"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.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Women We Were

Like anyone else, sometimes I wish I could manipulate time. To speed up the twelve months that our family will be separated. To fast forward to the day I will see him march in with all the others. Part of me wants these months to blur by, for nothing to happen in between. More often I wish I could press pause and keep my toddler a two-year-old and my baby a baby. To somehow let them be the same to C as they were when he left. To keep Eli from crawling and walking before he can come home and to stop Logan from becoming more and more of a “big boy” everyday. To preserve the time that C will miss so that there is no confusion and heartache when he returns.

But nothing good can come from having a remote control for life. There is nothing healthy about trying to put a hold on the changing world around us. When our soldiers are gone we have to continue to grow. We have to continue to live. The world will not stop around us and to try to ignore that can only make things more difficult. We cannot control what will come and what will pass. And the fact that we exist in this world of the Army (which is very much its own little world) does not remove us from the larger world outside of it. We have to exist in both, we have to be strengthened by both, we have to continue in both.

We were all different women before we entered into this life. We came from different backgrounds with different interests and different opinions. None of that changes when we enter the military life. We are still different - sometimes very different - but we share the similar struggles, joys, and fears. Like so many of us, I never thought this would be my life - never thought I would be married to a soldier - until I was.

Five years ago if you would have asked me where I would be now it would not be surrounded by moving boxes with two small children writing about my life as an Army wife. I would most likely be recovering from the Louisiana Bar Exam, celebrating (hopefully) the completion of my most difficult feat. I would be one crucial step closer to the career I had always wanted for myself. I wanted to be an attorney; there had been nothing I wanted more. I wanted to be an advocate for children who were not given the fair beginning I was. For women who knew nothing but physical pain and unspeakable fear from both the men they were tied to and strangers who had stolen any sense of safety they had had. I wanted to lighten their load, take some of their great burden onto myself. I yearned to give a glimmer of hope to women and children who were broken - thought to be beyond repair. I would use the Law to protect them, to help them begin again, to punish those who made them suffer. I was amazed by how willing I was to walk away from something I had been so deeply passionate about until I suddenly wanted something different.

Four years ago, at the same time that I was preparing for the LSAT, I came to a realization. Something that surprised me and intimidated me. Surprising because it was in no way the path I meant for my life to take and intimidating because my realization was so final. I knew that with this decision there was no retreating, no way for the two paths before me to meet.

I was in love with a soldier. And not just in love with, but unconditionally committed to.

The two paths before me disappeared and I only saw one - the one paved in green and beige and brown.

It is difficult to explain the feeling I had about my choice in the beginning. It was not regret - I have never regretted the life I chose - it was a sadness that the two could not be combined. That they could not exist together. At least, not in the way I first imagined.

We had just left an FRG Leader/Rear D get-together. We were nearly off post, it was dark and Logan had already fallen asleep in his carseat. I sighed when I heard it - that horrible, silver piece of technology that seemed to interrupt constantly. His blackberry was ringing. My breathing became rapid and heavy; I was frustrated. Was this another wife calling asking if my husband could cut her grass, or yelling because her husband's paycheck was 18 dollars short? I didn't even want to know. My breathing suddenly paused and then slowed. My husband's face was different. This call was different. I recognized that face. It was the face he got when a soldier had been killed - despair, dread, sadness.

He hung up and changed course. He was not going to the office, nor was he bringing me home. This was not a soldier. It was a wife.

We went straight there, we brought Logan, not wanting to take the time to drop him off with a friend. This call was urgent, and we were both needed. I did not know her well, she was always kind, always smiling and I knew she was a good leader for the wives of her husband's Company. I did not know much more than that. By the time I walked in the door, I could see she was broken. Not her heart, not her body, it seemed that her entire being was broken. My heart ached for her. Her husband was in Afghanistan and, without knowing what had happened yet, I could see in her eyes that she needed him. She had been through every woman's greatest fear. I do not mean every Army Wife's greatest fear - but every woman's. The crime that is unforgivable - the physical violation that can destroy a woman's mind and body. She had been raped.

Over the course of several weeks and months, I formed a bond with this beautiful woman that strengthened daily. We became great friends and I watched with absolute joy as the light returned to her eyes and her smile became more prominent in the day to day. She was healing - as much as a woman can heal from such pain - and it was incredible to witness. Her strength, her overwhelming courage to not be defeated would empower any witness to her transformation. The healing was painful and difficult and she began the process while her husband was at War. There is no remote. There is no pause.

Incredible Strength.

Life does not stop when they are gone. We cannot shield ourselves from the everyday nor from the greatest fears. Life will not wait for our husbands to return. We must face it head on.

As Army Wives, we are surrounded by strong women. We have to be. We do not have another option but to survive - to not only survive but to make the most of each day because our timelines have a much more immediate deadline. Our moments together always have a timer, always with another deployment around the corner. We do not always have our husbands to hold onto, and have them to hold us when we are weak. We have eachother and ourselves. We rely on eachother to be support when no one else can understand how even everyday difficulties are more difficult because we encounter them without our partners. But we also must rely on our own strength to reach out to others when we are breaking.

For what my brave friend overcame she had to rely heavily on the strength within herself before she could ever reach out for the support surrounding her.

We are surrounded by determined, nearly indestructible "females" (as my husband says). We need to recognize the talents and abilities within each of us and use them for this life that we have bravely chosen. The passions and drives that thrived within us before can and will exist in this life if we allow them. They can only help both ourselves and our fellow spouses fighting a similar battle. We cannot overcome the challenges the Army life and the outside world put before us isolated nor can we only depend on the strength surrounding us.

The women we were must have been strong. I do not believe one can truly, unconditionally commit to the life of an Army Wife without having that strength already within them. The women we were were strong - but the women we are are stronger.


  1. WOW! I am not an Army Wife but I am an Army Brat & now work for a military contractor in direct support of our brave soldiers. I've never, in all my years around the Army, heard the story of Army Wives so well told. You never have a clue what these brave women go through until you've walked a mile in their shoes or at least had the privilege of being close to one of them & witnessing their joys, their fears, their heartaches, their tenacity.....but most of all, their amazing strength. Thank you for this. I want to pass it on to ALL of my friends - military and not - in the hope that it will be shared again & again & again and MAYBE a few of those out there with their heads still stuck you-know-where, will begin to understand. Maybe. Again, thank you.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment! Please do share it! Thank you for your support of our soldiers!

  3. I was once the wife of a Soldier. Your story, so well written of the ARMY WIFE and the way it is. I am very much in support of our Military and the women that support their Military Men. You are very strong women, you take alot on when you become a "Army Wife". I for one am very proud to have been an"Army Wife"
    Thank you for your story.

  4. Thank you for your kind words, Joanni! Please share these stories with your friends! I hope it can help many new wives that are out there, the seasoned wives who can laugh at my beginning struggles, and those who just don't understand what it is we go through!

    Thank you, again, for reading!


I LOVE comments! Thanks for sharing : )