For the past few days, I have been visiting with good friends at my first Army home - Fort Campbell, KY. This is where I welcomed home my husband (before he was my husband), where I watched women I did not know then welcome home their soldiers two years later, where my husband and I escorted the family of his fallen friend, where I witnessed a birth, where I delivered my first little boy, where he and I nearly died, and where we all began to live.
It is here that our life together began it's journey. It is here that I received my crash course in the military life -with excellent, and not so excellent, teachers. It is here where I found my niche. It is here where I began to learn this life. Here, there have been senior wives - seasoned wives, as I call them - who took me in once I was willing to be taken. They taught me, by example and by straight talk, the things that I needed to know. I will be forever blessed to have a handful of these women in my life and to have been led to them for this purpose.
I didn't want to go. The few wives that I knew had all left. They had said horrible things about coffees and about FRG's. I had avoided them since my furniture and suitcases landed in this awful town. But I was a horrible liar. I didn't have to work and I couldn't go back to work - I already had 50 hours in for the week. "Maybe I can get started on stuff for next week," I thought.
"Go." He interrupted the battle going on in my mind. "If you don't like it - leave. They won't bite." He knew I needed something in my life besides work. I already hated my job. I spent everyday at it thinking of how much better the one I left was about to be.
I must have changed 10 times. I was starting to show - the bump was definitely there. "Great," I mumbled, "I can't even drink." I still wasn't used to the whole pregnancy thing and I was already frustrated.
"I'll be back in half-an-hour," I yelled while walking out the door.
"An hour," he shouted back.
"Yeah, right!" I grumbled.
I know for those who know me you may be laughing at this foolishness. The me at that time was 100% content with going to work and coming home - and that wasn't the me before I married him. I wanted nothing to do with the military life - with the wives, with the social commitments, with any of it. I had been completely turned off from it by word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth - a dangerous thing.
In our life, word-of-mouth can do great harm (as it can in any life). But word-of-mouth can ruin careers. Word-of-mouth can cause a woman to wait for two men in Class-A's to show up at her door. Word-of-mouth can cause a wife to disengage. Word-of-mouth can prevent a lot of good.
Keep it shut.
For a couple months after this "coffee" I still stayed in the shadows. Claiming to be too busy, or too tired, or too anything. I went where I was told, stayed for the bare minimum, and left. I cannot tell you why I was so opposed still - but, I can tell you when and why I changed.
I had stopped working, I was on strict bedrest, my husband was working long days, and I was alone. It was a horrible feeling and not a feeling I was used too. It was almost maddening - waiting for anything to happen. After Logan was born, my husband told me the Commander's wife had asked for me to attend the coffee for that month. I had not received an eVite (which I usually ignored anyway) so I didn't know what he was talking about. None the less, I got dressed (as best as I could with my mess of a body at the time), got the diaper bag together, and Logan and I headed into the neighborhood next to mine to stop in. This time, physically, I really couldn't stay long. I was still limited on my activity from my emergency section. I think I grinded my teeth as I rang the doorbell. We were greeted with a giant gift basket and multiple women with beaming smiles. Punch to the gut - at least it may as well have been. I had not said a word to half these women - and to the other half I hadn't said much. Their husbands were deployed and mine was not - and they had done something (that we do for all new mothers in this circle) to include me.
Then I understood. I had drawn the line - they hadn't. It wasn't until right then that I could see that.
It was my time to give back - and I have never stopped giving.
At first, I volunteered out of guilt - and that truly is what it was - guilt. I helped with anything I could - wherever I could. How selfish I had been to not step in and help with those whose husbands were deployed while mine remained safe.
And then I gave because I loved to give. I gave my time - it was all I had - and I reached out and became part of something. It is when I made this decision - to be active, to be involved - that I began to learn. I began to form friendships, found women who became mentors even. And to say friendships is an understatement - relationships is more appropriate. The knowledge I gained and the bonds that formed allowed me to become me again. I cannot imagine the army wife I would be now without these strengthening bonds - perhaps I would not be an army wife.
There can be no isolation - we cannot survive that way. We cannot be completely selfish. We cannot believe everything we are told. We have to be involved, to be conscious of what is available around us. Communication - accurate communication - is vital to our survival. Relationships are vital to our survival. It is easy for some to sit and wait, to work and go home - but how many deployments will that last?
There will always be wives ready and willing to reach out - but there is only so much effort they can make. I drew the line.
I love the service this life offers to me. I love that I can serve those around me - to strengthen them and myself at the same time. To provide the resources that can foster the bonds that get us through each day is something I can offer. To help new wives, like myself, understand the life we have taken on and to commit to be active in it is something I can teach. To own it. To embrace it. To thrive in it. To know that everything becomes so much easier when we erase the line is something I can emulate.
We cannot waste years waiting for the downtime in between - because, yes, they are gone years over time. We don't get to take that time back. We only have now - right now - to live this life we have chosen. I cannot sit and wait. I can help and wait. I can reach out and wait. I can be involved while I wait. The time goes by so much faster when we do.
"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.