"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, July 27, 2011

When One Becomes Two

Military women are some of the strongest, most resilient, unyielding women you will ever come across. We take on double the load. We act as single parents while keeping the other parent "present". We fight to not just survive but to thrive. We cry the greatest tears, feel the deepest longing, pray the fiercest prayers and we make it through. We keep moving forward. We do what we have to do to build a strong family, to keep a strong marriage, to raise happy and loving children.

We take everything onto ourselves. We have no other choice but to be both parents, to make every decision, to live as independents while existing as a "co". When our soldier is gone, we learn how we need to do things independently in order to still do them well without our partner present. Once we find that ability we cling to it and it gets us through each and every day. 

Then they come home and everything shifts.

It isn't easy.

Because we are the strongest of women. We are determined women. We are (and have to be) women who can make it on their own. We decide where things are placed. We mow the lawn. We take out the trash. We discipline and reward our children. We determine the routine. We pay the bills, sign the loans, set up the cable, cancel the cable, set-up utilities, check the tire pressure. We teach our children what they can and cannot do, dry their tears, hold their hands, enforce the rules. And we have to. We have to do that for our families, for our babies, for ourselves. We have to take on both roles. We have to cling to that power and ability. For twelve months we have to be in control. It allows us to make it through. It allows us to succeed. 

When our soldier comes home, we have to find ourselves again. The "who I am" when one becomes two. It is  hard to get out of that "go" mode. That "this-is-the-way-I-said-it-is-going-to-be-so-this-is-the-way-it-is-going-to-happen" mode. We have to learn to discuss and decide together again rather than to just do. We have to become a unit again. We have to relinquish some control. We have to allow them to decide. We have to let them know they matter, that we need them.

It doesn't just happen. It is so important to realize that it can't just happen. We can't just shut-off survival mode. It isn't natural to let go of something so easily that is nowhere near easy to gain. It takes so much energy and determination to get us to that point. To just let it go, to just "forget" how to live that way cannot so easily come to be. It takes time. It takes patience.

When we marry we have to learn to go from being two to living as one. When our soldier returns we must relearn it again. 

We have to listen to each other. We have to talk to one another. We have to acknowledge that this is hard. This is the next part of the cycle. We will learn through this together. 

We are strong women married to brave men. And we must help each other through as one becomes two. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Closed-Ended-Question

I used to be a sales manager. I was throughout college - working throughout school. I remained one during the beginning of my marriage. I worked for a very good company, with some incredible women, and so much of what I learned in that experience has remained with me beyond it. One of the first rules of sales - or at least one of mine - is to always, always, always ask open-ended-questions. It forces an answer. Starts a conversation. Helps to get information. A closed-ended-question only leaves room for a 'yes' or a 'no'. Think of "What are you shopping for today?" versus "Are you shopping for anything in particular today?" Nine times out of ten even if you are shopping for a particular thing you are going to say, "No," and thats the answer whoever asked it expects. But if they ask the first question - the open-ended-question - you will probably say, "I'm looking for something for your niece's graduation," or "My son needs a new pair of khaki's," or "I want to get something special for my husband's homecoming." Think about it.

In the last nine days we have put three-thousand-five-hundred-fifty-seven miles on my car, ventured through five states, had two bar-b-que's, stayed in two homes, had one hospital trip, and been asked the same closed-ended-question a batrillion times. 

(Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit on the last one.)

But really, once is enough and I honestly don't have a clue how many times we've heard it. It isn't the question that gets to either of us. The question makes sense. I would have asked if C hadn't given me the answer many months ago. 

"Do you have to go back?" 

There are, in theory, two answers to this question. I say 'in theory' because C is an Infantryman. I say 'in theory' because with the state of the world this is an (almost) silly question. I say 'in theory' because it seems that his answer will always be the same.


And we receive the same response every time. Faces contort into strange frowns, anger shows, confusion takes over. "Oh, no!" "That isn't right." "They can send someone else." "That's not fair." "How do you know?" "Are you sure?" "Where?" "When?" "Why?"

And then we tell them. "We have been incredibly fortunate." "We've had it 'good'." "We've been so very blessed." Because by the time that deployment rolls around, it will be only three in eight years. Because C has been in country, beside me, for the births of both of our boys. Because he has returned to us unharmed each time. Because with the exception of this year, we have been together on every anniversary. He is going back. And in the time before he does, he will re-sign his contract. There will be no signing bonus, no special treatment for doing so. It will be the same as every other time and he will still sign it. 

Because when it comes down to it, they can't send someone else. They're right, it isn't fair. It isn't fair that there are not more willing to stand beside him. It isn't right that we live in a world that has so much hatred. It isn't right that people can't understand that there are not enough men and women willing to stand up against it. 

So he will. 

I always prefer open-ended-questions. If you know me, you may notice how much I use them. How helpful I find them. I have been very blessed to have so many people around us who use them as well. "How can we help?" "What does he need?" "What do you need?"

When you ask a spouse or a soldier if there is another deployment in the future go into it expecting the answer to be "yes" and then tell them you will be praying during the preparation and the deployment. We've already gone through the "Send someone else" and the "This isn't fair" and the "Why?" Hearing it again, from anyone else, does nothing to strengthen us. 

Think about your questions and think about your answers. 

They matter and they can make a difference.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Featured Blogger - America Dreams


Oh, we've all been there. Again and again and ... again.

Meet Natalie. She is currently preparing for her second official PCS (spanning 2100 miles) and will be undergoing a partial dity. For those of you who don't think you can handle a DITY (or PPM, now, I think) we've done both a full DITY and a partial. You CAN do it if you are prepared. Follow along while her and her husband undergo the process and take notes. Welcome, Natalie, and good luck!


Monday, July 11, 2011

A Lifeline

I lost my ID today.

It vanished.

I don't know what else could have happened except that. When I went through the gate I put it on my lap. I even thought to myself that I needed to put it back in my wallet before I misplaced it.

I don't know if it fell from my lap and blew away in the Colorado wind while I did so many other things that had nothing to do with this small plastic card. But it was no where in my purse, no where in my car, not under the rugs, not in between the seats, not shoved between some other debit cards or my license, or what-not.

It was quite simply gone.

In reality, replacing it was quite simple and rather painless - an annoyance, really, but that is my own fault. I have always feared losing this little piece of my identity. A few times before I thought I had - only to find it in the laundry, or the back pocket of my jeans, or underneath the wrong slot in my wallet. You know that relief you feel when you find it - the deep breath you take when you clutch the card to your chest. I kept waiting for that today but I knew it wouldn't come.

"What can we do for you today?" the gentleman at the DEERS check-in counter asked. C stood beside me with his arms folded across his chest, leaning against the wall, out of the view of the clerk.

"Well, I'm a fool who lost her ID." The man behind the desk laughed.

"That's not a problem." he smiled, "Do you have your power-of-attorney and your license?" I looked over at C and he leaned over.

"I have my sponsor." I smiled.

"Well good! That makes it easier," he responded. 

I had told C that one time in four years wasn't that bad. He looked at me and spouted, "Never once in thirteen." Well, good for you. : )

After the long - but not ridiculous - wait at Deers ( delayed by a necessary drive to the provost marshal, first), I looked at my new ID card (Why don't they let you keep your first picture?) and took in the changes. What were these new numbers? Why were a couple blocks left blank? Had the DoD finally figured out the danger of all of that info? When my original was issued, I swear, it was a identity-thief's dream. His full name, social, my full name, social, date-of-birth, eye color, hair color, weight, height, marital status, how I like my eggs. This card carried my life - or at least whatever you needed to fill out an application for credit by mail.

On top of it, it dictates what we can and can't do. It determines whether we exist in the military world or the civilian. It allows us rights, privileges, to enter into certain areas, to drive on certain roads, to pay certain prices. It allows me to bring my children to hourly care from time to time. It proves that I belong here. It is what stands between me and getting to my physical home. And I lost mine in the best possible time - on a weekday, within normal business hours, on post, with my husband home, at a CONUS location.

Phew, was I lucky. Hold onto that card, and always put it right back in its place, right away. Always. No matter what.

(And ladies, if your husband is about to deploy, or go on TDY, or leave the area for an extended period of time, you NEED a 'DEERS-specific-power-of-attorney" in case this happens. That is a MUST HAVE. They will not take (or are not supposed to take) a general power of attorney for these situations. Your service-member does this through JAG.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Man's Best Friends

Logan has become adorably concerned with C's whereabouts. All. The. Time.

"Where you going, Daddy?"

"Daddy go to work?" "Daddy go ensercise? (exercise)" "Daddy go potty?" (Yes, that makes me laugh). 

"Daddy take a shower?" "Daddy wake up?" "Daddy go sleep?"

"Daddy be right back?" "Daddy coming back soon?"

It is constant. He is always aware of his placement, of his mood, of his needs.

"Daddy hungry?" "Daddy need water?" "Daddy tired?"

It brings so much joy to my heart to see how well our boys are doing. And I know it may not always be this way. I know that after the next deployment my little Logan will be much bigger. My little Logan will start Kindergarten the next time C is deployed. My baby Eli will be Logan's age - starting preschool. 


That hit me hard. 

Okay. Back to the present. 

My boys know their daddy. My Eli runs to him. He laughs. He hugs his legs. He reaches up to him and says, "Daddy!" It is as though no time has passed for Logan. C's still his best buddy. Still his favorite person in this world. He still wants him at every moment. Still plays with him, seeks his approval, wants to be around him any chance he gets. These precious, precious boys love their daddy. These beautiful boys know their daddy.

I cannot tell you how much I take that as a victory. How indescribably grateful I am every time I hear them call his name. Every time Logan asks one of his hundreds of questions about C. Every time Eli chooses to run to him instead of me.

I am so grateful for how much C loves them, how much they love C. 

There is little more beautiful than the relationship between a father and his children. There is little more incredible to me than seeing how much this relationship has grown through eleven months of separation, with six-thousand miles between, living two continents apart, while C lived with and worked among people of a different culture, different religion, different belief. 

And they are still best buddies.

I am so very grateful.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No Apologies

"Don't be," my non-military-friend, E, said quickly in response to another non-military-friend's comment. "Don't be sorry."

She had learned well. 

"He's doing his job. You have nothing to apologize for." Wow, she had really caught on. I stood watching.

"Well, I just meant that ... um ... I'm sorry he's not here," our mutual friend continued. 

"It's a big part of it. She's okay. Don't be sorry," E assured her.

Good job, E. I'm certain I was smirking at this point. I hadn't said a word.  

It may be the most common response when anyone hears that our loved one is deployed. I would put money on it. It's almost a knee-jerk reaction: I'm so sorry.

It's the same thing people automatically say when we find out someone is seriously ill, or has passed away, or lost a job, or ended a long-term relationship. It is a sign of a permanent change, a grave misfortune, a death. It is in no way an appropriate response to knowledge that someone is deployed.

Yet, we get it all. the. time. 

And for half-a-second, I get it. Well, maybe not exactly "get it" but maybe see from their perspective. And by that I mean, I "get" that maybe they can't really "get it" without living our side. They can't understand it and whatever they imagine it to be is so horrifying that words saved for horrendous events seem appropriate.

They aren't.

Our soldiers are not sorry. Our soldiers don't want your pity. Their spouses don't want your gloomy apology.

I'm sorry.

It's such a difficult thing to respond to because the usual response would be "thank you." And not to be totally rude, but I am not responding with that. You may get a blank stare in response. Okay, maybe not a blank one. I have trouble controlling the faces I make. Ask anyone. It's a problem.

So how do we respond? I'm sorry.

Hmmm ... I'll take E's words: "Don't Be". Maybe take it a little further (but that may knock 'em off their feet right then). My husband didn't sign his name because he was forced, or didn't have a choice, or was going for the big bucks. He didn't  re-sign his name during a war because he didn't know what that action meant. He wasn't tricked. He wasn't suckered-into-anything. He wasn't promised a life of pleasure and beaches and roses. He knew the future before him. He knows what he will be asked to do again, what he has already been asked to do, what he has sworn to do with every pen stroke giving his name. He asked - yes, ASKED - to stand up and defend this nation. He said, "Me. I want to do this. This is what I am meant to do."

There has been no loss, no trauma within our family, because this is what we have chosen to do. We stood up and said, "Me. I choose him. This is what I am meant to do."

We have never apologized for this life. We have never asked for an apology from our soldier for this life. We have never asked anyone for an apology for this life. I can tell you that before a deployment my soldier is so very sorry that he has to leave me - but that is not the same. It is not the same apology. Because that one comes from a man covered in camo, with a gun crossing his chest, and a helmet on his head and it is said to a wife who is proud of him, and grateful for him, and understands the importance of what this separation is. To his, "I'm sorry," I respond with the same "don't be" often followed by an "I know". That is the only one I will take and no one understand the absolutely complexity of that apology like an army spouse.

To anyone else, we will accept no apologies for something that we willingly took onto ourselves. They are not warranted or appropriate. We have not suffered a loss; we have gained a hero. You have gained a hero - a protector, a soldier.

No apologies.

But a Thank You, a thank you we will always pass along.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


My husband came home with a new tattoo. 

I didn't know about it until I saw it - when he took his multi-cam jacket off after we returned to our new home. And then it all came back to me - how he only skyped with his arms covered after R&R. How he was always in perfect uniform or a sweatshirt or long sleeves of some kind. He would usually take that jacket off any chance he got but for whatever reason he didn't when he returned to theatre. Sure, I noticed. But I didn't think anything of it.

I didn't think he was covering something. 

My husband has three tattoos - all that have always been able to be covered by the short sleeves of a t-shirt. A cross, an airborne tab, and the cross rifles. He had always said there was just one more that he planned on getting some day. Just that one more and then he was done.

This wasn't that one. 

And it threw me off for a handful of reasons: One - I didn't have a clue he had even considered getting one. Two - It was partially visible past the sleeves of his shirt. Three - Because of what it said.

C returned from his first deployment to Baghdad many years ago with every soldier he was responsible for. The other PL's informed me of how intense his patrols were when we were all talking the night they returned home. They joked about how he was the "luckiest unlucky guy in the unit". His patrols went under intense fire, encountered numerous roadside bombs, IED's, you name it and they all came home. Alive. 

C returned from Kandahar, Afghanistan just days ago with every single soldier he was responsible for. They all came home alive. They all came home without injury. 

I cannot tell you how very grateful I am for those two facts.

C's new tattoo runs up the inside of his right arm and reads: Remember the Fallen.

We cannot know what goes through their minds. We cannot know how they process the deaths of fallen friends. And I have struggled with this over and over again because C's experience is a little different. His soldiers that have sacrificed, his that have gone before all of us, for all of us, did so when they were not "his" soldiers. They gave all the deployment in between - when he stayed behind because I asked him to.  When he was not with them. But they were still very much his soldiers and his friends and his comrades. 

They stay with him. 


We cannot understand what goes through their minds. We can never know. 

But I know how much he must carry them, still carries them, will always carry them. 

Remember the Fallen.

They did not forget you.