"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, 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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On His Mind

"Who does this shirt make you think of?" she asked - not expecting an answer.

Without taking even a second, he says, "Daddy!"

Tears were in my mother's eyes when he said it with his smile and tears waited there again when she told me. She had been dressing him and she showed him the t-shirt from a fundraiser at Fort Campbell. The front reads, "Proud of my soldier" and on the back is a spade with "Currahee Kid" printed over it. He has worn this shirt many times before. He sleeps in it, he plays in it, he watched soldiers come home in it. He knows this shirt is directly linked to his daddy...and he so loves his daddy.

These moments are becoming easier now. At first, even before C left, the fear of Logan losing the memory of him - of who his daddy is - broke every part of my heart. I recognize that for Eli this will be normal - I have already accepted that in my mind. He will have to get to know his daddy when he returns and that is okay to me. But Logan and C are incredible together. Their bond is overwhelming, the love my husband has for our children and the complete admiration Logan has for him both heals me and breaks me. He is such a good father. I am so proud and so very blessed to walk this journey with him - as bumpy as it can be.

"Daddy!" Logan yelled as the familiar tone rang. The same three numbers would show up as the satellite phone so I had saved them all under the same loud and obnoxious ring. Logan was ecstatic when he heard it and ran to the phone.

The only voice that came through the line was the recording stating, "The call could not be completed." This happened four times before C gave up. Each time Logan's face lit up. Each time the wrong voice spoke, his color drained and his lip dropped. The disappointment in his eyes traveled to my own. My lip dropped too and I hugged him.

"Daddy," he repeated over and over again as he tried desperately to make my phone work. Holding it up to his ear, swishing his fingers across the touch-screen, pressing the one button on the front. He finally handed me the phone and allowed me to just hold him. He's been cuddling so much more these days.

And these moments are so very heartbreaking. No mother wants to see her child hurt. No mother wants to deprive their child of joy - and that is what C is to him - complete joy. I thought these moments would destroy me - the pain that accompanies each dropped lip and every teary eye.

I had to think, find a way to not feel broken throughout this, to make these moments moments that can strengthen me, lighten the load, give me hope. I looked at my reality. I accepted my reality. And I saw things from a new perspective.

The entire predeployment I was terrified that when C returned, Logan would not know him. That he would be scared of him. That he would not remember anything from before. The image I had made up in my head of C walking towards us and Logan not running into his arms gave me the greatest stress. My hair may be graying just thinking about it. And it is difficult to explain if you have never seen C and Logan together. They are a pair, a team, buddies and they have been since the day Logan was born. I could not bear the idea of that not happening and every time Logan would miss his daddy I would hold onto that made up image.

I realized that the way I was perceiving his sadness was wrong. This was good - not Logan's heartache or disappointment, of course - but the fact that he missed his daddy. He knew him, he knew what they would do together, he knew that different things "belonged" to him and daddy. He knew these moments, these memories, that belonged to the two of them and he missed them. He knows him and he will continue to know him and to love him and to want him. He knew that that shirt was linked to his dad and he was so happy to wear it. He knows that it is daddy's voice that reads to him at night. He points to him in pictures, he talks about him when he brushes his teeth the way daddy does as he pretends to gurgle when he's done. He knows which car is mine and which one is his. All of these things make him happy as much as they make me sad.

He loves his daddy. He knows his daddy. He loves to hear his voice and give kisses through the phone. C is his buddy, his best friend.

And that is the image I hold onto now. Of C walking out of that formation. Of his camo somehow emerging from the sea of camo surrounding him. Of Logan's face when he recognizes him. Of him in C's arms so very happy to hold him and touch him and see him. Of the beaming smile on Logan's face and the tears in C's eyes. I hold onto this image as it continues to both break me and heal me.

I miss our family. I miss my husband. I miss seeing his face. I miss seeing him smile. And it is so good to understand that my son does too. The moment he wouldn't want him, the second he wouldn't ask for him, the instant he wouldn't point to C in a picture would be the moment that would truly break my heart.