"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, March 29, 2011

Father Time

When did this happen? When did we get to "just a few more days"? When did time begin to pass again? Slow down ... SLOW down! Please, I'll do anything. I'll BE anything. I'll do more, I'll help more, I'll pray more if only You will slow this time down. 

And I don't know how it got here. Last week seems so far away - everything we did. Every excited moment, every happy smile, every special gift seems so far away. A lifetime away. Just one week ago is a lifetime away.

Suddenly we are moving too fast, suddenly we are clinging onto these moments, gripping, trying to hold them back. Trying to keep them from moving forward. Trying to hold onto the tiniest seconds. Because I only get to wake up next to him for a few more days. Because I only get to hear him talk our children to sleep for a few more days. Because I only get to see Eli walk to him for a few more days. Because I only get to hear Logan say, "Come on, Daddy" for a few more days. Because I only get to know he is safe for a few more days. Because I only get to "know" things for a few more days.

Days that will turn into hours. Hours that will turn into minutes. Minutes that will turn into seconds. Seconds that will turn into instants. Instants that will turn into nothing.

Just a few more days.

Father Time, I'll do anything.


Just slow it down.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On the Homefront - Guest Post by Adrienne

Adrienne Stravitsch is a proud Army wife, who's husband is currently deployed.  She is the mother to a very energetic sixteen month girl, and loves every second of it.  Together, she and her little battle buddy are holding down the homefront until their Soldier comes home. She blogs at Fun Size.

As I stood on the brink, in the midst of the boxes, camo bags, groceries and general mess, the reality of it all would grab me in the gut.  Fear of living without him, of losing him, of losing connection with him.  Anger at him leaving, being so brave, and feeling so insecure.  I was terrified at the prospect of not just surviving life without him for a year, but living life without him for a year.  Of living life joyfully.  Truly, this seemed impossible.  Living life without my husband and enjoying it seemed impossible. 

But, we are doing it!  This morning, I sit here with my cup of coffee, not just content but truly happy.  He's not home, but I have a fantastic husband fighting a fight that not many can.  Though she missed her Daddy terribly, I have a beautiful daughter, with whom I've been given a chance to bond in a way I wouldn't have.  Together, she and I fight together.  Who knew a sixteen month old could bring me such comfort, love, and security?  Though it takes longer to clean and keep up, I have a stable home full of fond memories with my husband and our child. 

I have realized that happiness doesn't depend on someone else.  Happiness is not my husband, not a clean house, not stability, structure, and schedule.  Happiness lies not in a cooked meal set on the table, steaming hot.  Happiness does not disappear when the husband leaves, when the daughter struggles to understand why her father vanished. 

Happiness lies in you.

Every morning, when my alarm pierces the air, I have a decision to make.  I can wallow in self-pity and remain in bed.  I can pull the sheets over my head and cry about the empty space next to me.  I can be miserable and mourn my husband's absence. 

Or, I can decide to be happy.  When my alarm pierces the air, I can choose to be giddy about waking my daughter, get excited about sharing precious and intimate moments shared with her while the early morning sun creeps into the kitchen.  I can focus on the sound of the coffee brewing, the dates with friends, the Skype-calls with my husband.  I can garner strength from the many prayers being said for our family.  I can focus on the structure we've carefully and consciously constructed on the Homefront. 

No, happiness, I have learned, does not lie in foreign things.  We pull the happiness from ourselves, especially as military wives.  We choose to reach deep down inside of ourselves, even in the dark moments when we miss the call, appliances begin shutting down, or the R&R gets pushed way back.  We decide to reach down, and we pull out the happiness.  We shift our perspectives, and force ourselves to focus on what we do have.  Because, when we shift that perspective, though initially painful, we are winning our fight. 

This morning, I choose to focus on the amazing and heroic courage my husband has in fighting a war far from his family.  I choose to focus on how this incredibly difficult lifestyle has not destroyed our relationship but, thank God, has brought us closer.  Taught me humility, patience, courage.  I choose to focus on having learned incredible flexibility in life's twists and turns.  I choose to revel in our beautiful family, my daughter, the laughs and intimate conversations shared over Skype.  I choose to find joy in my daughter still loving her Daddy, even if he is not home right now. 

Here, on this Homefront, we are not merely surviving.  We are living.  Living Joyfully.  Because that is what we choose to do. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What You Cannot Do

"Why did you cancel practice last week?"

"Because my husband came home and he is still here so lets get practice finished," I smiled in reply. And yet another hand goes up. "Does this have to do with music?" I ask knowing most likely it won't.

"No, but it has to do with choir." Sure it does. They can twist anything so that it 'has to do with choir'. I slightly nod my head allowing her to continue. "Ms Megan, I don't think I could marry someone in the military."

"That doesn't have to do with choir, _______" (not giving the student's name). 

"I know but it kinda does. I mean, it has to do with you. I just ... well ... they leave all the time," she was wringing her hands in her shirt. She was really thinking about this. "I mean ... I just couldn't do that, ya know?"

"Then maybe don't marry a military man, _______. But, _______, you would be amazed at all the things that you thought you could not do but did. Now, back to the music."

How many times had I shared this thought? How many times had the perspective of a 5th grader on this life been so parallel to my own? How many times did I say "I could never ..." "I will never ..." "I can't ..." How many times had those words stomped on my heart trying to reason with it, attempting to prevent the agony that can accompany this lifestyle? How many times?

Thousands. At least.

"I can't."

I say it repeatedly because this life will give us vulnerable times repeatedly. Weak moments allow for the weakest of words.

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." - Eleanor Roosevelt

You must do what you cannot do. And you will. 

Because you were chosen for this.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Beyond All Boundaries"

It took very little - the images of children among the wreckage - thats when they quietly made their appearance. Silent tears. There was no noise in that barely filled theatre except for the sound of the bombers on the large, rounded screen. Amazingly realistic - the 4D images unbelievable. 

The voices quoting the greatest generation - such a different generation - echoed in the rings of gunfire, cries of pain, sounds of despair. Such a different time. Such a different war. 

No American could help but be moved by this presentation. No American could ignore one of the very few men proudly wearing WWII veteran caps again after seeing this - no American ever should. No human being ever should.

I held my husband's hand throughout - slowly moving my fingertips up and down his forearm for most. Unwilling to be disconnected. Unwilling to let go as long as it continued.

"Beyond All Boundaries" - everyone should see it.

My husband and I have made half-a-dozen trips to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans since we have been together. I was incredibly honored just to watch this film - horribly humbled by what it portrayed. My mind was a jumble of questions - my heart a confusion of emotions. It left me asking, "Am I worthy of this sacrifice?"

I cannot tell you how much I wish I could shake the hand of every WWII veteran still living. I cannot tell you how much it helped me to understand my grandfather. I cannot tell you how much it made me feel guilty for anything I have ever done that disgraces the eternal sacrifice made by so many young, young men in a war I never experienced - that my parents never experienced. I cannot tell you how much it made me want to teach my children to be honorable men. I cannot tell you how grateful it made me for my freedom - for my life - for my ability to worship the God I choose to worship, how I choose to worship. I cannot tell you how even more aware it made me of how different that war was and is from the one my husband fights in. I cannot tell you how blaring the differences between an entire nation behind those who fought then and the divided nation behind those who fight now broke my heart. I cannot tell you how the reality that these men spent years separated from their families made me feel guilty for every complaint I have ever made over a 12-month-deployment. I cannot tell you how tightly I now hug my children after seeing the footage of Japanese children burned by flame-throwers. I cannot tell you how that film changed me.

I cannot tell you ...

Every American adult should see it.

Every. Single. One.

Information on Beyond All Boundaries.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I impatiently kept stepping over to the side - hoping to get a glimpse of him. Why was he taking so long? Was that a pilot getting off? Why was there a pilot walking off? 

Panic ... Did he not make the flight?? The attendant read my face, "Williams, right? He's on there. He's coming. Hold that sign up, little man!" He helped Logan hold up the "Welcome Home Daddy" hand-made sign. Logan was so excited. I was amazed at how well he understood what was happening. He could hardly stand still but he was so well-behaved. Eli on the other hand ...

Well I did interrupt his nap-time (or nixed it all together, rather) so of course he was screaming. That and the fact that he mastered the whole walking thing this week and was SO over being held. I would usually be embarrassed, panicked by the screaming child in my arms in such a busy airport. My face would be beat red, my body would tense, my mind would be screaming. And it was until ...

I saw him.

"DADDY!!" Logan screamed, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" He stood beside me screaming. I had told him he had to stay right by me throughout the airport.

"You can go, Logan,"and he ran to him - sign still in his hands. "Hi, Daddy!" He handed him the sign and jumped into his arms.

Applause broke out around us. Was Eli still crying? I had no idea. Someone yelled, "Welcome Home!" but I barely heard it. I saw Logan in his arms hugging him - like no time had passed. His Daddy was home.

"You okay?" he asked as he reached out to hug me. I couldn't speak. I just barely nodded my head as I realized I couldn't even open my lips. His head flew back, his mouth opened and he laughed.

I had not said a single word since telling Logan. I fell into his arms, me holding Eli, him holding Logan and the tears didn't stop. They started the moment I saw that uniform, that smile, that beaming smile. I didn't have any words. My family was one - in the same embrace we held so very long ago. The four of us, holding onto each other - centered together. There was no one else there. No sound, no screaming, no clapping, no words, nothing. Except the sound of his laughter.

His laugh responding to my tears. His laugh telling me he's home.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tick Tock

(This has been posted AFTER the fact. I will never post his movement while it is occurring or when he is preparing to move on this blog. OPSEC - for everyone's safety. He is currently home.)

There isn't a single ticking clock in my room, not in the boys room, definitely not in my car, but I hear it everywhere:

Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Everywhere I go I hear it.

Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

It's a simple, quick "tick". Not like a tongue clicking, or an overly dramatic time scene in some movie, but a quiet, swift "tick." It follows every step.

I am so very excited and impatient and ready. But there is so much more wrapped into the ticking of that clock. Because right now - it seems steady but so very, very slow. Hours and days keep being added rather than subtracted. As each tick brings it closer another change in the plan adds a thousand more. I am waiting. And waiting. And ...

But how quickly will that ticking change when he is home. How quickly each little moment will go by - each precious, tiny, tiny moment. How much will that sound change - becoming louder  - so much more like an annoying clicking tongue. And everything that we will try to do in that small window of time - 15 days - will make is go by so much quicker. I keep saying that next time we will be like other couples - next year we will disappear for those two weeks with just our little family. No one but me, him, and our little boys. Our tiny family. Because when it comes down to it, this time is for us.

I cannot tell you how much I struggle with this - how much I admire those who can turn the rest of the world off for that time period and shut everything else out but eachother. I am not brave enough for that. There are so many people who love this man - who want to see him with their own eyes, and touch him, and know that he really is here. I can understand that because that is all that I want - to see him, to touch his skin and know he is real, he is alive. He is safe. So how can I fault anyone for wanting the same? I can understand it.

But this time is such a precious time - such a vital time - for us to be together. More precious than I think anyone who doesn't live this can possible understand. Because with each tick of the clock, we know that there will be another goodbye. With each tiny moment that we cherish we know that they are limited. And that time is ours - selfish, maybe, but ours.

There will be a goodbye again. This man will kiss his children goodbye - again. This man will walk away from those he loves the most - again. This man will break my heart ... again. And every tick will remind me - as we struggle to fit it all in, to make everyone happy - that that goodbye is closer, that goodbye is eminent. That these moments are the most precious of all moments.

I will see him before me - not as a blurry, digital image - but him. I will touch his hands, his face, his arms, his chest and feel the heart that beats inside of it. For these precious moments I will know that he is real - for another day, for another night - he is alive, he is safe, he is mine. And those moments belong to us.

How selfish. How necessary. How much I can't wait.

He's coming home ... for a little while.

Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Deep Spice

C has never been good with presents, special occasions, and what-not. It is pretty much a running joke between the two of us as to just how bad he actually is with these things. And it isn't that he doesn't care - he does - he is just not very good at surprises.

This past Christmas I was so very happy with seeing the joy on Logan's face when he opened the Night Before Christmas book that held C's voice that I didn't go through the rest of the box until much, much later.

I couldn't believe he had remembered. I couldn't believe he had stored one comment I had made on the phone months before and let it spark something. 

"I can't smell you anymore," I had told him on a harder day. There was one shirt in particular that I kept just because it smelled like him. He wore it after taking a shower a day or two before he left. It smelled just like his soap, his skin, the scent that followed the steam when he would open the door. My younger sister (who believes my closet to be her own - as sisters always do) had taken this shirt to sleep in while she was home from college. 

She washed it.

His smell was gone. I know I looked like a crazed person when I discovered her mistake. But I couldn't smell him anymore and the sheer thought of that made me panic. I don't think we know how much we will miss that - the everyday, always around scent - until we can't have it.

Inside the hand and foot-print covered box was a heavy-duty, blue Ziploc bag, sealed and then taped closed. No air was getting in this thing, no air was getting out - he thought it through well. I didn't open it when I noticed the crest on the chest that I had become so familiar with. It was the sweatshirt that he wore everyday - for years. I had grown to hate the little holes in the cuffs and the wearing away of the black cotton. I cannot tell you how many times I had tried to hide it from him. I had no idea why he loved that rag so much but I knew now why I suddenly did. 

I hugged the thick, blue plastic to my chest and cried. 

"It's yours now" was written on the scrap paper attached to it. The kindest gift.

I haven't opened this package. I know how horrible that is - probably why I haven't written about it until now. But I cannot open it. I know - or at least I hope - that whenever I choose to open that tightly sealed and re-sealed bag that it will all come back. The smell after a hot, steamy shower - that deep spice scent. And I can't risk losing it. The very idea of never smelling that again ...

It stops my heart.

It crushes my chest.

I forget how to breathe.

I cannot lose it. But I can't smell him anymore.

And I so want to know that smell.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Pledge

Bathtime for Logan is play time. Very often my Dad takes this chore on for me so that I can put Eli down to bed. It is just another little thing that provides much needed support. But when Logan's hair needs to be washed I usually bathe him. That boy has a LOT of hair.

"What should we sing?" I asked - like I always do when I wash his hair. "Wheels on the bus?" He shakes his head. "ABC's?" (always a favorite). 

 "No," he responds plainly. 

 "Umm.... Itsy Bitsy Spider?" 

 "Nope" he responds - a sly smile creeping across his face. 

 "Then what should we sing?" I asked, running out of options. 

 "Pwedge," he responded his smile becoming wider. 

 "Pwedge? What is 'pwedge'?" I thought to myself. And before I could figure it out, he began ... 

 "I pwedge a'legins to the flag of the 'nited nates of 'merica.
  And to repubwic, for ich it stands, one nation, ununer God, 
  inninisible, wit litity and hustice for all!" 

 Soap in his hair, beaming smile on his face, my hands were frozen. He saw my tear. 

"You 'kay?" he asked suddenly concerned. This wasn't the reaction he expected. 

"Yes, buh-ga," I smiled back. "Very, very good, Logan," still processing everything that I was feeling.

"'gain?" he asked. I nodded and he began, " I pwedge a'legins..."

My two-year-old can say the pledge. Of course he says it how I would expect most two-year-olds to say it - but, my two-year-old can say the pledge. Logan has a speech problem - he struggles with so many words, with so many phrases, but he proudly and meaningfully says the pledge of allegiance.


How incredible that his daddy will hold that little boy and hear him say it for himself so very, very soon. How amazing will that moment be?

How incredible.

How absolutely incredible.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag, my heart to the soldier that defends it, and my never ending support to all who serve with him." - unknown

Reintegration Series - Part 1

Very often we focus on the 'finish line' - the getting home part. It is easy to think that getting here is the toughest part - getting 'here' is all that we need to get through. But that is only half the battle. Reintegration is a very personal struggle. It is different for every family, for every soldier, for every spouse. Sometimes are easier than other - and they don't necessarily become easier with each deployment. They may even become harder. While I have seen and listened to many other spouses' experiences with reintegration, I have never gone through this as a spouse. I think this is a very important time for spouses to understand what parts are normal and what parts are not - what parts you can push through together and what parts you may need the assistance the Military provides. Over the next several weeks - and maybe months - a spouse is going to share her story. Because of the personal nature of reintegration and what it can bring up - she will remain anonymous. If you comment below - which I encourage you to do so that we can strengthen and comfort each other - please do so anonymously (you have this choice when you fill out the comment form). This is a very personal topic and I am sure all service members would prefer that no connection be made to them and their family in a public forum. If you have any questions that you want to go in depth with you can always email me. 

He's Home! Those sound like the most wonderful words in the world to a woman who has been waiting for 12 months to share her home again - with a man who has always been the number one priority in her life. And they ARE the most wonderful words. She doesn't have to worry about what could happen to him in some distant land that she is never allowed to visit. She doesn't have to worry about when she'll get her next phone call just to hear his voice for 5 minutes (if that), or what to pack in that tiny flat rate box. Or even about waking up in the middle of the night to find a dog sleeping in his place.

But is this over? Has the deployment come to an end? Witnessing a homecoming as an outsider may suggest that it is. The cheers and laughter that echo throughout the hangar give us all a sense of relief. They are home. They are safe. I'm not saying this isn't the most wonderful feeling. Because it is. I am relieved. And the emotions that were felt that day ARE REAL. Honest to GOD joy! But the challenges still lie ahead.

Reintegrating for our first few deployments was difficult, but this one feels like it will be the hardest. I can't remember all of the details from the last few. And I wish I had written a journal then so I would have something to relate to now. But I will have to remind myself that he has changed. I don't know what he's seen or has been through (or if he'll even ever tell me), but I know there has been soo much pain this time. I have my own ideas by hearing tidbits from others. He is broken. I want to pick up the pieces, but I am not the one in control. I have to accept that it will take time for him to heal. I need to give him space even though I don't want to. I cling to him because I've missed him soo much. But it frustrates him. Little misunderstandings turn into arguments. I wonder if he's taking out his anger of past situations onto me. And then I snap at him. It's easy to say... "You haven't been here". And then I realize how wrong those words sounded. How could I say that? How hurtful. Like he asked to leave me. He didn't have a choice. Yes. We chose this lifestyle. But no one wants to leave their family for a year. And I know he only did it FOR me. And will continue to do it FOR us.

I feel like I shouldn't speak those words because I DO have him home with me now. And it sounds like petty little complaints in comparison to what could have been. Soo many others do not and will not have their soldiers. Soo many lost their soldiers. And I am ever grateful to them for their sacrifices. Nothing will ever make up for what they lost.

To be continued ... 

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I am beginning to breathe again.

The last two weeks have been hard for me - everything is okay - but there have been a lot of "coming up's" all coming up at the same time and it has been overwhelming. I have been planning for a cross-country move with two kids and without my husband. So today I did something that seems basic - and I know horribly simple - but that calmed me. I didn't expect it to be calming - I expected it to have the opposite affect. Maybe even to be the tipping point to my sanity. But, it was a necessary task so I jumped into my car and went to my home away from home (no, not Starbucks - the other one) - Target. 

There were two things I needed (okay - only one thing I needed - one thing I wanted) and I managed to leave the store forgetting to grab the "thing" I actually needed to get. Yep, made it all the way to the car. Maybe that meant I could wait a while - do it another day. But that wouldn't help and I put my keys back into my purse and headed back through the sliding red doors.

I headed up the escalator (yes, our Target is two stories - awesome, I know) and then turned around and headed right back down after remembering they were only up there during the holidays. I felt it coming - slight panic in my chest, pressure around my spine. The fear that I would start crying due to mental exhaustion when my eyes found the aisle. I continued walking - feeling the tightness pushing into my throat making it harder to swallow. And then I saw the three aisles they took up - so many colors. Here it comes ... any second ... any moment its gonna hit me ... I know it ... any minute ... here it comes ... 

And it didn't. I felt the tension leave my neck, my shoulders, my back loosened, I could swallow again. No panic. No tears. No embarrassing freak out in the middle of Target on a weekend. 

I listened to my own steady breathing - calming, reassuring. 

I grabbed three large ones and headed back to the front of the store. I felt the slight smirk spread across my face.

Storage bins.

Who would've known?

Thursday, March 3, 2011


"Did you already pick up Logan?" she asked - slightly confused. 

"No?" I answered, not understanding. "NO!"I jumped up. No I had not picked him up. It was 2:20. He had to be picked up from preschool by 2:30. I ran out the door - barely catching a glimpse of the surprise on my mom's face. 

"One sec, I need to get a call." I clicked "hold + answer" on the screen not recognizing the number. 


"Megan? Do the kids have practice today?" No way - what was WRONG with me?

"Oh! Yes, yes they do! I'll be there in a minute." I grabbed my purse - not even bothering to run upstairs to grab the folders of music I may or may not need with Logan following behind. I walked onto the porch, "I have practice!" I shouted to my mom - clearly upset with the malfunctioning of my brain. I didn't just catch a glimpse that time - I saw her full expression and I tried not to process it - I was shocked enough myself. "Eli is still asleep." 

"Okay," she responded. Simple. I have such a good mom.

I cranked the car and turned in the neighbors driveway to head the four blocks to the school. My eye caught Logan confusingly waving "bye" to me through the glass of the door. 

What was wrong with me? I shook my head the entire drive up to school.


No, No - it isn't the migraines. I can't blame it on that - those are almost non-existent now. The headaches are back but those I know are stress headaches. They are nothing in comparison to what the pain was before. This is all mental - 100% mental.

I am mentally exhausted. Emotionally drained. Unable to remember routine, basic, simply, everyday, this-is-how-my-schedule-is-every-wednseday, kind of things.

I am never late - very rarely. And if I am late it is because there is a very large Starbucks cup in my hand and I don't count those times. That cup of rich, wonderful, power java that I may be holding is well worth the five minutes it cost me. I will get more done with it, I will be happier with it, I will be far more useful to whoever was waiting on me with it. I do not count those times, so - no - I am never late.

But I am not really 100% me right now.  My family has reached a fork in the road so to speak - but really it isn't a fork. It is more of a single crack in dry mud that once pressure is applied breaks into a fork, and that fork breaks into other forks, and those forks break into other forks and those each continue to break into their own tiny,
little, little forks until there is just a land mass of broken ground and no where to step.

The Army doesn't give you forks in the road - there aren't any crossroads for us - my wouldn't those be easy. The Army gives you a flight scheduling board - listing dozens of different possibilities and then it says wait.  Because whatever flight you think you are going to be on has suddenly been delayed - or better yet - cancelled or - who knows - early! And maybe the flight you thought was yours can't take off until this other plane heads out of here and then the next depends on when this one leaves and so on and so on. Or perhaps, one flight comes in sooner than expected and now everything else has to be adjusted because that one key point changed. It is overwhelming to stare at those screens and search for the flight that says, "This is you. This is how you will get from A to B. Take THIS route"

And I am talking nonsense 1) because I honestly may have lost it a little bit right now, 2) because I am caffeine deprived  3) because I know very, very little,  4) because the little I know I can't say and 5) because whatever I do know will probably change 3 or 4 times anyway - this month alone.

And I will never understand how the largest organization of this nation can't make concrete decisions that seem so simple to me. It is in everything - hurry up and wait. Plan for this ... plan for that ... and then we are going to change it all anyway. If the Army gods were women ...
So right now I feel lost - standing before a hardened ground of a countless number of cracks, each depending on another as to which direction it will take. Each one breaking from something else. Each decision affecting another. Each presenting its own unknown. Each scaring the life out of me - relinquishing my ability to focus on the basics. Each taking away my energy which we all so desperately need. 

I cannot move forward until I know which little crack is ours to follow - and I can't know that right now. I don't know when I will.

And that is what makes me feel the most lost.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One Weekend a month and two weeks a year ...

Guest Post by Lorena
For our National Guard and Reserve Families: Lorena is the wife to a National Guard soldier currently deployed to Afghanistan. I asked if she would write a guest post and she did an excellent job. As active-duty (or "full-timers" as she calls us), one of the most vital tools to our "survival" is support and at times we may take that for granted. After reading this, it will be harder to do so. I know that she would appreciate any response from those of you in a situation much like her own.

"Guess what?" He types.

"What?" I type back.

"They show Army commercials here in between the TV programming."

"Really? Are they trying to recruit you?"

"Yeah. Apparently there’s this thing called the National Guard-- It’s only one weekend a month and two weeks a year. We should look into that."

“One weekend a month and two weeks a year.” Riiggghhhttt... A running joke in our household after eight months in to a yearlong deployment with his National Guard unit, we try to work the phrase into everything, just to have a laugh. If we complain about the Guard at all, most often it will end with a “but it’s only one weekend a month and just two weeks a year, babe!”

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m very proud of my husband—of his sacrifice. I’m proud of his unit and the mission they have been assigned. I’m proud of being a wife to a Guard soldier and his commitment to his country. It’s a core part of who he is and an integral part of the man I fell in love with. But being a National Guard family has unique challenges different from that of the full-time military. His armory is a hanger, two hours from our hometown. The nearest large installation is an Air Force base about an hour away. FRG meetings are held at the armory, and attending them is no small feat for a family with young children. The soldiers’ families in his unit are not congregated on a base, or even in one town; they are spread out over a region of about 100 miles. And so the cohesion and support network many regular duty families enjoy is simply nonexistent for National Guard families, something I’ve felt acutely over the past months. It’s been eight months and I have yet to see a single family from my husbands’ unit, which is a shame, since misery loves company and there really could be a great support group if we just lived closer. As such, we turn more to neighbors, friends, and family, most of whom have not the slightest indication of what it is to lose a member of one’s family for 12 months.

It can be a lonely world.

In the beginning, I heard the phrase “If there’s anything we can do to help, just ask” so much that my head would begin to ache with each time someone said it. Best intentions, but hard to actually act upon. As I tell my husband, people forget. When you’re not surrounded by other families who are going through the exact same ordeal or in the midst of it yourself, it’s very easy to see that yellow ribbon tied to a tree and offer, but then never follow through.

As for myself, I fully admit to having a hard time accepting help, even when it is offered in direct terms. Perhaps it makes me feel inadequate, like I should be Superwoman and be able to do it all. Maybe it’s that I don’t think the help really sincerely offered, but just something said since it seems appropriate. Maybe it’s that I don’t want to put people out or take advantage of them too much. After all, we are not their family, why should it be their issue if our toilet stops working? Regardless, asking for help has been a learned trait this past year. Lots of swallowed of pride. Lots of “If you have a minute…” or “if you don’t mind…” moments. Sometimes those who offered make good on their offer and help, other times they don’t. Sometimes I just wish they would barge through my front door and help without having to be asked.

I would never suggest that National Guard families have it harder than full time regular military families. To even think it would be an injustice to those families who go through these separations on a regular basis. Yet as the National Guard is used more and more outside of the realm of which it was intended—stateside and national missions—better assistance has to be found for those Guard families left behind. For the first time this month, the FRG meeting is going to be a telephone conference. Families need to find ways to communicate to with other, being that proverbial shoulder to lean on for one another like so many regular duty families are to one another. The Guard is no longer “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” like it’s advertised to be and service members join up knowing that they will face at least one deployment, if not more. Their families need access to the same support that full timers get.

Having been through this now, I have a greater appreciation for the military family as a whole. Of the sacrifices they make again and again and again. It is an appreciation that humbles me and makes me acutely aware of what that yellow ribbon means and what that family is likely experiencing… the heartache, the worry, and the pride. It is an experience like none other, and unless you endure it firsthand, you are unlikely to fully understand the implications of that yellow ribbon. I love a soldier, regardless if it’s a commitment of one weekend a month or a year deployment, I love a soldier. My eyes scan for yellow ribbons everywhere I go.