"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, October 25, 2011

Where it Comes From

These last two days have been an emotional roller coaster. It has hurt my heart to have people take something that I think to be so beautiful, that is so very special to me, that I feel does so much good and taint it. I know there is a reason for this. I know there is a purpose here. I know that at some point it will be shown. From adversity comes strength. From trials come determination. 

So many people have read promises now and I do not care where they read it or who they think authored it. The good is that people are reading it. It is touching people. It is helping people the way it helps me to know these things, to know the promise. I cannot find any sadness in that. 

I have decided that after this I am throwing my hands in the air, falling to my knees, and giving it up. The accusation of plagiarism will no longer hurt me. I know I would never take from anyone else - especially, especially, a soldier and his spouse. I know where I was when I wrote this. I know how I cried the entire time. I know how much I struggled with publishing it. And the reason I struggled with it was because I feared criticism. I feared people would not be able to accept the reality of it. And that never happened. It only did good. Yesterday was the only day anyone publicly criticized it - if the internet is public. So one time out of thousands, well, that isn't too bad.

On the Facebook page I linked to this criticism written by a Navy spouse. So many of you read it and came back to respond. I took it down - not because I didn't love what you all said in response - I cannot tell you how much your responses meant to me - but because of how much higher it was raising her post in rankings on the internet because so many people went to go read it. But I think my response is important to have on record, since she hasn't approved it to be shown and there may be others like her. Whether they are questioning that the experience behind the words are mine or find a wife who allows her soldier to leave her to be weak, meek, or for the soldier that does so to be less Christian as this young Navy wife believes. 

I am not sharing the link - you can find it if you look - but I will share the basis of what she says. She took The Soldier's Promise to be between a couple who hated to be together. To criticize women like me for not being selfish enough, that we must not really love our husband's enough, that they must not truly love us. That we stand in their shadows. That how less-Christian a man must be to lie to his spouse, to share things with his comrades that we don't know. She implies that we take our soldiers for granted. That we find them to be bothersome. She calls Promises "Shenanigans." 

I know other people must think that too. 

Yes, I know it is very few - a minuscule number of people but you all know how much it boils my blood when people criticize a life they don't know, don't understand. I believe in being kind in all things and to judge a life you have not lived - to question my character, to claim that C can't be Christian and live this life - that is far from kind. 

Below is my response that she did not publish - the same one I had up on my other page for an hour or two last night. I am putting it here so that other's may share and help others to understand what "Promises" means, the reality behind it, where it comes from. 


I wrote this.  I entitled it “A Soldier’s Promise”.

There is a response to it called "The Army Wife's Promise".

There has never been a day that I have prayed for a deployment to come. There has never been a day that I have wanted him gone or to lie to me or to shut me out.

My husband has served for fourteen years. He has lost dozens of friends. He has stood at funerals to honor the fallen. He has called families to tell them that their son lost both his legs. (By the way, that REMARKABLE soldier still serves).  

My husband joined at seventeen with every intention to stay in until the day he is too old. There is no six-year timeline for us. Your sailor’s service is admirable. Your dedication to him is admirable as well.  But it makes our perspectives far different.

Mine is a combat soldier.

When he walked into the house of an Iraqi family who had been murdered for helping US troops, when he saw the body of a toddler filled with bullet holes, left for so long, maggots were eating at her skin … The only person that can understand that, the only person who can deeply, completely understand what he felt in that moment is his comrade that was beside him in tears. I will never understand what it is to make the choice between destroying a possibly bomb-rigged truck speeding straight towards you, ending the life of a possible suicide bomber, and defending your men. I will never understand the moment of that decision. But the soldier who followed his order, who fired that weapon to destroy it before it destroyed them … HE understands it. He knows what it is to be forced to choose between life and death. I have never had to make that decision. Have you?

You have never gone through the month before a combat deployment to the third deadliest area in a war zone so you cannot understand what I mean by “shut you out.” No words I can say will make you understand that. But if you are balancing in your head leaving your family, the young men you are bringing with you who will leave their families, that some of them may not come back, that you may be taking sons from their mothers, fathers from their children, husbands from their wives ... You have never carried that. Neither have I. So if in those weeks before that mission, if my husband has trouble telling me “What is wrong?” Well, I can understand him not knowing what to say. It has nothing to do with PTSD.

If he tells me that he is going to CHOW when he is really going to a meeting with higher-ups, that is going to quiet and comfort my heart rather than him telling me  “I can’t tell you.” When your husband is in a war zone, and you don’t know the next time you will talk to him, have fun for that week or two or three when the last thing he said to you was “I can’t tell you.” See what happens to your sanity.

Unless you have had your husband gone for an extended period of time, you cannot know what it is to reintegrate. You cannot know what it is for things to “fall back in place.” What it is to move from survival mode to partner. What it is to move from a war zone to a house. Yes, it is like crashing back in. But you couldn’t know that.

I do not feel my husband needs to “make up” days he is not physically present for. I would never in my life expect that of him. I am not physically present for days just as special to him during deployments.  Those days are precious either way – but what is most precious in a family like ours is knowing the other is safe for one more day. The other is surviving. The other’s heart is still beating. That is the greatest gift on the birthdays they “miss” and anniversaries they aren’t here for. To think that I expect him to “owe me” for them … you couldn’t be more wrong. You cannot understand what the emotions are behind missing the birth of a child. This wasn’t talking about anger or an “I owe you.” I can understand why you wouldn’t understand that. You have never held a friends leg while she gave birth with her husband on the phone six-thousand miles away. You cannot understand the strength that takes of a marriage to show that love across the world. You cannot understand that beauty.

This was written for men and women who choose – please understand that – CHOOSE to serve this nation – day in and day out, for as long as it will allow them.

Our deployments are twelve months long. My husband has served in both wars. He will serve again. And if asked again after that, he will go. And I will never hope for those days to come, or for him to leave, or “hate when he is home.”

He is the father of our children. The love of my life. My partner on the journey.

I do not stand in his shadow. I stand beside him – proudly. I carry him with me in everything, EVERYTHING, as he does for me. I am so very sorry you cannot see that. So very sorry you cannot respect those of us who live this life for so long. I see no respect in what you wrote.  

There is such beauty in the life between this kind of soldier and his wife. It is a selfless love. No, I guess I am not selfish enough to understand what you are saying.

I am so very sorry you question the love between my soldier and me – and, yes, you are questioning it. So very disappointed you can say it makes him less of a Christian. How dare you.

My husband’s boots hit the ground, have walked the streets of Baghdad, have lived beside Afghans in Kandahar. And in all the times that he is gone, I LIVE our life, I HONOR my soldier, I raise OUR children, and keep him with me, always.

How much you do not understand.

I thank your husband for his service to our nation. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

To Own a Promise

I was with C today when I received an email notification that someone had commented on Promises. I have left the comment up. 

I did not delete it.

(Updated: Many friends have asked me, as this conversation and explanation has grown, why I have left it visible on the blog. I know deleting it seems to make the most sense.  When I began this blog I made a promise to myself  that unless something violates OPSEC or degrades the American soldier and/or their family it would remain. I will not break that promise even now.)

After you read here you are welcome to read what was written in the comments. I was accused of stealing "Promises" and of plagiarizing someone else's work. I don't know who made the accusation or where they feel credit belongs. They responded anonymously. 

(Update: He/she responded with a detailed explanation for which makes me understand the perspective better.)

Over the last week, "Promises" has been shared all over the internet - with different titles and with no author or source named. I cannot tell you how much it warmed my heart to know that this was touching so many people. I cannot tell you how much it has broken my heart to see others imply that they wrote it. A good friend knows I almost didn't publish this. I thought it may be too real - too honest. I have learned through this blog - in the months after writing this - how necessary real is. How vital it is to understand what we enter into and to understand that we all - marines', airmen's, sailors', soldier's spouses - we all are heart broken, we all are left behind, we all go through this together. 

There is so much hardness in the reality of this life. I was worried to show that when I wrote Promises. But, Lord, there is such a beauty, such a joy, such a goodness in the journey, in the hearts of each of us. We have to acknowledge the heartbreak, the darkness, to really know - I mean that deep, fiery feeling in our core of knowing - that this is worth it. This life is worthy of our joy. Worthy of the sacrifice. Worthy of the tears. 

I sat here to defend my writing. I sat here to tell you, line by line, where it came from. To point to each post before it that supports it. To defend myself. To talk about how our wedding anniversary is shared with the anniversary of the phone call informing us of the death of one of C's comrades. Or of the birth I witnessed of a friend's daughter while her husband was in Afghanistan. To take each one of these moments to claim just to our life, our journey.

And I keep typing these things and then deleting them. I keep wanting to say them - to make every one understand, to fight against an "anonymous". 

But that is the beauty of "Promises" - anyone of us could have written it. Anyone of us could take it line by line and claim it. Say "this is my life," "this is my journey."Anyone one of us has been there. 

We have all been there. 

This is my promise to C and his promise to me and to our boys. But it is your promise to your soldier - or sailor, or airman, or marine. It is his or hers to you. 

Promises belongs to every military couple.

The words are mine. My fingers wrote them. My hands published them.

But it was not just my tears that soaked them, not just my heartbreak that felt them, not just my joy that allowed them.

That is of all of us. 

As it should be. 

Until those sandy boots sit just inside our doors. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Grace-filled Life

It could be said that there are certain moments that define who we are. They are usually the big moments. The moments that other's notice, that other's comment on. They make us good or bad, patient or hot-tempered, out-of-control or filled with grace. The big moments matter. I've talked about them before. The times when someone questions what our spouses do, who asks a question that we know is inappropriate, who shamelessly degrades the American soldier with little thought to their words. How we react defines us - at least to the person (or persons) who witness what we do or do not do.

How we react (or don't react) is for each one of us to decide. There is a time to speak and a time to remain silent. We each have to choose in these moments.

"Aren't you scared he will die?"

"Aren't you mad at him for leaving?"

"Why can't he come home for Christmas?"

"Don't you think he'll cheat on you?"

"He can't come home now that they got Bin Laden?"

"What if he loses his legs?"

"I thought he only had to deploy once? Don't they only have to do one each?"

"Why are you moving again?"

"He has to leave to train? Why can't he train where you are?"

"When can he get out?"

"Why did he join? Couldn't he get another job?"

We all hear them - over and over and over and over again. Day in and day out. From strangers, from friends, from family. And these are the most testing of times.

We all have to remember how much people truly don't know about this life. How many people think that they are doing the right thing by asking such questions - thinking it shows compassion, sympathy, understanding. We know how much it doesn't. But you must be patient. You must keep grace. 

These questions can be big moments or small moments, sincere or combative, but whichever they are you must be the bigger person. You must make a choice. These questions all stem from the same place - a misunderstanding on what it is to be a soldier, to love a soldier, to support our families. And in these moments you make the choice whether or not you will change one person's way of thinking - whether or not you will help to break the cycle. Because if you can help one person to not ask another new wife if she is scared her young husband will die, or lose his legs, or cheat on her, or come back a different person ... If you can help one person to see the danger in asking a young wife if she is angry with him for leaving, or isn't it hard to do it alone, or saying how wrong it is for her to have to ... 

Think about the change you can make. To help just one person understand the service that those we love have chosen to perform - who love this country. To help just one person understand the choice that they have made. To help a single person understand what things they should and shouldn't say. 

It's the little choices that truly define our character, that mold who we are and determine how we will be when the big moments arise. How we live daily, what we believe daily, what we choose daily, gives the grace for these questions, gives the strength to make a difference, gives the strength to be patient.

Each of us just needs that little extra bit of grace, that little extra bit of patience, to give just one person a little better understanding. A better understand that they share with another who shares with another who keeps it going and fights against the misunderstanding that breaks our hearts.

Just a little bit, little choices everyday, and we can begin to break the cycle.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bittersweet In Betweens

I was checking in with one of my favorite soon-to-be spouses when her post touched me. (Head on over to From Pearls to Dog Tags and offer a little encouragement if you can.) What she talks about is something we all feel sometimes.

I have said over and over again how much I love my city. The city of my birth, my childhood, of most of my life. I know it gets old, but you just have to get over that, because no place in this world is like New Orleans. There are no words for how much I miss that place. If ever I cease to love ...

I hadn't been back during Mardi Gras in years. Strike that. I had been back but I had been pregnant and about to have Eli. This year was the first time I could go to any of it and I was beyond excited. (And for those of you who are not from there, please remove any images you have in your head of grossly inappropriate things. Only tourists do that. The locals don't.) 

The day before Mardi Gras - Lundi Gras - I spent the entire day at Spanish Plaza with one of my best friends. I was foolishly happy.  We sang along with the bands and we danced and danced and danced. I love to dance. I'm not very good at it - in fact, I look like a fool - but I love it. The atmosphere is amazing - the bands, the noise, the music, the people. Man, I love that place. It was truly one of the best Mardi Gras days of my life. 

When I got home that night my body hurt, I was exhausted, I barely had a voice, and I was on cloud nine. The smile had not left my face since I climbed into my friend's jeep to go. But that night, when the boys were asleep, I lost the joy. When everything was still and quiet I was hit with the deepest sadness. Like Cate talks about in her post, I felt empty. There really is no other word for it. All the air had been let out, the ecstasy has dissipated, nothing was left. It didn't make sense.

I had just had the best day and night in a very, very long time and C didn't share it with me. Not only did he not share it, he didn't get to see the joy that I know he would have loved to see. He didn't get to be part of it. On top of all of that - I had had the best night while he was in a war zone, far beyond the parties and joy of Mardi Gras. I felt almost guilty.

I cannot tell you all how good C is about these things. About me going someplace and having fun with my old friends. He tells me to "Have fun" and that he can't wait to hear about it. He tells my closest friend who is always with me to send him pictures. He wants me to be happy - whether he can be here for it or not. He is such a remarkable man. I am so very blessed.

But that makes it that much harder. Because I know C would have had so much fun. I know he wouldn't dance but he would have a beer and sit and laugh at me looking like a fool. He would have loved it just as much as me and I wanted him to be there for it.

So much of our life is lived without them present. Without them beside us. So much is left up to telling stories in an email, reliving it through Skype, but it just isn't the same as having them here. When I finally got to tell C about it the next day he laughed when I told him I danced for four hours, when I told him I went up and hugged someone I thought was an old friend only to have the real old friend come up to me an hour later and tell me it had gotten back to him about my mistake. He said how glad he was that I got to go - that he was sorry he couldn't be there. I was so sorry he couldn't be there too.

This is on our bucket list. C and I have never been to a Mardi Gras parade or ball together. He went to one or two before he knew me but the timing has never worked out for us. But someday, we are going to go together. Someday we will get to experience it at the same time, in the same place. And that day will be the best day.

So often the best moments are bittersweet because we experience them without our other half, without the person that we always want to share the joy with. That doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy this life, shouldn't embrace the times of separation. That day is still one of my favorite days. I would never take it back just because he couldn't be here for it. We have to enjoy the life we still have when they are gone.

These bittersweet moments allow us to appreciate the small and big moments that they are here for, that they do share in. There is a goodness in that. We have a better appreciation than most because we know how precious time together is. We know how prized those moments are. We know how to cherish them.

We have to learn to still live in the in between. To still find the happiness. It keeps us going. It keeps us feeling. The in betweens count too.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

God, Country, Family

When I was a relatively new Army wife, one of my mentors was very blunt about what it meant to be a soldier. She talked about the trinity of the military man - God, Country, Family. The sign she gave me with this written hangs on the wall in my hallway to this day.

I do not think I am overstepping in saying that when we marry a military man or woman we are asked to share in the sacrifice. I do not think it belittles their service by saying that we are also asked to serve. And I'm not saying that when we marry into this life we become martyrs - Lord knows that is not what I am saying. I am saying that if you are going to live this life, embrace this life, and find your purpose, you must make the choice to serve. You must be willing to sacrifice. Like our soldiers, your love for Country must be greater than you love for self. Your faith in God must be bigger than your desires for what comes easy, what seems "normal," what this worldly place tells us is "most convenient".

This life is not convenient. It isn't easy. It isn't "normal" (such a horrible word).

I am not saying you need to go out and volunteer until you pass out and attend every fundraiser and pack care-packages until you have paper cuts all over your fingers. I would never say that. To wear yourself down serves no greater good. We cannot do it all but everyday we must do some. So I will say, if there is only so much you have to give: give one thing that covers the whole.

Love your soldier.

I mean really, really love him. Be patient when his gear covers your freshly mopped floor, or his boots leave dirt on your just-vacuumed carpet. Hold the guilt when he tells you that he has to go for a week or two or three for training and he won't be able to attend your best friend's wedding with you, or he's going to miss your son's birthday, or he can't stay home with the kids for that girl's night you already planned three weeks in advance. He carries enough guilt in his heart already. Don't think he doesn't think about it. Don't think he needs to be reminded. He already knows. Give him a kiss, tell him, "It's okay," and pull his duffle bags out of the garage.

Trust that he misses you, that he wants to be with you, that he only does what he does because he loves you. Trust that if there was a way that he could serve his country without leaving your side, he would find it. Always, always trust.

Be proud of him. Standing behind C a few days ago while he took command of his troops, knowing the kind of man he is, knowing how he leads, was one of the proudest days of my life. I am hopeful for the future that awaits us. I am hopeful for everything that is to come. I am confident that whatever obstacles are ahead, he will overcome and lead his men through. I am always proud - on the big days and on the small days - because I married a man who would give his life for any man beside him. I married a man who believes in something bigger than him, than me, than you. Who will always give without asking anything in return. I married a man that makes me so very proud to stand beside him because of the father and the husband that he is. I am so very grateful for what he has given. So very proud. So very blessed.

Understand his sacrifice and do everything to honor it. By getting out of bed when you really want to mope and sleep and feel sorry for yourself you honor the sacrifice. Being a good mother to your children, teaching them the importance of service, not complaining that you are doing it alone in front of those who need to know how important what he does is most, honors the sacrifice. Being present, living each day, loving the life you live, the person you chose, honors their service.

Love without keeping score, without giving guilt, without demanding more in return. Love across miles, across countries, across phone calls, across a war zone. Love with your whole heart, your entire being, in everything you do. Love so deeply that it reaches beyond borders, into the darkest of circumstances, into the heart of the one who defends everything that your's holds. Love in the way that teaches your children, that makes them know what love really is, where goodness comes from, where strength comes from.

When you love your soldier, you are serving your God, your Country, your Family. You do not do one without the other. Love your God. Love your country. Love your family.

Love your soldier.

Love is an action, it is a doing, it is a choice.

Choose it today. Choose it tomorrow. Choose it everyday from here after. Every choice becomes simpler and every outcome becomes greater when, above all else, you always choose to love.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

To Root for America

C doesn't vote.

The first time I heard that (years ago) I think my jaw dropped. I couldn't believe it. He enlisted at 17. Months before he could legally vote for those who represent us, he - and his parents - signed his first contract with this nation. I don't think C has ever voted - in any election. For those of you who are freaking out like I did when I found out: take a deep breath and listen.

Many service members choose not to vote. (Yes, I was shocked by this as well). I am sure they all have their own personal reasons but I can explain it the way that it was explained to me with my jaw hanging open and eyes bugging out of my head in disbelief. I cannot speak for all those who serve but I would think that for many of them this is their reason too.

When a soldier makes a vow to this nation - and that is what it is, a solemn vow - they become a servant of the citizens of these United States. They stand up and do whatever is asked of them despite the party in power or ideology of those elected because these people in place were elected by the people. They go where they are sent, they do what they are told, they act always with those they serve in mind. There is no room for their personal opinions, their personal ideology, their personal feelings on what does or does not take place in government. Such things can cloud their minds, take them from the task at hand. Many of them step away from this sacred right so that they can best ensure that we keep it for ourselves.

I cannot tell you how much I struggled with idea when C first told me. I have voted since I was eighteen. I watch political debates (for either party), I read articles, I have opinions - strong ones. I have always believed that to not vote is irresponsible, if you don't vote you have no right to voice an opinion on the outcome. But this is not the same.

Because whether they vote or not those who defend us always, always root for America. They root for her people. They root for her children. They root for her future. They do everything in their power to ensure we are safe, that our rights stay in place, that nothing threatens our liberty. And they do it, very often, without saying a word, without giving a political opinion, without casting a vote. They put their faith in us to do that. They put their hope in us to make the decisions for this nation - to decide what things they will defend and how they will defend them, we decide what orders will be giving by deciding to whom we will give that power.

These are selfless men, selfless women, who will do whatever is asked by those we elect, with no contest. No matter what faith we do - or do not - put in them, they keep their faith in us. They have to. Their jobs would mean nothing if they did not believe in the people they defend. They never stop rooting for us, for this nation. Never.

They only ask that we do the same.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Be Still

These last several weeks have borne a whirlwind of emotions - a non-stop roller coaster between my mind and my heart. They have tested my patience, brought me to my knees over and over again, left me asking, crying, "Why?". Given me reasons for abounding joy and situations of great sorrow. Allowed for the deepest gratitude only to be met with the same, uncertain fear. They have hurt my heart. Left me feeling alone in my confusion, sad in the outcomes, accepting in what seemed liked defeat.

They have humbled me. They have confused me. They have tested me. I have felt like I have been in the thick of a battle, like the weight of our whole world rests on my shoulders. Trying to force answers, decipher the uncertainty, accept everything onto myself. It has worn me down, taken my strength, weakened my heart.

And it isn't over.

In the last two weeks, what seems like a very important step in C's career will not happen but another important step has opened up because of it. It happened so very quickly that I didn't have time to process every emotion that accompanied this next step. There is so much joy that this opportunity has come. So much gratitude that this has been given but there is a sacrifice that accompanies it. There is a sadness in that lost opportunity and I have moved too quickly to allow myself to acknowledge it. I put that emotion on hold and moved straight into "go mode" to prepare for the task at hand.

Last week there was unspeakable happiness when Dr. T told us she was confident that she could go ahead and say that Eli did not have Cystic Fibrosis. There were so many tears shed during the weeks of waiting to hear those very words that I thought the tears shed in joy were the last I would have for some time. When the phone call came that the CF Center "did not share confidence in a negative diagnosis at this time" I didn't have tears left. I didn't understand. I had already moved forward.

I have said time and time again that I am a planner. I want to be in control. I want to know what the next step will be - and the twelve steps after that - before I take them. I want to be "doing", to be constantly moving, to be at the front of the race, to be one-step-ahead. These last several weeks have not allowed me to breathe. Strike that. I have not allowed myself to stop, to breathe, because there "is no time." There are medical tests, and parties to plan, and commanders' spouses to meet, and hair to wish back, and traditions to learn, and cakes to order, and curtains to finish, and a house to clean, and presents to mail, and new music to teach, and visitors to plan for, and doctors to see, and FRG classes to take, and patches to sew on, and stetsons to stomach, and people to smile at, and things to get "perfect". There is so much to do. I don't have time to process, to feel, to anything-else-but-DO.

I burned my hand today because I was moving too fast. I was whisking a roux while stirring a stock - crossing my arms over each other. Genius - I know. The bottom of my right palm up along the side to the tip of my pinkie is burnt. Where the skin folds in or stretches out when I move my thumb is blistered. My right hand is wrapped in a rather constricting way because of how I managed to burn it.

I am right handed.

It was the last straw. Every single task-at-hand requires the full, unobstructed use of that hand. I was moving too fast - trying to do too much at once. It's my fault.

The combination of the burn that I am feeling in my hand and my awesome sinuses reacting to the yo-yo weather we are having here have me very much awake at a time when I really should be asleep. Very much left alone with my swirling thoughts and through it all I have heard over and over again, "Be still."

When my thoughts jump from my very long to-do list for the next several days to how on Earth I am going to do them without using that hand ... Be still.

When I think about the test that will be submitted and sent off tomorrow and the weeks of waiting we have ahead of us for the answer that may lead to more testing and more questions and the "Why are we here again!?" there it is again ... Be still.

When I worry about the future, about the future of the military, of C's career, of the changes ahead, of the new guidelines, of the sacrifice of one important step for the promise of another, when I try to weigh if one can be more important than the other, once more ... Be still.

Sometimes the scream is as a whisper - both a guidance and an order. A comfort and a firmness. A challenge for someone like me.

Be still.

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14