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 ...
"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.