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.