I always thought it would be interesting to give a military wife’s perspective of a deployment. Not after it was over but as it was going on. I think it would be great for people to see, an honest view of what a family goes through during a deployment, not negative, just real. My husband has deployed to Iraq for over a year when we were engaged and then to Africa for about 6 weeks when we had 2 little ladies both 2 years and under. Both deployments were difficult in their own ways. Other than that he has attended several schools and trainings for the military; all of which I am extremely grateful for. They have made him into an excellent leader and he wouldn’t complain to you for one second about any of it. That doesn’t mean his time away hasn’t been difficult for me and his kiddos at times.
Each summer he leaves for 2 weeks for Annual Training. In our world it’s AT. I tried my best to capture for you what this is like for us . Here’s a snapshot of life as a military family of a hero in the National Guard. This means we do not live on a base and hopefully most of the people in our community have no idea my husband is gone and I like it that way!
2 weeks out: This is when I start to get pretty anxious. If I’m perfectly honest with you, from here until the second he walks out the door, I’m pretty much nauseous. The feeling where you think you are pregnant. Not totally sick, just nauseated. I’m overwhelmed thinking of everything I have to do on my own for 17 days (yes I know exactly how many days). At the same time I’m trying to enjoy the fun things we are doing to celebrate hanging out with daddy before he leaves. I try to schedule as much as possible to stay busy while he’s gone.
2 days before until leaving day: This year he had drill right before AT. So we packed up early. Packing is always bittersweet with kids. I’m actually kind of shaky as I type this. I have helped my husband pack to leave so many times. 10 years now. I guess it’s kind of a ritual for us. We head to Walmart to grab things like razors, shaving cream, Q tips, and whatever else he needs and then we come home and see what kids will fit into his bags. He always pretends he’s going to sneak them into his bag so they can go with. And those bags are so huge I’m pretty sure all my little ones could fit. It always takes me right back to him leaving for Iraq. And then it takes me to the fact that there is always a possibility of that happening again and him having to leave his babies and I can’t stop it. It’s scary stuff for me. It’s funny that this is all going through my head and he’s simply packing to go 🙂 I love that when he packs he teaches his kids all about his life in the army. Our little red asked “Daddy did you take this to war?” as he got his helmet out. He told them stories of the nights he had to wear his helmet to bed because it was too dangerous to go to sleep without it. The girls think it’s awesome, I’m having a freakin panic attack! They cleaned off his goggles that had dust on them still from the desert, it was really fun to watch them experience that with him and be anticipating what he would tell them next!
Days 1-5: The first few days my kiddos and I went on a trip with family to Lake Geneva. I hadn’t planned on taking them as it was a ladies trip but when AT got moved this seemed like the best option. Fun for them, and less chaos and moving about of children. It was going to be difficult enough for me to get my 2 labs to a doggie sitter and pick them up plus I like to keep my babies close when my hubby is gone. The trip was wonderful and my kids had a blast, plus my family blessed me with some time alone to run which I was extremely appreciative of since I don’t know how often I’ll get to go over the next few weeks. What I wasn’t expecting was what hit me when I came home. I had cleaned the house really well, I love coming home to a clean house. My kids slept the whole way, I picked up the dogs, we made it in a decent time, but then…..nobody was here. It made me really sad to not have my best friend to tell all about the trip. I have never been the girl who has a best friend AND a husband. He’s it. As I’ve gotten older I do have some amazing girl friends. But throughout my life my husband has absolutely been my very best friend. We genuinely like to hang out, we’ve been blessed that we have a lot of the same interests and are just buddies. There wasn’t anyone else I thought of calling to tell about our experiences over the weekend, I was just sad. I knew he wasn’t coming home anytime soon. It really bummed me out. I have friends I could’ve called, but I didn’t want to. I hadn’t expected that to happen so it just shocked me a little…okay a lot. I ordered the girls pizza, did the walk through of the house I do when he’s gone like 5 times, locked the gate, double locked all the doors and went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning, I realized I left the spare key inside the back door, literally inside. As in, you could have turned the key and walked in. Good Lord! Thank God for a new day right?! The next few days were a bit emotional for my middle lady. She is always the first to really miss her daddy. She’s the cute crier. Her lips start to quiver and she has these beautiful big brown eyes that start to water. One night she tried to stay up and wait for daddy to come home. I think this is the first time he has been gone where she has a bit of a more tangible concept of time. Her little heart was just broken.
Our oldest had her end of the year gymnastics show; it was cool to experience her shining in spite of her daddy not being able to make it. She had so much support from good family and friends and she had no doubt in her mind that her daddy would be there if he was able to. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for children to know that their parents can’t always drop everything for them.
So, if you’ve been paying attention, at this point, we’ve spent 2 days in a hotel, which means 2 long days of driving back and forth. We have also spent one night at a gymnastics show and we also have an integral part of our family missing. The weather in our area has been a bit chilly and rainy as well. So we have been stuck inside. Usually when he has been gone a week, it’s a breaking point. I either feel like I’m going to go insane, or we are getting into a bit of a routine. I don’t know that this time I felt as if we were in a routine, because that isn’t the case, but a bit of the anxiety was released and I thought to myself, okay….for the next 10 days I can let my circumstances determine my attitude or I can change my attitude to fit the tone that I would like my day to follow. Because the fact that my husband is gone is not changing and there are 3 little ones who are watching how I handle this situation very closely. Luckily for me, I have done this before and I happened to plan myself a super fun 30th birthday party smack dab in the middle of this summer AT 😉
About a month prior I had invited 15 of my friends to go on a party bus out to dinner and to a country line dancing club. Something I had never done before. I wanted to do something fun for my birthday and I knew this would be the point during AT that I would need it. I was completely looking forward to it because:
1. I have never had such a great group of girlfriends
2. I have never been to a line dancing club.
3. I’m usually way too anxious for party busses and have to drive myself places so the fact that I was actually going to follow through with this was huge.
4. I haven’t been away from my kids for this amount of time with girls ever…meaning, EVER.
Needless to say, we had the best time. I love women who can go out, have a good time and not take themselves too seriously. One of my friends planned some games for the drive to dinner and she asked each of the girls what their first memory and impression was of me and it was so sweet to hear their responses. Most of all because they were honest. Just something that I really needed to hear. There’s something to choosing the people you let into your life and making the investment to cherish them and keep them there. It may have taken me 30 years to figure it out but I’m blessed to have some fantastic women in mine.
If at this point you’re thinking
A. She is only writing about the good things that happen when a spouse is gone, please read part 2 which I’m working on right now, as I’ve been spending the past week cleaning sheets, carpet and couches non stop because my entire family including myself has somehow contracted the flu during the month of May!!!
B. She has no idea what it’s like to be the wife of an active duty soldier, you’re right, I don’t, and God bless you. We spend a lot of time in this house hold praying for you. I can’t imagine how you do this all the time. I am so grateful for you and the sacrifices you and your family continuously make for our freedom.
Week 1, not too bad!
God I pray that you would mold me into the wife that my husband needs me to be.