of how deeply he loves his children.

He wants to be here, as much as he can be here. He wants them with him, in his heart, on his mind. He wants to close the gap between where he is and where we are ... a half-a-lifetime away.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Very Important Day

"Today is Veterans Day. I never really did pay much attention to this day. My dad did. He was a Veteran."

When you enter my parents' home a letter sits within a red mat and a blue frame, is pressed beneath clear glass and rests on the center wall above a cross with a flag in its center. My father wrote this the first Veterans' day after his dad passed away. Throughout it he speaks about how when he and his siblings were sorting through their father's things after his passing they came across the history of his military career through his medals. My grandfather chose not to speak of war to his children. He would never speak of what he saw. The only thing my father ever said he told him was, "Too many of my friends died." From time to time as my father would come across a ribbon or a medal my grandpa would make up funny stories about what each meant - never near their true meaning. It was not until he was losing a horrible fight with cancer that my dad and his siblings saw the physical scars from the War on his failing and weak body. It was not until after his death that they found the multiple purple hearts and the four bronze stars he was awarded during the second world war. He had never mentioned them.

I loved my Grandfather. He meant more to me than any other grandparent - probably to anyone in the world. He was my best friend. I idolized him, climbing into his lap when it was free of any of the other multiple grandchildren and would remain there until my mom or dad would move me out. From him I developed my love for the Chicago Cubs - quite simply just because he loved them. The first time I entered Wrigley Field with my father many years ago - his father is the first face that came into my mind. I loved my Grandfather not because he was a retired Master Sergeant, not because he had been awarded medals, not because he had faced such horror of a war and survived, but because he was my daddy's dad. Hearing "Taps" played in the distance and holding my dad's hand as guns fired into the air at his funeral is one of my earliest memories. I still remember my body jumping with each shot and my dad never letting me go.

I have read this letter a countless number of times since it was written several years ago. I have always been raised to respect the military. My mother has always had tears in her eyes when she sees a service member. My father has always been the first to approach and shake the hand of a man or woman in uniform. Even so, even with reading my father's powerful words, I never paid much attention to this day.

As ashamed as I am to say this, it was not until I loved a soldier that I realized the vast importance of Veterans' Day. I had been raised to respect the military. And I always respected the uniform, because it was automatic. But I never appreciated the soldier. I never understood because it was never something tangible to me. It was not something I was involved in - which is not an excuse.

My husband and I have been very fortunate to meet Veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. The WWII vets - even in their aged bodies - hold an incredible strength visible within them. You can see it in their eyes. They helped to change the course of history and they lived through it. The men that we have met have been the most supportive, most involved individuals when it comes to supporting our current troops. They back them - especially the Vietnam vets we have met. Every time I have been introduced to a veteran of either of those wars, I have been humbled beyond belief by the incredible support they show for my husband and his comrades. These men are incredible people and deserve to be thanked and remembered and honored on this day and every day.

My husband is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and will be of Operation Enduring Freedom. I do not know how much he will talk to our children about these. I do not believe he will ever talk seriously about Iraq to them. What he saw there was not something I believe he will talk about. He will talk about his friends, he will joke about how his patrols were attacked more than any other in the company (and he will only joke about it because he brought each man in his platoon home with him), joking about how he was considered the luckiest, unlucky PL (platoon leader) out there. But I do not think he will ever talk about what happened in between.

Nearly 13 years ago, at the age of 17, my husband signed a contract with this country. He signed a contract with you. He stood before all of us and swore to give of himself to protect against anything that attempts to harm this country. Something did and he went willingly into the fight. Months before his first deployment he became an officer and again he made a promise to you. His parents stood beside him, with greatest pride and overwhelming fear, as he raised his right hand and vowed:

"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

"I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation."

One more time:

"I take this obligation freely."

Without reservation, these men and women have promised to give up to their lives to protect what this country is and should always be. This is beyond honorable. This is beyond absolute selflessness.

They do not do it for glory. My grandfather received four bronze stars and I know that he would be the first to say that there is no glory in war.

There is nothing more honorable, nothing more respect-worthy, nothing more deserving of deepest gratitude, than to serve this country.

I didn't understand that. It took loving a soldier to realize what no one could ever teach me.

In the words of my father:

"Today is Veterans' Day.
It is a very important day."

Yes, it is. Today is a very important day.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Questions and Answers

There are few things I get truly passionate about - and they take up so much of my energy. I love this life, I am amazed and blessed by my family, I will go to nearly any length to help a fellow Army wife, and I will lose my voice, my sanity and, sometimes, my heart over LSU football. I had an incredible weekend visiting with friends, my alma mater, and enjoying the sea of purple and gold surrounding me. I expected to have people I hadn't seen in some time ask about my children, ask how C is doing over there, ask when he would be home. I expected to hear these things repeatedly as I ventured across the familiar campus throughout the day and I did. There was one question I did not expect and it came after the excitement of the incredible win had died down and the pain of walking the campus all day had settled into our feet.

"Can you tell me why we went over there?" she asked.

I was not surprised by the question itself, I guess. It is a question we all hear over and over and over again but usually with a horrible tone behind it. Her tone was different. She truly, honestly, wanted to know what was being fought for. I wasn't offended by it - not for an instant. As I have said before, I truly believe many people simply don't know the answers to things and cannot understand the reasons behind this battle because the information is not put out there.

I am not going to get political; I am not going to get into why we went over there. Because to be completely frank, it doesn't matter. What I can do, and what I will do, is what I have done a handful of times before for those who truly and open-mindedly wanted to hear what I honestly thought. And what I am going to say, like everything I say is just my opinion. It is my experience with this war, my understanding from what I have learned from my husband and what I have heard from other spouses. And you don't have to agree with it, I don't expect most to agree with it. You don't have to take it as truth, you don't have to like it. But I figured I would answer her other questions here because I never got to answer them all last night. But I will repeat that I do not think that why we went there matters. It does for the history books and for years and years down the road, but for our men and women currently serving this country it does not matter. We are there. That is what I can talk about.

"What are they doing?" she asked next. Not at all offended by my answer to the first question (I hope).

What my husband has been doing in Afghanistan is completely different from what he did in Baghdad a few years ago. And I think that for a lot of this very few people, including myself, can completely understand what they are doing without seeing it. And there are a few explanations I have given in my one-on-one conversations that I won't give in such a public forum so I don't know how effective this will be. But still, I want to try my best to answer the questions that have been put before me.

In this country, I would bet, our poorest people are of greater wealth than most Afghans. I cannot tell you how many times my husband has said after going "out" on a drive, "I have never known such poverty. The kids, Megan, ..." They live in filth, they live in squalor, they live in conditions unthinkable to most of us and don't know anything different. It is easy to say it isn't our problem. Easy to say that helping them is not worth the lives of our defenders and at face value, I would agree. But it is so important to understand how horribly dangerous that absolute poverty is to this country and our way of life. It is because of this poverty that those who wish only harm to us can have such enormous control over this region. Recruitment for terrorism is much easier when it can mean the difference between quite literally having your body eat itself to death from starvation or being able to provide food to one's entire family. It is much easier to recruit when guns are held to the head of one's wife demanding their sons join their training camp. Fear is powerful. Fear is life-altering. Fear from this evil does not just exist here in our country. We are not the only victims of terror.

In Baghdad, my husband viewed and documented the body of a young girl with countless bullet holes throughout her entire body - from head to feet. The smell, the flies surrounding her body, the blackened blood that covered her body will never leave his memory. This toddler was doing nothing wrong when an unimaginable horror entered the home of her family. This is the only thing my husband has ever told me about what he encountered during his tour. This was the first time I had ever heard my husband cry. This moment - with 6,000 miles in between us - will forever be engrained in my head. We are not the only victims.

So many of these people want change. Not to change their way of life, exactly. But they do not want to live in fear. They do not want to live in fear that one day they would be met with the choices of life as one of them or death. One of my husband's interpreters has two little boys - like us. He does not go home to them each night. He will be separated from them for months at a time. But when he lays his head down at night, he does not just wonder how they are doing like my husband. His heart does not just ache because he didn't get to see his youngest son's first steps - like my husband's will. His heart aches because he wonders if he will go home to find his toddler, almost the same age as our Logan, also lying in his bed (if he has one) with his body nearly unrecognizable because of all of the bullets and blood and flies and maggots. This will never be an image my husband has to fear for us. No one will enter our home and kill our children to send him a message like happened in that home in Baghdad, or that his interpreter fears will happen for his family. There are people in these countries that care and that are working hard to change what they have always known.

For each region that our soldiers secure, and then teach a trade, provide a resource, build up a police force, they change the course of things. They make it that much harder for the Taliban to reign over these people. They offer a chance to experience and sustain a life with far less fear, far less opportunity for terror to grow, far more hope for a different future. They diminish the possibility of young boys being stripped from their families or sold by them who can be taught and brutally raised to believe in and conform to the will of the extremist. Our soldiers cannot just wipe them out - but they can make their impact over this region far less intense.

"Why can't they all just leave?"

A good question. And the answer is because it isn't possible. The only safe way to get every service member out of the region at the same time would be by an incredible magic trick. It doesn't happen like that. It won't happen like that. To leave Afghanistan right now would cause the death of far more soldiers. It would be horrendously dangerous and would not take into account the lives of those left behind. We still have posts in Germany, in Korea, in Japan, and will always in Iraq. Whenever we do leave Afghanistan, we will still have some there. If we leave the middle east, it becomes far easier for the extremists in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iran to step up their evil plots because the cost to return soldiers across the world is great, takes incredible coordination and planning and would not happen with the swiftness it would require.

We live in a different time. Wars are different. This enemy is different.

Soldiers are not just "killing Taliban," they are not just searching caves and kicking down doors. Most of them aren't. They are showing how to build, how to teach, how to survive without the threat or option of terror. It is not an easy process and it requires cooperation, patience.

Why we went there doesn't matter. What matters is that we are there. What matters is that our soldiers will do everything in their power to never allow us to live in the fear the Afghans live in.

They are not just helping these people like I described to be good people. We are not providing humanitarian aid. The intentions of our nation are very selfish. By helping them, we help ourselves. By protecting them, and teaching them to protect themselves, we protect ourselves. By securing their future, we secure ours.

It isn't pretty. It isn't fair. But it is how it is. I don't like that we are there just like anyone else. I want nothing more than to live in a world where my husband can be here with me and our children. But, in my opinion, we do not live in that world. We live in a world where our soldiers will fight in whatever way is most effective. What is effective is altering the norm. What is effective is bettering these people. I pray with everything in me that it works.

I do not like this war. No one likes war. But there are times when it is necessary. I grew up with this conflict. I recognize that for those the age of my little sister - they can only remember our country at war. That is beyond frustrating, beyond imaginable, beyond what should seem acceptable. But I believe, with everything that is in me, that our country would have suffered another horrible and terror-filling attack if we had not entered into these countries. I believe that if we leave now, this country will experience another 9/11. As long as he feels that there is something he needs to fight for, as long as he believes that his life is worth losing for this purpose, he will continue to defend this country. As long as my husband is wanting to stand up for this country, I will support and defend his sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Read When the System Fails first.

I should warn that this will be graphic. I have edited it down a bit but I think that describing how badly this labor went is important. Please be aware you may cringe as you read. I know I more than cringed when it all happened.

April 3rd 0700 hrs

Blood splatters when the LPN tries to get my IV in. The sheets are soaked and need to be replaced. Someone comes in to mop the floor. Only one other time had I ever seen so much blood. I overhear someone saying something about popping a vein. I don't care - I am finally being induced.

"We are projecting a 36 to 48 hour labor. Your body is not ready for this yet." My current Doctor tells me. I have heard this a countless number of times - well 4 - each time I had been sent in to be induced. Two days. Two days and it would be over. I focus on that part.

In the early evening, I am told I can eat because we have at least another full day to go."Go to your meeting," I tell C. There was a steering committee meeting that night and there was no point in sitting in the hospital. A new nurse finally comes in to start the pitocin drip. Whatever pill they had tried three times made absolutely no difference in prepping my body for labor and delivery.

Around 8 o'clock in the evening, my nurse hurries into the room. My mom quickly moves to my bedside concerned by the urgency readable on my nurse's face. The nurse moves my belly from side to side - trying to knead it. She instructs me to move in the hospital bed, rolling my large stomach from left to right and back again. I had been having contractions. I could feel them but I didn't think they hurt (I have a pretty good pain tolerance). With every contraction, Logan's heart would drop and would then have trouble coming back up. I am put on oxygen. My mom calls my husband who is just about to walk out of his meeting and within fifteen minutes he arrives.

Soon after I am told I can take off the oxygen and I feel comfortable enough for my mom to leave for the night. I tell C to get some sleep on the couch. He had been getting little rest over the recent weeks.

Some time later my nurse comes back in, puts me back on oxygen and turns my pitocin drip back down. This is a problem. My labor couldn't progress because they could not increase the pitocin because Logan's heart couldn't handle it. The oxygen stressed me out so my blood pressure would not remain normal (or as close to normal as possible). It is around 10 o'clock when I ask about a C-section. My nurse said that was most likely but that the doctor wanted to do a vaginal birth. I ask her to express my concern over the situation and she said she would get him. She soon returns and tells me that my doctor has put all necessary personnel on "stand-by" for a c-section. I text message my mom (I couldn't talk on the phone due to oxygen) and she heads back to the hospital.

I do not remember much about the next several hours. I finally fell asleep and I don't remember anyone waking me up to check on me.

While my husband was asleep on the couch in the room, my mom rested in the glider in the corner. She cannot say what it was, but 'something" came over her and she felt a need to move across the room and to sit by my monitor. She looked at the screen and noticed my contractions were coming hard and fast and couldn't believe that I was sleeping. I wasn't moving. I had finally given in to sleep. Then, she looked to Logan's monitor and panic set in her. His heart rate was at 40, then 30, then 20. She watched the door. No one came.

In seconds she was in the hall, the nurses were gathered around talking together. No one was paying attention. "Is anyone watching my daughter's monitor?" she shouted. My nurse looked over and terror covered her face.

I woke up to my body being lifted by 7 or 8 nurses. I was being poked, turned violently from side to side, oxygen on my face, tears beginning to fall, my body beginning to uncontrollably shake, heat rushing through me as my pressure soared. Logan's heart was failing and my pressure was no longer reading. My husband woke up to me on all fours (hands and feet), bare behind in the air, as multiple nurses tried desperately to find his son's heart beat.


It was low, it was weak. But it was there.

While on all fours paperwork was placed below my face and a pen in my hand. The water dripping from my eyes and the mucus mixing with the moist oxygen pouring down my face covered the pages. I was instructed to sign each one with little explanation as to what they were. Another nurse stepped on a stool and removed my jewelry while I balanced my now 200 pound body on my hands and feet feeling like I would collapse at any moment. Horrible pain shot through my legs as their color became too purple. My arms threatened to fail below me. All the nurses then, together, flipped me back over and one nurse inserted a catheter without any anesthetic. I screamed with everything in me as two nurses tried to hold me still as the wretched pain ripped through my lower body. My husband stood by my side and held onto whatever part of me he could. My mom stood beside him with tears in her eyes, praying desperately behind them.

I entered the OR where the Nurse anesthetist had two nurses try their best to hold me still so she could insert a spinal block. My body could not stop shaking. I had been pumped with drugs to prep me to surgery too quickly and my blood pressure would not stop rising. It was a horrible combination. I had no control. Then a new nurse stood before me. I had only seen her once, briefly, and she asked the other nurses to move. I could hear the panic in the background as the other nurses talked "quietly" about what staff was missing, how Logan was going too long without oxygen, how they couldn't get a hold of the pediatrician, how this baby had to come out "NOW". I heard it all and I couldn't speak as sheer panic coursed through every vein that was pumping blood too quickly and with too much difficulty through my body. My heart quite literally felt like it would burst from the pressure inside of it. She put her hand to my face then pulled me towards her. She cradled my body to her chest and a calm came over every part of me for the tiniest second and the needle pierced my skin going just where it was meant to into my spine. Then, she was gone.

Two nurses pushed my body - and I mean PUSHED - onto the OR table. My doctor entered the room, obviously recently woken up, providing only an apology for not being able to give a "vaginal delivery". He pinched me, asked if I could feel it, listened for my no and then cut. He cut at 6:29 the morning of April 4th, 2008 and my son was born at 6:31.

I was not draped on the table, my arms were not tied down, my husband was not there. I couldn't speak. My lips were shaking too much and my mind was moving too quickly. I prayed. I prayed like I have never prayed in my life and I did not stop until I heard my son cry. That moment, the tears poured down my face, my eyes closed, I bit my lip and I thanked the Lord. The nurses began to check Logan - the pediatrician was not there. "There is the doc," my doctor said relieved as a man in blue with a mask over his face entered the room.

It was not Logan's doctor. It was my husband. He had missed it.

I do not remember leaving the OR. I do not remember the first twelve hours of my son's life. I do not remember the first time my husband tried to put him in my arms. I do not know what he looked like when he entered this world. I did not get to kiss him, or touch him, or count his fingers and toes. I did not get to know those moments. I will never know them.

They were taken from me.

It took my OBGYN with Eli nearly two hours to cut through and repair the damage to my uterus from Logan's delivery. Because of the great care of this man, I can have one more child someday - much further down the road so I can heal.

There is no doubt in my mind that what happened to me was the direct fault of those responsible for my care. There is also no doubt in my mind that miracles occured on that morning. The "something" that came over my mother when she moved to my monitor was a miracle. The nurse that cradled me and calmed my body so that my son could be taken out in time was a miracle. The fact that my son and I are alive and able to share in this life is, without question in my mind, a miracle.

We should not have survived. My son should not have been able to hold on. The last fetal heart rate I saw of him was 17. My body would not have been able to sustain the trauma of a still birth. We should not be here.

We are.

Thank God for miracles.

I thank God for my son.

Monday, November 1, 2010

When the System Fails

"How is your head?" my mom asked, checking on me again. She didn't just mean my head, she meant my legs, my neck, my hands. Every part of me that seemed to be growing before our eyes and increasing the ache along with it.

"It still hurts. And I can't get my ring off." I had taken my engagement ring off the night before, thank goodness. But I didn't want to take my wedding band off. She had told me that I needed to take it off but I just couldn't - emotionally that is. Now I really couldn't - physically. It was stuck. I tried lotion, butter, oil. You name it and I tried it. It didn't budge. I headed down the street to the after hours care center. I was in town for a couple baby showers and had little option as to where I could go. Of course I spent two hours (and then two weeks) back and forth on the phone with Tricare because they kept "losing my paperwork" approving the visit which is a battle I eventually gave up on. During my visit, my ring had to be cut in two places and pried apart with two pairs of plyers. When it was being cut, my finger was turning blue. My body became swollen that quickly. I gained 5 pounds that day, and ten that week. Something was wrong.

My mother called my old ob-gyn and asked if he would see me. Without hesitating, he said to come in right away. It was the third time she had taken my blood pressure. This wasn't weird to me. The last two appointments I had the tech's at the Army Community Hospital took my blood pressure three or four times. I didn't pay attention. I didn't know anything was going on. At my last appointment, in late December, my midwife told me I was "taking advantage of my pregnancy" and referred me to a nutritionist. This was now early February, and I hadn't had an appointment in between and didn't have one scheduled til later into the month.

My doctor came into the room immediately after I had sat onto the exam table. "Has anyone said anything about your blood pressure, Megan?"

"Um, no." I replied, not really understanding the reason for the question. "They take it a lot."

"And they haven't said ANYTHING about it?" he asked with a very confused look on his face, moving his eyes from me, to the chart, to me again.

"Nope. My midwife just said I was getting fat," I told him plainly - not wanting to relive my anger on that day.

"Seriously?" He asked - obviously as surprised as I was but for a different reason. "I need to run a test," he continued. "It won't take long. We can do it in the office."

I was lying on my left side as instructed to do waiting for the result. I began to sit up when he entered the room and was quickly instructed to remain lying down. "You have protein, Meg. Do you know know what preeclampsia is?"

I had skipped over that section in the book. I never thought it would apply to me. My mom's eyes looked from him to me with the greatest concern on her face.

"It must have presented itself really early," he began. "I don't know how they could have missed it. Did they run any tests after checking your pressure?" I shook my head, still lying on the exam table. Not comfortable to say the least. He started mumbling - looking at the chart, then looking at me, then looking at my mom. He didn't want to let me travel back to Tennessee. That was out of the question to me. I was not going to spend the last two months of my pregnancy separated from my husband. He was debating admitting me - hospital bed rest. It was THAT bad. After arranging for my husband to fly down to New Orleans to drive me back, he agreed to let me go with strict instructions for a physician (not a midwife) to contact him when I arrived. He said not to wait, to go to the hospital the very next day.

The midwives at the Army Community Hospital didn't care. They didn't contact my doctor. Didn't check my test results. Didn't even assign me to a doctor until I fought - and fought hard. Then, that doctor left for her next duty station and I was never transferred to another physician until I called every single day with my blood pressure reading and symptoms. I was sent in to be induced four times - each time being turned away from some other doctor. I was on strictest bed rest, two minute showers (sitting in the shower) every other day, lying on my left side the entire day, strict diet, no standing, no walking. But if you asked them, I still wasn't preeclamptic. Every other day I was instructed to report to the hospital for monitoring and eventually I found out no one was even checking my results. Every other day, I got dressed, walked to and from my car, in and out of a hospital, all while on supposed "strictest bed rest." Towards the end of my pregnancy, the moment I stood my legs turned purple, tingled, and began to go numb. My hands went numb constantly. Yet every time I was sent to be induced, I was told by the next doctor who got to make that call that I was not a priority.

This is how the army healthcare system works (or at least did for me). You don't have a real doctor - and you don't have the same doctor. I saw three doctors and four midwives over my pregnancy. Only one midwife could remember who I was the entire pregnancy. She was the one who told me how to fight the system, and that I needed to fight the system for my own safety.

The third time I was sent downstairs from the women's clinic to be induced my blood pressure was terrifying. The last time it read it was 210 over 110. I should have been dead - or have at least suffered a stroke. They didn't believe the machine could possibly be right so they continued to try to take my pressure again and again. My arm was blue - not purple - it itched, it was convulsing, and I felt shooting pains. I had to scream and fight to take the cuff off myself to get them to stop trying to take it. My pressure wouldn't even read on the machine. My doctor came in saying that my protein levels were off the chart and this baby needed to come out "NOW." I was instructed to go down to labor and delivering. I was not given a wheel chair. I walked.

After lying in the equivalent to a closet for nearly two hours, a doctor came in. He quickly said I was not his priority and sent me home. He did not care that I had been sent by a doctor upstairs. He said it was his call and he wouldn't risk having three women in labor (there were three beds open) come in and have to turn one away for someone he had induced.

When we left, I could barely walk because my body wouldn't stop shaking. My husband tried his best to support my now nearly 200 pound body to the car.

This was a Monday. On Thursday, I entered labor and delivery with my pillow, bags, and husband and said I was not going home. It was then that our real nightmare would begin.


There are things I know now that I didn't know then. Patient Advocacy is an Army Family's best friend. USE them. Had I, I would have been there daily. With Tricare - ALL pregnancy and post natal appointments are covered under prime AND standard care. If you enter another hospital, through the ER, with problems in your pregnancy Tricare has to cover the care you receive. I was told by the doctors at this Army Community Hospital that I could not change. The Tricare office told me I could not change without the written consent from the doctor on post. You Have Rights. Patient Advocacy can let you know what those rights are and can help be sure that you are protected, well cared for, and receiving everything you need. Most major hospitals have patient advocates familiar with Tricare and the Military healthcare system. They, too, can and will help. Speak out. It wasn't until I was willing to fight hard, yelling into the face of a LTC midwife, with my husband at my side, that I ever even saw a physician. I called every single morning with my readings. I did not stop fighting - but I needed to fight more and I needed to fight sooner. I didn't realize that I could. I didn't realize the other options available to me. Be aware of what is out there. I know women who have had good prenatal care at this hospital. It doesn't happen to everyone - but it does happen to some of us. Protect yourself. Protect your family. I was healthy and petite. I worked full-time, ate well, and was active. I was not taking advantage of my pregnancy.

Understand the system. Work the system - or it will work you.

To read part two click HERE

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Growing Pains

I posted this previously and quickly took it off because I had decided that I was not ready to share this until I knew the outcome. Now knowing, I think it is important to show something that was and is a true struggle for me personally during this deployment. When I removed the post, it removed the comments that were made quickly after posting. A couple were from similar situations. Please share again if you are so inclined!
"I think you need to see a different doctor." He said, "He isn't doing enough."

He was doing plenty but I couldn't tell him that. I had just told him we were doing a couple rounds of different drugs. Without thinking, I had rubbed my forehead with the webcam on and he knew my head hurt. It was an automatic reaction to the pain - I did it so often now.

"We are just going to try a few different medications before taking the next step," I typed as I had countless times before.

"It's time to take the next step NOW, Megan. Something is wrong," he typed, and his face looked horribly worried.

How right he was - but I didn't want to tell him. We had been fighting about me going to a doctor long before he left. Constant headaches, memory problems, losing my balance for no reason. I hadn't had time then, but I had made time now. And I could have made time, but it didn't seem like that big a deal at the time. Just stress - lack of sleep.

"You need to take care of yourself, too!" He was getting upset - thinking the doctor wasn't being proactive enough. But I did NOT want to tell him. He had too much to worry about. But this was racking his brain just as much - worrying about whether or not I would do what I needed to, if the neurologist would. I had already had two tests - one okay, one inconclusive. I didn't want him to worry about what was happening next but he was really having trouble handling my, and the doctor's, perceived inaction.

He just kept typing - trying to get his point across as much as one can with instant messaging. I was exhausted and needed to get up really early. He wouldn't understand me wanting to get offline - it wasn't like me to say I was too tired to talk. But I was - my body was so drained. But I knew I wouldn't sleep - whether I told him or didn't tell him. I had to make the decision. So I did, and I don't know if it was the right one.

"I have three tests tomorrow. Two MRI's and an MRA."

He didn't type anything. I waited.

"What are they looking for?" he finally wrote.

He knew what they were looking for. What else would they be looking for? But I didn't want to say it - but he wouldn't either. I had come clean now - there was no reason to lie. The very first doctor who decided to run tests told me what all my symptoms pointed to and that he was surprised that the initial test didn't show one. I wasn't going to be able to sleep now so I typed it. And my body nearly convulsed as I did. I hated my decision the instant it was made.


I didn't want to look at his image from the webcam - or mine. I just looked at the word. It was the first time I had actually typed it - seen it. And I knew how real the possibility was - but it was so different to see it.

I was ashamed of my weakness - of telling him something I never wanted him to know. I had promised myself to hold onto the reality - to do everything to protect him from the unknown facing our family. But, at the same time, to lie to my husband was something that was becoming harder and harder. To keep information was one thing - but to directly lie was different. It twisted me inside. It made me feel sick. But knowing that he now knew made me feel more ill.

He was angry - angry that I had not told him. My husband, for the many of you who don't know him, does not get angry - ever. I had to show him from my viewpoint - help him to understand why I had not told him. It took a long time, but he listened, and I listened, and we understood each other. We were both right and we were both wrong. And nothing can be taken back. Time does not stop.

"You are my rock, baby. The root of this family," he typed when he had calmed down. "I need to know when you are not okay."

His words broke me and healed me. My heart felt I had done the right thing, my broken brain was not agreeing. He would carry this now. And he has so much to carry.

C is a strong man - he is my rock. Two years ago, when we faced the reality of possibly losing our first son during childbirth, he was nothing but support in the chaos. He is a calm person, level headed, and takes things in extremely well. I do not know how he manages. He can carry this. I do not know if I can carry the guilt of knowing that. I know I can - I know I will be given the strength - but there will be nothing easy about it. I still don't know if it was the right decision or the wrong one. There may not be a black or white here and that is when things are so difficult. When it is so hard to know what to do and what will become of what you have done. A weight has been lifted from my shoulders but a new weight has been placed there and I will struggle with that.

I do not have the answer we are both waiting for yet - I hope to in a day or two. And I hope when I do know - he will get the message sooner rather than later. I pray to have the strength to make the right decision if a decision must be made.

I feel like I have failed in a battle in which I could never succeed. To understand the dance of giving and holding back information is something I hope to master with time - when I am a seasoned Army Wife. The growing pains of a new wife are difficult - and this is the first time I have felt them so deeply. Today is a weak day for me - we are all allowed to have them - but it doesn't make it easier when they come. This is a learning process, and like I said before, there is no remote, there is no pause. We have to take what comes and decide what to do with it and live with the decision we make - whatever it is - and move forward.

The real world does not stop. And we cannot carry everything on our own - our soldiers are still our partners - our better halves. I do not know if I am wrong for handing him this to hold with him or not. I do not feel right or wrong - just incredibly conflicted. We still have a responsibility to our families - to protect them. And I hope that that is what I have done.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

When it Clicks

I was in college when my husband (then boyfriend) deployed for the first time. He was in Baghdad when it was not the best time to be in Baghdad. Towards the beginning of the deployment I began a new job. I have always been a person who has a million things going on at once - I work best that way. I work well under pressure, I focus best when busy, I thrive when things are difficult. I worked a full-time management job while taking 18 hours of college courses (sometimes more) and I did well in both. When I was offered the position put before me I was sure to say that there would be a time, and I didn't know what time of year yet, that I would need two weeks off for C's R&R and a week off when he returned home in November. This store had been negotiating with me about a job for months and this was my only stipulation and without hesitation the manager agreed.

When it came around for C's R&R about 7 months into my time there, the attitude was different. I had taken on more responsibility than originally planned and the store took more of my time but this was the summer and goodness knows that is the slowest time for the retail I was in. When I gave the dates my boss would not let me off saying that this PTO request was not a priority and she could not give me that much time off unless it was a medical request. For those who don't know me, my eyes are huge and they have a tendency to pop out of my head when I am shocked whether I want them to or not. My jaw dropped, my eyes popped, and the tears came. I was not sad - I do not often cry when I am just sad. I was furious. This is something I truly hate about my wiring - I cry when I am mad, I cry when I am angry with authority. I have tried so much to prevent this but nothing works and it makes me look weak.

I walked away without speaking. The next day I came back in on my day off and said, as calmly as I could while trying my best to hold back the tears, that I would walk away that day if I didn't get the time off. I am not a person of ultimatums but this was the only thing my boss would understand.

"You can have a week," she said as though she had just granted me some incredible wish out of the goodness of her heart. "But I shouldn't even be able to give you that. I don't understand why you think you should get two weeks off anyway."

I got one week and for the other, C stayed in my condo while I was working. Most of my teachers let me out of class - which was incredible. One teacher, in particular, let me out of an exam.

"Don't even think about showing up for it," he said without me even asking. "You can take it when he leaves."

Just like that. No problem, no request on my part. I hadn't even thought to ask. Thank God for those who understand.

Months later, when it was time for C to come home things got bad. You don't have to work retail to know that things get crazy around Thanksgiving and if you work behind the scenes (especially in the position I was in) they get insanely busy the weeks before. C came home in November - and my boss was furious. When I saw the schedule posted with me working the exact time period his plane would be landing on the ground my entire being went numb. She did not give me off work - no matter what I had threatened - and I made a decision. The week before he was supposed to come home I went into the office while she was working on paperwork.

"I won't be here," I started right away.

"I'm sorry?" she said without looking up.

"If you are going over next week's schedule again, I will not be here."

She had the schedule before her on the desk. I had noticed it wasn't posted on the board. She just looked at me. "I said this when you hired me. You agreed."

"But it's November. You have too much to do."

"It's done. Everything is written down and it is covered." I had been working on things at home and had spoken to my fellow managers who had agreed to pick up my shifts meaning they had to work extra days that week.

"I need you," she continued when I told her things were covered. This was ridiculous. She didn't need me. People who were my superiors had offered to step in for me. They were the ones who taught me - she didn't need me at all. She was being stubborn.

"I won't be here. I just thought you should know."

I called two days after C got off the plane to ask a fellow manager if I still had a job. She said I was on the schedule for the following week. I have worked with some wonderful women and I have worked with some not so wonderful people. Some incredible co-workers stepped up to work extra hours for me and I will always be grateful.

When I returned to work my boss never said a word about it. Never asked how everything went. Never apologized. About two months later, we had a different conversation.

The desk was covered in floor maps and clothing charts. I had a pen in my mouth and a marker and a ruler in my hand. I had closed the door, which I rarely did, but I was having trouble focusing because a coworker was playing "The Office" on her ipod and I kept laughing. I heard keys in the door and turned my store radio on to see if anyone was calling me. She walked in with a serious look on her face - she wasn't supposed to be working today.

"Can I talk to you a sec?" she asked - and she was really asking.

"Sure," I said, beginning to clear off my mess on the desk so she could sit down.

"No, stay where you are," she said unfolding a metal chair and having a seat. I noticed there were tears in her eyes.

"Is everything okay?" I asked - truly worried. I had never seen her cry before.

"No it isn't. I need to apologize." My face gave me away - I had no idea what she was talking about. She raised her hand to stop me before I could say anything.

"I cannot believe how wrong I was with how I dealt with your situation. It isn't an excuse but I just didn't understand." She went into how she had read an article about the life of a military family going through a deployment in one of her favorite magazines. "I could not stop thinking about you after I read the article." The tears began to flow freely. I handed her a tissue, almost like a robot because I could not believe what I was seeing. "I couldn't sleep last night - I had to come talk to you. I am so very sorry for the pain I caused you. I didn't deserve for you to stay."

She spoke for at least thirty minutes and I listened - taking it all in. Trying to process this drastic change and eventually I smiled. All that I could say was "Thank you." And I meant it with every fiber of my being - but there were no other words but thank you.

Sometimes something happens and it just clicks. It doesn't always matter how much breath we waste trying to help a person understand - so often it is out of our hands. We will not all agree. We will not all see things the same and sometimes we have to throw our hands up and walk away. I took a risk - a risk I would not recommend to anyone - and even with that she did not understand. It came from somewhere else, in the words of someone she did not know, for her to understand. She came to me with humility, she came to me with deepest regret, and I listened. Her tears touched me, her honesty surprised me, and her apology did not come too late.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

There is only Honor

Today I want to share comments posted on the Facebook wall of the unit my husband and I are currently with. I have to say, my intentions are completely selfish with this. What I will write is very similar to something I have already written but if I do not write it here I will most certainly write it there and goodness knows that could start all sorts of problems. And this will get into the freedom of speech, one of our absolute, most precious and abused rights. The comments made by one woman - who I believe to be an Army Wife - anger me in the most extreme way. I am angered most because if this was my soldier being spoken of, there would not be enough grace in the world. It will also tie into something else I have written where some people simply do not get it and no explanation in this world will help them to understand. Please bear with me as I repeat things I have said and may seem a bit passionate and jumbled. Here is what took place.

Both of these comments reference the announced deaths of soldiers belonging to the unit - the link to the newspaper article or post article making the names public.

In the first it references the death of a soldier on his first wedding anniversary. Truly heartbreaking for anyone to read. The comment left by this one woman reads:

"This is awful I wonder when it will stop. It's unacceptable."

This, with the exception of one just completely stupid one, was the only line that was inappropriate. All of the others were filled with support, understanding and gratitude.

The next references the announced death of three soldier's killed in Afghanistan. This same woman writes:

"It's a shame these people have to loose their lives for this war period. It's extremely sad and I feel for their families and for the loss of their lives. These men were young and never lived a full life. Enough is enough - it's unacceptable."

Immediately followed by an Army Wife I would like to meet for her ability to "keep grace" in response to this post:

"There is no shame, only honor. God bless these fallen soldiers and the many who have sacrificed their lives for our country. My thoughts and prayers are with the soldiers' loved ones and the brave men and women fighting for our freedom. Thank you all for your service."

To which the woman responded:

"I feel for their families. I pray for them to get through this loss. Everyone has a right to their own opinion."

There is only honor. There is no shame in the death of a soldier who defends this nation, our freedoms, our lives. And do not tell me that those are not at stake, that we do not need to fear the loss of our liberties. I remember September 11th. I remember September 10th because on that day I spoke to my brother after he left the twin towers. I remember the numbness and the panic and the terror. The day that we are so ignorant, so self-absorbed, that we do not realize these freedoms are always at stake is a day I cannot bring myself to imagine.

My husband is young. My husband is able. My husband is full-of-life. These are the men and women it takes to stand up in arms to protect everything that they love and want to keep.

To say that someone's son's or husband's or father's death is "shameful" does not show that you feel for these families. I am not saying that this woman's heart doesn't break for those who mourn. I am sure it does. But only say that in a place that the family may see it - do not call it a shame.

If I lose my husband there will be no shame in his death and if anyone says so I do not know how I would be able to contain my anger. These four soldiers referenced were not my soldier, I did not know any of them, and I am beyond angry.

It is not a matter of freedom of speech or being entitled to an opinion. I know that everyone has that right and I damn well know who provides it to them. But it is a matter of what is appropriate, what is courteous, what is just plain stupid. Such an opinion has no place on a wall that mourns the fallen, on a site that praises the success, on a post that honors our soldiers. I do not care that a person has a right to say what they believe. I do not care that a person holds those beliefs - no matter how different from my own - but a soldier died, thousands of soldiers have died since the start of these United States, to ensure that we all hold that right. Do not hurt that family, do not attempt to dishonor that soldier's sacrifice, by inappropriately exercising this right.

Our country has become so politically correct, so deeply absorbed in twisting the rights that we have, that they are abused over and over again. A so-called church can stand before the burial of a fallen soldier - as long as they stand a certain yardage back - with signs saying these men and women are going to hell, that they are not heroes, that "God hates them". Soldiers are used as pawns in bills in congress that have nothing to do with them so that either side can say if they do not vote yes they do not support the troops. Both sides do this. My husband is not your pawn. My husband, and those who have served, who have died, and who currently serve beside him, will, without contest, continue to defend this idiocy, this disgust, this misconstruing of what this country was founded on because they understand where we came from. They understand what has been sacrificed, they honor it, they want to be a part of it.

We say we have been "given" these rights but perhaps that is why so many people do not understand the sacrifice. These rights were not "given", they were violently and bravely taken. They were demanded. They are covered in fiery red blood and the tears of those who understood what it took to acquire them. Fathers fought sons. Sons fought fathers. Families were divided because an idea never committed to in such a way, an idea never so great that the division was worth it, was about to come into place in this world and it was risky, it was dangerous, it was life-threatening.

This idea that has come to be "promised" to us is no less dangerous, no less violent today. It must still be fought for, it must still be taken from anyone who seeks to ruin it. And we divide ourselves within these rights. People become too blinded by the idea that we will always possess them, that we will always keep them. My husband fights for his parents, he fights for his wife, he, above all, fights for his children. All of our service-members sacrifice. If my husband were to give all it would be for them, it would be for you, it would be for this woman that has angered me so much. And he would never, for a moment, take that sacrifice back. Everyday, we recognize that this is what he promised his country, what he promised you, and what he promised me.

It takes the young. It takes the strong. It takes those full of life to sustain this life.

"There is no shame - only honor."

Only honor.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Very Difficult Normal

I grab a paper and pen and begin my hurricane evacuation list. My memory has been awful over the last few weeks (and that is an understatement) so I have had to write everything down - and I mean everything. I even write the basic items (the things any Southern Louisiana girl automatically knows to bring in the wake of a major hurricane): family photos, insurance documents, jewelry, etc. I add a few more "well-duh's" to the list - Logan and Eli's scrapbooks, birth certificates, power-of-attorney's, shot records.

I go into the closet to see if there is anything I have forgotten and there it is. I had laid it flat on the floor, beneath the clothes so it didn't scream out at me. I would move it into another closet entirely if I was in my own house. The large, black hanging bag with the Army Seal on it. We all have one - at least one. It holds his uniforms - both the Class A's and the Dress Blues.

These can never be left behind. I take my pen and add them to the list.


"Why is there a funeral planner on the table?" my dad asked, many months ago.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw my Mom shake her head at him. I hadn't talked to him about it - my mom knew. She is my sounding board, my strength. I had said we were going over to Gil's but that wouldn't be odd. Gil was the deacon who had married us. He would baptize our second child. He was the first person I told I had met the man I was going to marry. He supported my husband and I when we needed it most. He stayed in contact with C through his first deployment. He is one of our closest allies in this life, a friend, a veteran, our rock. He means so much to us as a unit, as a partnership. He was the man C wanted to be there - to be the one. I respected that, I understood it, I hated it.

My dad came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it. That was all there was to do. Sometimes it is better to say nothing.

I do not think in any other life this would be practical. What 20-something plans their final wishes? This is not the way it is supposed to be for me. At this age, I should not know the casket my husband wants, or the readings at the funeral, or the eulogists, or the uniform he will wear. I should not hear him speak of the practicality of who will be able to come, who he wants as an escort, where he wants to be laid to rest. I am too young for this. He is too young for this.

But I understood why it needed to be done. Because this is our normal. This is our reality and my husband has seen what happens when soldiers and their families ignore it. As I said before, he has been on the other side of things. He has seen what happens when a family loses their soldier. He has seen what happens when a family has planned and he has seen what happens when a family has not. There are emotions that run hard and fast when these things are not written down and directed and he has seen some horrible outcomes from it.

And so I sat beside him and held his hand. I listened to his questions and I listened to the responses. I listened as the man I married and the man that married us spoke of the only Church C and I both feel most connected to. The Church where we were married, the church where our son has been baptized, the church where I was baptized, the church I first sang in, the church that molded me, the Church that saved me. The Church that I grew up in that he wanted to have welcome him Home. And my heart was broken with every question, with every answer, with every pen stroke marking the finality of it. I, instead, tried to focus on his hand, I rarely spoke, I just took in the feel of his skin, the warmth of the pumping blood beneath it, the pink color of it, the strength within it. I never once let go of his hand.

I believe it is safe for me to say that none of my non-military friends have done this with their spouses - planned the other's last rites (the few who are married). And I am sure that they would find this strange. It is strange. There is nothing normal about planning what will happen when you leave this life. There is nothing normal about having the clothes your husband would be buried in on the floor of your closet. There is nothing normal about having a file in your desk drawer with his last will and wishes when he hasn't even reached his 30 birthday yet. It is not normal.

"Aren't you scared?" she asked, staring at me straight on. "You know, that he's going to be killed?"

"Of course," was all I could muster with the anger beginning to well up inside of my core. I felt my veins pumping and my temperature increasing.

"Well, how do you handle the worst-case scenario?"
she asked with her doe-eyes staring directly at me. How could she honestly be serious.

I do not believe that as an Army Wife I am entitled to anything from anyone. I do believe that our soldiers are entitled to the greatest praise and the highest honor - however, I firmly and adamantly do not for an instant demand the same. But, and it's a big "but", the pain of this reality that we carry with us each day that our soldier is gone does demand your respect and your courtesy. Do not get me wrong, we chose this, as I have said so many times before, we did - each one of us chooses to carry this. And for the majority of the time, we are powerful, strong individuals - but there is a line that should not be crossed. Please do not ask us if we fear that our husbands will not come home. Please do not act like by asking that question it makes you a concerned individual. It makes you stupid.

I do not own an appropriate "funeral" black dress. My husband and I have discussed that if his team loses a soldier during this deployment, I will represent him and the team at the funeral. This was a matter-of-fact discussion. It is reasonable in this life but it is not in the "normal" classification of the outside world. I have not bought one, I cannot bring myself too. I feel like I would jinx things - as incredibly stupid as it sounds - but I have gone to purchase one several times. I have even found a few. It is practical to have one now - just in case. And I am, for the most part, a practical person. I have given myself pep-talks before entering the store, in the dressing room, while walking to the counter. But I always put the dress back - sometimes with tears running down my face. And to anyone who notices me, they will think me far from normal.

But all of us wake up sweating from the same nightmares. We all forget to breathe when a car we do not recognize is parked in front of our house. We all panic for a moment when the doorbell rings and we aren't expecting anyone for a visit. This is our normal - and we all experience it. Do not ask about it. We all process this reality differently, we all handle the abnormality of it in our own way. We all pray that we remain in this reality, that we can just live in the fear because as long as we live in that we are not living in the nightmare.

I am 25 years old and I have planned my husband's funeral. There is nothing normal about that.

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1)
For the men and women who give of themselves to ensure that we continue to live freely, to worship without fear of persecution, and to strive for a better tomorrow, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

God Bless our Troops. God Keep them Safe.