When C was looking at his schedule and moving things around, I had no idea what he was trying to accommodate on a week that he already had much going on. When he said he needed to work-in a course I couldn't think of what he was needing to take - but there is always something, always another thing to add.
Today he came home for lunch - a rarity but he has been trying to fit that short time in. It means a lot that he is really trying to make that effort, to see us when he can.
The look on his face was one that I had not seen in some time. It was a look that I had not seen since he was a rear-detachment commander. More specifically, a face I hadn't seen since he acted as a CNO (casualty notification officer), and there was good reason. This "course" is one he has taken before for another post. This course is Casualty Notification and Assistance.
I don't know how to say how that realization affected me. There are no words to describe what it is to watch your husband escort the mother of his friend who had been - literally - blown up through his chest to his memorial. There are no words to explain the hurt you see in his face when a wife struggles with losing her husband, who blames him, whose anger and hatred and grief so deeply affects your spouse who is very much alive and very much helpless. Who would bring her husband back in a heart beat. Who would have taken his place if he could have to take away that hurt. Because her husband had served beside him. Her husband had been his soldier. And he was the hated person who was alive.
I don't have the words to say how very different it is to be married to the one who has to grieve than what it is like when they are deployed. Both struggles are great struggles, but to have lived through them both ... to have to see your soldier's struggle over a fallen friend ... I don't know how to make anyone feel that. I cannot tell you how very different it must be to be the one who buries his men - because nearly every one he buried had at one time been his. Many who had come home safely with him the tour before. I cannot fathom how hard it must be to see the families when the pain is the freshest. Families you have known, who you have laughed with, seen their children grow, their families grow. I do not know what it must feel like to be on the other end of that phone call when you tell a father his son no longer has his legs.
But C does.
He promised me that this was something others were having to go through. He promised me that this was something across Brigade, that this wasn't odd, that he would most likely not be performing any of these duties again, but part of it I cannot shake. I never want that to be him again.
To see the pain, to be able to truly see agony in someone you share you heart with when that phone call comes, when they have to just go and "perform their duty". To see the despair in someone you hold entirely to yourself ...
I have said in classes I have taught, to our families, that the week of training that C went through for CNO/CAO the first time was the most emotional training he had ever undergone. But this time, to go through it after having done it. To have to re-live all of that ... to remember ...
To not just have all the fears of "what if it's him", the "what if it is my doorbell." To feel all of the emotions that flood you before a deployment , but so much more when you know the process, when you have friends who have gone through this - are going through this, will go through this ... to feel all of that but then to feel what I felt when I couldn't take away the agony, when I was flooded with the guilt, the unthinkable grief, the sadness, the helplessness ... to think of living the life of a CNO's spouse again ... to think of ... to think of C ever being the one who falls ...
The very thought.
I ... I ... lose my words.