I first introduced Amanda to you in her guest post The Nitty Gritty as an Army Wife. I am very happy to re-introduce her as the second writer in the So Many Ways to Love series. Amanda is not just an Army wife, she is also an Army sister. Thank you for writing, Amanda!
I remember the day my oldest brother told my mom he was considering joining the Air Force after high school graduation. This occurred a few short months after our dad passed away, during my brother’s senior year of high school. He graduated in 1999, so this conversation was pre-2001. My life is very much defined by pre and post 2001.
My brother told our mom as we (my two brothers, my mom and myself) had a casual lunch on the Strand in Galveston, TX. It was one of the few things that we did just the 4 of us after our dad passed away. My mom – surely at her wits end – declared that she would have nothing of this conversation and she would not be a military mom. Period. My brother did not join the Air Force, but I remember that conversation so clearly because 4 years later, in 2003, I laughed at its irony as my middle brother enlisted in the Army.
I became an Army Wife in 2007, but I actually joined the ranks of the army in 2003 when my brother did. I had no idea that the profession of a sibling could have such a great impact on someone until that day. We had not yet invaded Baghdad, but our country was steadfast in our effort to bring an end to terror and declare war on anyone who stood in our way. I had never been more scared in my life.
My middle brother and I were not close until a few months before he graduated from high school, and if someone had told me pre-2001 that he may one day join the military I probably would have joked “the sooner the better” as it would have had him out of the house. But I couldn’t seem to hug him tight enough when I said goodbye before he went to basic training. My life was changed forever, and I hadn’t had any say in it.
We wrote letters during basic training, and I know anyone who has had a loved one join the military knows that the things written in those letters are things you’ll never hear again. The love that new soldiers/sailors/airmen/marines pour out during this time is rare and heartfelt and you will hear things you never knew. I still have that stack of letters, as I know he told me things that he may never say again. But we learned a lot about each other through his training, and I am confident that in any other facet of life we would not have taken this opportunity. I supported him through letters during basic training, drove across the country to visit him in his advanced training, flew to Hawaii to see him at his first duty station (quite the sacrifice on my part) and loved hearing the ever-changing plans that all soldiers seem to embrace. Plans to go here or there, sign up for this school or that school, try to join this group or that group – it never changes, and when it’s my brother rather than my husband I love hearing it. When it isn’t MY everyday life, it is fun to chuckle at the constant change and uncertainty. And it is to my brother’s army career that I owe great thanks for my marriage to my husband. My brother found his email address through AKO and my husband and I rekindled an old relationship that way.
But when my brother deployed to Iraq in 2009, almost a year after my husband had gotten home, I was not prepared for how different the experience would be. As a sister I didn’t get the frequent updates, the details, the good and the bad. I didn’t hear from him at every opportunity he had, and I didn’t obsessively check my phone or email to see if he’d written. But the level of concern and worry was just as high as it had been when my husband was deployed. In some ways, it was greater. My brother had been my protector my entire life. He had punched kids square in the face for teasing me, he had ended friendships with my ex-boyfriends who had broken my heart, he had been there for every joy and every sorrow of my life – and no matter what obstacles life brought, I always knew my brother was there. He’d love or hate someone simply by me asking him to, and he’d stop at nothing to be sure his baby sister was ok. He had done for me and given to me my entire life, and for a little over a year I was no longer able to call on him if I needed help. I couldn’t call him to drive two hours to keep my company, I couldn’t call him when I missed our dad, I couldn’t lean on him in the capacity that I had grown accustomed to. Because communication between a sister and a brother is so different than that between a husband and a wife, I couldn’t depend on him in the way that I now depend on my husband while he is in Afghanistan. I learned for a brief time what it might be like to live life without my brother, and I learned just how lucky I am to have him.
Upon returning home and learning that my husband would soon deploy to Afghanistan (I had a short 3 months reprieve in between) my brother reenlisted and requested he be stationed just an hour away from where we are stationed. Why? Because when he’s not away, he still finds it his job to protect me and make sure that I am ok. He took it upon himself to take care of my lawn, my house, and anything else I may need while my husband is away. He has become one of my best friends.
I am often thanked and acknowledged for my service as an Army Wife and I receive special treatment when my husband is deployed. But I am equally proud and thankful for my role as an Army Sister, and I enjoy learning how different the two can be.
Is it ok to say, though, that I would be perfectly happy never knowing what it means to be an Army Mom? Because I fear that would be the most gut wrenching role of all.
If you are a sister, a mother, a father, a brother, a best friend, a mother-in-law, a father-in-law, etc of a service-member and would like to share your story I would love to hear from you. Please email toloveasoldier (at) gmail (dot) com.