Fast Forward

deploymentHard to believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving! The year seems to have flown by . . .

Tony was promoted to Sergeant while he was over in Iraq and, just a few short weeks ago, he passed his promotion boards for Staff Sergeant. He has to do some continuing education points before he gets his new rank pinned, but I’m proud of him anyway. He was dreading this board because he felt he hadn’t studied enough. He also went through Warrior Leadership Course within a couple of months of coming home from Iraq. For the past year, his battalion has been spending time out on the training ranges. Sometimes he’s gone for a couple of days, sometimes a couple of weeks – but usually he can come home for the weekend. For the past month, he’s been out at JRTC-Fort Polk, LA. How ironic is that? He spent two years there and swore he’d never go back because he didn’t like the post. We shared a few rueful laughs about this training before I sent him off. This stint at JRTC is for an upcoming deployment.

Afghanistan.

The one word that can make me physically sick to my stomach when I think about sending my husband there.

His multi-cam uniforms and matching equipment are in the extra bedroom. New boots. I can’t stand to look at any of it.

I know it’s irrational. I know this dreaded deployment was a possibility when I married him. I was secretly relieved and happy when his last deployment was only to Iraq.

But this is my husband. And that is Afghanistan.

I’ll suck it up and be the brave Army wife. I’ll be outwardly calm. I won’t watch any news programs. I’ll pray every night for him to come home to me, as well as for our guys throughout that country to come home safely to their families. I’ll try to not puke if my doorbell unexpectedly rings between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. I’ll try to not run to the kitchen window and look out at the front yard if I hear a car stop on our end of the block.

I’ll try.

This will be the longest deployment of my life.

HE’S HOME!

So there we were, out on Cottrell Field….

Brandy and I got there a little after midnight since the 0515 ceremony was moved up to 0110. We met up with our awesome FRG co-leader, Caryn Shay, and we put up our signs. The time dragged like you could not believe. FINALLY, we were told that the buses were about 10 minutes away from post, and we ran out to the median just outside of the field on Gulick Ave. Yes, we waved, screamed, clapped, and took pictures as the buses carrying our soldiers rolled past. Then we ran back to the field, impatient for them to disembark and get into formation.

Time

Moved

So

Slowly!

When the first soldiers stepped onto the field, I burst into tears, alternately laughing and crying. Did I put on makeup? A little, but my mascara wasn’t waterproof. Did I remember tissues? Absolutely not. Did I remember my camera? Hell no. 😦 Was the sight of them coming through those trees one I’ll never forget? You bet your a$$ I’ll never forget it! While I couldn’t find Tony in the formation ’cause it was dark, I still held up my little sign and jumped up and down, cheering as loudly as I could while they marched onto the grass. Thankfully, the welcome home speech was short and they were dismissed. I stayed put, ’cause Tony had told me to not run onto the field or he’d not find me.

Well, he didn’t find me anyway! ~LOL~ He forgot my hair was now blonde, I hadn’t realized how much more weight he’d lost. He walked past me at least twice before I shouted, “Oh my God!! TONY!!! TONY!!!!” and waved my sign. Brandy and Caryn had to yell at him ’cause he couldn’t hear me over the din of the rest of the happy crowd. I know, some of you find that hard to believe, but I think I was too choked up to be my usually loud self. Thanks, ladies, for corralling my husband!

He was ready to go as soon as he found me. We got the obligatory hug pic, but he was chomping at the bit to get his gear and get home. Once he got his bags, we piled into the truck and went home. I think he was asleep before his head hit the pillow and I was still fretting about the floors not being mopped. So much for the welcome home romance! ~LOL~ I knew he’d be tired from the traveling – he hates the flights to and from Iraq.

Now we see if we can work through some of our just-below-the-surface issues from our huge blowout in November, or if we go to counseling.

Still, he’s home, and that’s all that matters to me right now.

The “must-have” welcome home pic!

A Bundle of Nerves

6 June @ 2015:

Just hours now and I feel like  I could crawl out of my skin. These past 2 weeks flew by. My house still isn’t perfect, but hey – it’s a work in progress.

Laundry done.

Kitchen and bathroom clean.

Bedroom as straightened as I can make it.

Welcome home signs done.

Bookcases rearranged.

Home decor….boxed. ~ignores it~

Furniture dusted, carpets vacuumed.

What now? Oh yeah, a shower…..back in a bit!

6 June @ 2315:

I’m trying to not pace but damn, the clock is moving slow! I’m dressed, but not dressed up. I’m not a dress-up kind of gal and he knows that. I look nice, but it’s too hot and muggy to get all fancy. I’m debating on makeup – it’ll melt off in the humidity. We’ll see, I’ve got time for that.

Brandy will be here soon, and we’ll head to the field with our signs about an hour prior to the start of the ceremony. Now, if I can just not bite my nails….

Single digits!

Not my donut, but you get the idea.

Not my donut, but you get the idea.

I got the message a day or so ago: First CHALK.

OMG! FIRST?!?! The house isn’t fully unpacked – damned “home decor” stuff and clothes I have no idea what I want to do with ’cause I’ve not sorted them. The bedroom isn’t decluttered (sorry, FlyLady, but I’m trying). The closet in our bedroom isn’t organized. Where did the year go!?

Wait…wasn’t it just a few months ago that I was crying over his leaving? Now it’s May. MAY! Folks weren’t lying when they said the time goes fast when enduring a deployment. I think the time’s gone faster since I’ve gone back to work. Seems I have less time to get things done since 3-4 days/week are spent at work.  I feel like I have a ton of things to get done and now, oddly enough, not enough time to do them. Will he notice? Will he care? Will he just be happy to be home? All of the above? Who knows!

I do know that there’s been very little communication since R&R ended. He’s rarely on Skype and when he is, he’s “only checking messages” and not interested in chatting. Emails? Negative. Forget letters – he told me up front he’s not a letter writer. I hate this part of the deployment. I know this would happen ’cause he did warn me, but sometimes I just want to talk to my husband and I can’t. So I’ll send emails, Skype messages, leave things on Facebook….and wonder if the gets/reads them.

Single digits.

Finally!

Counting Down…

final-countdown1About 16 weeks, give or take a couple. Nothing is written in stone, nor will it be. Dates can always change, and probably will a few times. That’s ok. I refuse to count months. I’m counting weeks. Work helps time to go faster but I have the feeling that as I get closer to his return date, time will seem to grind to a halt.

One of my friends told me she’s going back home to TN with her kids by August. Another friend – she’s like a sister to me – is having marital troubles, too. I absolutely hate what these deployments do to marriages. I want to fix everything for them, but I can’t. I want to shake their husbands and yell, “SNAP OUT OF IT!” but I can’t. My GA-to-TN pal, her marriage was already strained by more than a deployment, but the deployment was the last straw.

Thinking back to how Tony said that he changes over there, that they all change over there, I wish there was some way to prevent the crazy mindset that tears marriages apart. Financial stress is amplified so much – I know that first hand. This isn’t the best job market area in the state, and Savannah isn’t a big market in the first place.  They get bored, they get depressed, they feel a definite lack of control over things back here. We get depressed, we worry, we try to keep up a smiling face when they call or get onto Skype so that they don’t worry. We minimize things that have us wringing our hands – like finances, the inability to find a job, the really bad sound the truck is making but can’t be fixed until payday. We find ourselves fighting with one another, they withdraw into themselves and we cry or get angry and fed up. They insist nothing is wrong with them, that we read too much into things or we somehow manage to start the arguments. We withdraw into ourselves because we’re too emotionally worn down to fight. Anger flares up – nasty words are exchanged – nothing resolves. Will things get better with reintegration? Who knows? For my friend going home to TN later this summer, that answer is no. I pray things work out for my other gal pal…I’m praying hard for that.

I pray that Tony stays safe. I pray that all of our guys come home safely. I pray that Tony and I can keep things the way they are until I see him on Cottrell Field in a few weeks. I pray that we reconnect during reintegration and that I get my husband back, leaving SGT Goodwin at work and having Tony at home. He can be SGT Goodwin Mon-Fri, 0530-1800, but I want my husband back, asking what’s for dinner and joking about me getting into the kitchen to make the food that won’t cook itself.

I’ll heave a huge sigh of relief when I know his plane is on the ground in Savannah, his bus in on the way back to Fort Stewart, and I see his face on Cottrell Field while I wait impatiently for him to be released from formation so I can run across the field to him. I can only hope that my sis, and the other wives that I’ve bonded with over this past year, get to experience the same thing rather than tears of hurt and anger while their marriages struggle to survive.

Tony, I’ll tell you now what I told you the night I watched you board that bus that took you away from me for a year:

I love you so much. Never forget that, not once, and never doubt it ever. Come home to me. That’s all I ask of you. Come home to me. See you later.

R&R Has Come and Gone

RRI’ve decided that I hate R&R, but more about that in a bit. I drove up to Atlanta on 12/26 to pick him up rather than have him spend overnight in a hotel because his connecting flight wouldn’t be until the following afternoon. Upon arrival, I found that his flight got cancelled and he was in Germany. Talk about deflating my happy balloon! I found a hotel room and spent the night, planning on being back at the airport by 1100 the next morning. We traded emails  to keep each other updated, and I resigned myself to having to wait one more day for him to arrive.

My phone rang the next morning at 0715. His plane had arrived and he was in the USO lounge. So much for me getting to meet him at the head of the Transportation Mall to greet him. So far, nothing was going as planned. Omen, perhaps? I told him I’d have to pack up, wash up, and get dressed. I think all he heard was, “My hotel is about 10 minutes from the airport”. I got to the USO lounge about an hour later, so excited to see him. All I wanted to do was hug him. He looked at me, looked pointedly at the clock, then took his time packing up his laptop and other stuff he had out. After shouldering his bags, he just walked past me out of the lounge towards the escalator. I will say that he looked awfully hot – all that PT paid off nicely. 😉

I seriously considered driving him to Camden, SC at that point and telling him to find a ride back to Atlanta when it was time for him to return to Iraq. No “hello”, no hug, nothing. I might as well have picked up a stranger. Fine. I can play the game. The drive back was strained with polite questions. “Do you need to stop?” “Are you hungry?” “I have to stop for gas. Can I bring you anything from the store?” One word answers usually were given back. We stopped in Macon to get him some lunch and so I could put gas in the truck. When I got back in, he tossed – yes, tossed – a package into my lap and mumbled, “Happy Anniversary”. He bought me a necklace while he was in Germany and it is lovely! I was surprised that he got anything at all, and while I was touched at his choice of a gift, I felt a pang of disappointment that it was literally tossed to me. Oh well. Since I wasn’t expecting anything at all, it was a nice surprise.

After he had a couple of days to decompress, I suggested we go down to Jekyll Island and sit on the beach. I took my “Journal of Tears”, intending to write in it while he did whatever he felt like doing, even if that meant sitting in the truck sleeping. We walked the beach for a bit, then sat down to listen to the sound of the ocean. On a whim, I handed him the journal and suggested he read it carefully. After about 20 minutes, he said, “I had no idea. I never meant for things to get this bad between us.” For the first time since he got home, he wrapped his arms around me and let me cry. We talked about everything, and while it’ll take awhile for us to get back to where we were before October and November, at least he had a better understanding of my side of things. Things were more relaxed after that day. We visited his cousins in SC. We did a whole lot of nothing at home, and I went on job interviews. He was happy to hear that I got hired and would start work shortly after he returned to work.

All too soon, it was time to take him back to Atlanta. The drive, which normally feels like forever on the way to the airport, went much too fast. I felt like I couldn’t let go of his hand, and I think that was irritating him a bit ’cause it was time for his head to get back in the Iraq game. The USO said I could go with him to check in for his flight, and that I could get a pass to go to his gate. When it came time to check in for his flight, the USO volunteer had me line up next to Tony. As we walked with the rest of the soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen, I was moved to tears by the response of the folks in the airport. Not only did they applaud us as we walked past, they wished the guys and gals Godspeed and good luck, admonished them to come home safely, and a few women walked next to me saying that they were thankful for men like my husband. That was probably the most emotional walk through an airport that I’ve ever had.

We got to his gate and I found myself hoping that his flight would be cancelled. No such luck, but he was delayed by a few hours. Because Atlanta had had a bad snow and ice storm the day before he was due to leave,  he was worried about me driving home after dark on the sure-to-be-icy roads.  He walked me back to the concourse food court, hugged me for what seemed like too short of a time, even though it wasn’t, and told me to drive safely. I watched him walk off to get something to eat. I knew he wouldn’t look back…he never looks back, says it’s easier to say goodbye that way. But I watched him until I couldn’t see him in the crowd any longer, then made my way back to the main terminal and out to the truck.

Why do I hate R&R? Because it’s like sending him off on a deployment all over again. I know he – and the rest of our military – need the time away from theater, need the time home. But for me, and for other wives I’ve talked with, it’s incredibly hard. I was used to having him home, sleeping beside and waking up next to him…having him reach for my hand or slide his arm around me as we walked through the mall, the Commissary, or while out with his cousins. I got used to his laugh, to doing his laundry, to making – and serving – him dinner again. By the time I was used to him being home, I had to take him back. Nothing in the world sucks more than that…not even sending him off in July, and trust me, that sucked!

I’ve started my job today, so that distracts me somewhat. I still come home to an empty house (sorry, kitties, but you’re not Tony). I make dinner for myself. I wait for him to email me or call and let me know he arrived back at Camp Ramadi safely.

I wait for him to come home to me, only this time, I won’t have to send him back after 15 days.

Ambivalence

ambivalentTeeDecember. Five months gone, almost 6. I should be happy, but I’m too busy crying. Our disputes over finances have gotten worse…to the point where he no longer calls me. Facebook messages consist of messages like, “Would you care to explain this transaction now?” or reminders about how much money I cost him that he could be saving instead. I asked him if he was going to ask for a divorce and he seemed shocked. I asked him if we should go to see the Chaplains for counseling when he came home for R&R and he didn’t know how to answer. He still says he’s “deeply hurt” and “won’t resolve anything over the 2 weeks (he’s) home”.

Wonderful.

I was so excited to have R&R coming so that he would be home…He’s reduced me to tears so often that I forget what it’s like to hear him laugh, to get a compliment from him, to hear him say he loves me. I’m to the point that I feel like he should make plans to spend his vacation with his family in SC because if all we’re going to do is argue – or worse, if all he’ll do is ignore or avoid me – then he need not bother coming here.

I want my husband back. I know he’s been working hard on his promotion boards, and on his Soldier of the Quarter and related competitions. He’s assured me that I’ve already added to his stress. Gee, thanks for that, ’cause it wasn’t my intention….maybe you should thank your “friends” who suggested to you that I was cheating on you instead of remaining faithful to my marriage vows. Yeah, go thank them for putting that shit into your head ’cause I sure didn’t.

I’m exhausted.

I’m lost….nothing I do is right in his eyes.

I hate this.