"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.

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.

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