Sunday, January 30, 2011

Post 39- Deployment & Death

Dear Journal,
If he had the courage to risk dying, I had to have the courage to risk living. So I concentrated on feeling close to him- The Valentine, Hallmark Channel

Tonight I watched a movie on the Hallmark Channel, called "The Valentine" about a woman whose husband was a pilot in WWII. To say that the movie touched me was an understatement. As a military wife, an Army bomb squad wife, I too know the perils of having a husband off at war. Currently my husband is in Afghanistan. This is the deadliest time in Afghanistan and he is in one of the most crazy, dangerous, job field out there. He dismantles IEDs, the number one killer of all the troops overseas.

This is not our first deployment and it will more than likely not be the last. I hold him the night before a deployment, I trace his face with my fingers, and I memorize every curve, every wrinkle, and every scar on his body. I taste his kisses, savoring them, knowing it will be months on end without seeing his handsome face. He kisses my forehead and I frame that thought in my head, recording it to play over and over again in my mind's eye.

When we get word of an injury or a death I feel relieved it was not him, then guilt for feeling relieved. I cry for the families of the fallen. I sob as I think of their broken hearts. I wonder if/when it will be our time, are we tempting fate with each deployment, each call he responds to? Everyone who says anyone comes back from a deployment unchanged, unwounded, obviously doesn't know what they are talking about. Each and every deployed service member experiences things very differently but every one of them changes. They mature, they grow, and they hurt. They hurt and they are strong, stronger than most of us will ever have to be. Strong in the face of adversity. Strong in battle. Strong in brotherhood. Strong in their mission and their purpose. They serve for their country, their families, themselves. They serve, even though it is not required of them, they serve with fervor and respect. They serve to protect each one of us, the most selfless of all American's serve so we don't have to.

When the wife in the movie got served with the papers saying that her husband was missing in action and she collapsed to the porch, I fell with her, my heart dropped into my stomach, the butterflies took over and my eyes watered. The fear of those words, the fear of an injury, and the fear of him never returning to me comes rushing back to me anew. She says, missing is not dead. Her optimism and faith in that moment was admirable. Every time he gets on the white buses and they take him away, take him to war, take him to deaths door, I put on a brave face. I hug him, I kiss him, I try not to soak his uniform in my tears, and after he is gone, I grieve. Even though I have faith he will come home, the year of him being gone is a year we wont get back. It is full of memories we wont make together. It is full of time that cant be undone or relived. That is a sacrifice onto itself.

I live while he is gone. I live every day. I do every chore, pay every bill, get up every morning and keep the home fires burning. I write him letters, package up the boxes, and say my prayers over his safety. I think of him a thousand times a day, I kiss a photo of him, I reread the letter he sent me that I carry in my wallet, I finger the claddagh he bought me. I wait for the phone call, the email, the hints that he is alive and uninjured.

We've all read the phrase, "half of my heart is in…" but I think I send all of my heart with him. It is wrapped in tissue paper and stuck in his pocket. When his heart breaks, mine breaks. When his heart dances with joy, mine beats along with it.

As the Navy wife is notified, some sixty years later, that her husband died his body identified and his remains brought home, I cried. I cried for all the wives of MIA/POW service members who never had the chance to say goodbye. I cry for the families who don't have that closure. I don't believe that the men in my husband's unit would ever leave him behind, dead or alive I know he will come home to me. Not everyone has that certainty, not everyone knows what happened to their loved one. My heart breaks for them.

My husband is my family, my heart, my soul mate. He is my best friend. He is my hero, my strength and my laughter. He is my everything. And every single day he is in Afghanistan his life, my life, is on the line. Every time he reports to a call, every time they head out to disarm an explosive. He does it with strength, he does it with dissolve. He does his job in hopes that it will save someone else's life. He is selfless and courageous. He fights for the freedoms we take for granted. He fights so I can write this. He fights for the future of this country and so that we won't ever have to see what he is experiencing right now.

As I write this the movie continued.

Taps played, the casket, draped with an American flag was lowered. The widow said her goodbyes. My heart broke. I knew, rationally, it was just a movie.

But it is not just a movie.

In real life American's are dying. Real blood is being shed. Real fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, are dying overseas. 30 so far this month in Afghanistan.

Our friends have died, our family, in war. Four within the year.

I have sat in the cold seat on a hot day and heard the bugle cry. I have witnessed children say goodbye to their father. I have seen the folded flag handed, with thanks for a grateful nation.

It is real to me. The pain, the sorrow, the finality of death is real to me.

As is the finality of living.

After the burial, after the final goodbyes, after the dead warrior is greeted by his friends at Heaven's gate, those left behind most live. They most continue to fight life's battle. They must have the courage to live. We have to go on. We have to live in remembrance of the brave who have gone before and will continue to pave freedoms way.

And sometimes laughter happens through the tears.

And sometimes forgiveness heals all wounds.

And sometimes the good live forever, young.

Bodies die. Souls and love live on forever.

I hope if God forbid anything happens to my husband I can live in the dignified grace and strength that brave women before me have shown.

(All the photos in this post were taken by me. Some were taken the weekend of a fallen friends funeral.My husband served with The Old Guard, in Washington DC before switching jobs to EOD. During that time he served with pride the families of the fallen. The Arlington photos in this post are also taken by me.)

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