W is one of the most experienced military spouses I know. She has walked this path for two decades, loving a man who was first a marine and then became a soldier. A man who has been separated from her for five, year-long deployments, who has served honorably, who is right at the end, looking at retirement. She is a woman of dignity and goodness and full of good humor. She is just as addicted to Starbucks coffee as I but can appreciate a cup of Dunkin' Donuts as well. She makes me laugh. She has talked me through and made me smile during some difficult periods of my journey. She is a dear friend, my greatest mentor, an example I try to follow.
And all those things make it all the more difficult for me to know that someone has hurt her. It shows that no matter how long we have been in this, there are some moments - some words - that still blindside us, knock us over. Bring angry tears to our eyes. A friend of hers, a friend she has known for twenty years - nearly her ENTIRE period in the military life, made a random, horrendous comment in a "catching up email" about the pictures taken of her husband's last day on American soil. I asked if I could share:
"...I have to say I got so tired of: D in the car going to the airport. D arriving at the airport. D walking into the airport, etc. It was overkill, W. I know you love the guy but we all have loved ones that have been deployed. Don't be mad."
I don't even know where to start here.
I. have. no. idea.
This is her friend saying this - of twenty years. Randomly, in an email, talking about her new job and school and etc. etc. sectioned off, just to get her point across. Months, almost a YEAR, after this event took place. This event being her husband - of twenty years - leaving his wife and son on his fifth deployment to a war zone.
I get that maybe some people think it is strange to photograph that. I do. I know how hard that must be to understand. My best friend took pictures of C and I's last hour together before he deployed. She took pictures of us holding our children, took pictures from behind us, of our shoulders leaning into each other just sitting. Of Logan nestled into C's chest - knowing that "something sad" was taking place. She has pictures of C's last kiss to Logan, of his last kiss to Eli, and there is a photo - taken with a simple camera by a far from professional photographer - of C and I holding our children as he kissed my forehead for the very last time. My nose is red, my chin is fat, my lips are curled in as I try with ev-er-y-thing in me to hold back the tears. That photo may be one of the most beautiful pictures I own.
Every single time I see it ...
And yes, it is morbid, and yes, I am sure it doesn't make sense to most people, but I needed those moments documented. I needed to have them. If he didn't ... if the doorbell ... if that was my last moment with him I NEEDED TO HAVE IT. I needed to be able to look back at it. I needed my boys to have pictures of their daddy holding him, and loving them, and being with them, because if he didn't come home ... if he didn't come back to them ... they needed to have these pictures.
Because they would not remember.
Judge that however you need to. Hate me for it. Criticize that manner of thinking. I don't care. But do not - DO NOT - say it to me. Do not, for a moment, think you have any right to cross that line.
And not everyone has had someone deployed - that number just doesn't work. There are just over 500,000 soldiers - a number which will soon lessen - and so, no, not everyone has had a family member deployed. And when you get into what type of family member, and what type of deployment ... I should say that her son is in the air force and was deployed to a fob (which he never left) for three months at some point. Separation is separation, but ...
Unless you know what it is to send the father of your child(ren), into a combat zone, as a combat soldier, you do not get to criticize - not to us - or put your ignorant thoughts into a casual email, or comment on our Facebook, or scan through our pictures and then hate us for posting them.
Because people like this woman - who we think are our friends, our best friends - can hurt the strongest of military spouses. Even those with two decades of experience. We can brush it aside when it is strangers, people who can't possibly understand sometimes, but when it is our closest and dearest ... someone who has watched us struggle through, who has listened as we cried for them, who have acted as a sounding board ...
It makes us question a lot.
Because that is what gets me, that people don't THINK anything of WHAT THEY SAY. She had NO IDEA that what she was saying would kill her friend's spirit - or else she just. didn't. care. No one has a right to take that from one of us. We fight too hard to reach that strength, to hold onto it, to KEEP it, and to say something so awful ...
People just don't think.
They do NOT think.
Oh how I wish I could change that.