May 28, 2011

The Meaning of Memorial Day.

I stood still and reverent in my white wool uniform at the entrance to the cemetery. I sharply gave the order for the band to march into place. The drum cadence sounded, several quick clicks, and we moved into our spot. The halt order sounded, and I was poised to signal the band to begin playing Taps followed by Amazing Grace. There were veterans of many foreign wars waiting for the names of their brothers in arms to be read in solemn remembrance. 

At my signal, the lone silver trumpet raised and sang Taps to those who had died in war, and to those who stood to remember them. Then I raised my white gloved hands, and the meticulously shined brass section raised their horns. The clear, precise notes sang out over the quiet grey headstones, and Old Glory was blowing in the wind. Out of the corner of my eye I caught the sight of grown men, older than my father weeping at our song. Our last note hung in the air over the silent veterans and their families, thus signaling the beginning of the Memorial Day festivities. We had a parade we needed to get to, and there would be fireworks later in the evening. Summer was shortly upon us.

Pre 9/11, pre-war, pre life as we know it now, Memorial Day was a place marker for the end of school, and the beginning of the blissful freedom of summer. For most people of my generation who'd never really seen or experienced war in any sense of the word, Memorial day was simply that. For the men wiping silent tears in the cemetery the day meant so much more. It's a meaning that I barely grasped at the tender age of 18, a drum major for the high school marching band, looking forward to the my graduation in the coming week and the start of my adult life.

The true meaning of Memorial Day vanished from my mind the instant I shed my white uniform and donned my jean cut-offs and a t-shirt. The sight of men crying over graves was not completely lost on me, but in no real way affected my life. My father had never served, nor had my grandfather. At that point in time, with the summer, and my life on the horizon, I could have never predicted that the full meaning of the day would be part of my future.

Today my husband is the one who wears the uniform. Today my country is engaged in a war I never thought I would see. A war I never thought would be so close to me every single day. Today I know too many men who've died defending our nation. Today the true meaning of Memorial Day is not lost on me. It hovers over my heart and my mind.  Memorial Day no longer signals the beginning of the simplicity of summer, but it still signals freedom. Today it is a day to remember all of those who have sacrificed and died for freedom. Today I join the ranks of those honoring the dead. Today Memorial Day means so very much more.

May 25, 2011

The First of our Goodbyes.

He unscrewed his Iowa Hawkeye decorative plate and placed it on the garage shelf along with the other odds and ends that were stored in the backseat. His NRA medallion won't come off the back window, but thats ok, and he took a razor blade to the blue and white "FORT BRAGG" stickers on the front windshield. It's true. It's happening.

He vacuumed out the whole interior, armoralled the dashboard, and wiped down all the windows. Then he got into the driver's seat and pulled out of the driveway. He was headed to Augusta, Georgia to sell it. I stood in the driveway with the kids as we waved good-bye to Daddy (he would be back later that night) when it hit me. This was the first of our good-byes on our journey to Japan, but not our last. Maybe it was PMS, maybe it was stress, or maybe it's just me, but my eyes welled up as I watched the truck drive away for the last time. The only thing that ran through my mind was how much, much worse it is going to be to say good-bye to friends and family.

We sold our truck. Our brand new truck that we bought a little more than a year ago. I loved that truck. I never ever in a million years thought I would say I loved a pick-up truck, or yearn to drive one, but I do/did love this one. But now our navy blue, super-crew cab, Ford F150 is gone. Another family will use and enjoy it. Selling our vehicles is a necessary evil. We can't take them with us due to several factors.

So here we are. The beginning of our good-byes. Next will come the good-byes to our life in Fort Bragg. Our house, our friends, our neighbors. Then will be the good-byes to our life long friends near and far, and finally to our families in our hometowns.

With the joy and anticipation of what is to come, is a twinge of sadness. Moving is always hard but something military families have come to accept, and even look forward to doing. Like I said to my mom right before my husband left for his last deployment, Its always harder to be the one doing the leaving, than to be the one left behind.

May 22, 2011

He Is A Warrior

He is a soldier.
He is a warrior.

He is a well oiled, finely tuned, highly trained machine, made to execute and conduct missions and operations that are beyond my comprehension, and beyond my control. He will see, and do, and endure things that I cannot imagine. He will pull the trigger. He will utter the order to have others killed. He will do what needs to be done in defense of his country. In defense of his family. In defense of his life. He will leave me and our children and our home to defend our nation.

I cannot pretend that his life, his chosen existence is harder or easier than mine, for I have chosen to live mine beside him. I will not promise to never again be angry or frustrated that I have to mop the floor for the third time in one day so that our baby doesn't pick up the dirt tracked in by his combat boots. Just so long as his boots rest beside my pretty silver sandals at the end of each day.

I will listen to what he has to say, and lay quietly beside him at night while he sleeps. I will listen as he snores his worries away. I will wake with the children so he can get that extra hour of sleep. I will hide my tears of worry and fear because I know they scare him too. I will be his rock, his support, his sounding board. I will give this warrior my heart and soul because sometimes he will need it. I will be here to welcome him with open arms, open ears, and an open heart upon his return.

I will love this soldier for all of my life.
He is my soldier.
He is my warrior.

May 11, 2011

Getting Antsy

The countdown to insanity has begun. I can now number the weeks we have left on our native soil on two hands. And I'm not even using all of my fingers. Technically all U.S military bases count as U.S soil, but whatever. Unless its the continental U.S. it doesn't friggin count.

What's been done in my house? Nothing. Procrastination is my middle name. Add to that the fact that we've all been sicker than dogs for 2+ weeks. At this point I'm not really sure what to do with the stuff that is left. I feel bad throwing it away but most of it is in too poor shape to donate. So it sits.

I started looking at what kind of housing we qualify for according to the Air Force. Since they are the ones that organize housing over there, that is who we report to when we arrive. I was a little nervous because a lot of people said that since our kids are very young we will only qualify for a 2 bedroom house/apartment. The kids are supposed to share a room until one of them is 6. But thank god for my husband's rank, we qualify for a 3 bedroom house. After looking online, not all 3 bedroom homes are created equal. Some have a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, three bedrooms, and thats it. Others have a basement (surprising) a study, a screened in porch or more. Guess which ones I am pulling for?! I've started taking measurements of a worst case scenario and figuring out how our fairly large and modern furniture will fit in the smaller housing. We are moving 2600 square feet of house into no more than 1300 square feet of military housing. Time to get creative.

The following days and weeks will be full and fast. My husband will be in his version of finals in the coming days, and then we have leave to enjoy what is left of our time. At the moment our plan is to have transportation come and pack up our stuff shortly after graduation. Then we will head to Disney World for a week with the kids, and then spend the remainder of our time in the Midwest with our families.

It's going to be sad to leave on that final plane. It's going to be hard to say goodbye for the last time before we move to the other side of the planet for a few years, but I am more than looking forward to getting on with things, and I can't wait to greet the land of the rising sun with a great big "Here we are!".

May 1, 2011

Bin Laden is Dead.

RING RING! My phone rings at 10:45pm. It's not my husband. Even though he's gone. I know better thank to hope for a phone call from him. It's my mother. 

"Turn on the tv." she says in a meloncoly voice. The last time someone told me to do that was my cousin George, and it was when they captured Saddam. A day, a time that lives forever in my memory and the memory of my family.

I turn on my tv, and flip between CNN and Fox News. I hear the announcement. 

"Osama Bin Laden is Dead!"

My eyes fill with tears and I weep uncontrollably. I weep for every deployment that has taken my husband from me. My tears fall for all of the worry, fear, and pain I've felt for nearly a decade. I cry for the families who've lost and sacrificed so much because of this piece of human garbage who had so much hate for people he's never met. Another devil is dead.

The death of the man who thrust our country into a decade of war, and is responsible for the death of thousands of men and women both civilian and soldier, is personal to me. It is personal to every single person who lost someone on 9/11, and every single military family that serves this country. Because of the radical ideology of one man, millions have sacrificed so much. I cry because I feel as though every moment that I do not spend with my husband has been for a reason. All of the sleepless nights, the holidays and birthdays spent alone have not been for nothing. They have not been for an unseen, unwon goal. In an odd way I feel as though a debt has been paid to me, to my husband, and to my family. A debt has been paid to every citizen of our nation tonight.

Does the death of Bin Laden mean that the radical Muslims will stop killing? No. But (overly optimistically) I hope that maybe this will be like the cutting the head off the snake. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of an era of terror for our nation. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of a life where I fear that my children will grow up with out their father. Our persistence has paid off in this case. Our soldiers who have died on God forsaken soil have not gone in vain. Their quest can in one sense be considered completed. I blame Bin Laden for this. For ALL of it. And tonight I'm glad he's dead.