Thursday, November 11, 2010
On Veteran's Day: Being a military wife
I didn't grow up knowing anything about the military. My mom is a pacifist and the military just seemed so far away and foreign. I remember being on a bus in 5th or 6th grade, after school, when I heard the announcement that the Gulf War had started. I think I felt scared at the time, but quickly resumed my daily norms and forgot all about it. On September 11, 2001 it hit a lot closer to home. Shortly thereafter, we were in NYC for the marathon and I remember the smell of death in the air, smoky and putrid. It made me want to vomit. Seeing the aftermath of violence on our turf brought me to attention quickly. As much as I want to live in my oblivious, comfortable world where "everything is great!" I now had seen first hand the global reality of discord and unrest.
A few months later I met a guy who captivated me. But he was joining the military. I don't "do" or "speak" military. I moved to CA and he moved to FL, as far away as we could be from one another in this country... Yet my heart couldn't shake him off, so on Veteran's Day weekend 2002, he flew to Oakland from Pensacola to come see me. And after that my staunch, stubborn heart was ruined for good- whether I liked it or not, I loved a man in the military.
Over 18 months we only saw each other 3 times. But letters and emails and phone calls flowed like wine, entwining our hearts together. On Christmas Eve 2003, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I cried. He lived in Corpus Christi, TX for flight school, I lived in WA, having started grad school. Nothing about our proximity to one another would have suggested our relationship would last- but God knit us together from afar. On New Years Eve 2004, he asked my parents for my hand in marriage. My step-mom said, "it's about time!"
So I took Matt Damon (aka Will Hunting's) advice, and packed up my stuff into my little Acura, moving 3,000+ miles across the country to "go see about a boy." I didn't know a soul in Jacksonville or the state of Florida, other than my boyfriend, but God provided me a wonderful job and community. And I learned, as it turns out, when you live in the same city, relationships are harder! The other person finds out you're not perfect and vice versa. I used to always straighten my hair at the salon the day I'd be seeing Los. He was dismayed to find out I have curly hair:) But God continued to grow us closer to one another, and one day, in the middle of a labyrinth in a gorgeous cathedral in France- for the first time, I heard Carlos say, "I love you." Which was immediately followed by, "will you marry me?" I sobbed. Amazed. Grateful. I forgot to say yes until he asked again.
So I married a military man. I had no idea what I was signing up for. I had no idea how many times I would fear for his safety and life, praying to God fervently. I had no idea 5 years ago how my heart would despair when he would leave me on deployments. We spent our first two Christmases and anniversaries apart. I wept like a baby when he left me and tried to bury myself in grad school books to ignore my broken heart. I lived for hearing his voice from Japan or the middle East, carrying my phone everywhere with me. One time I answered in the middle of a dental exam, shedding tears in the chair- that was awkward. Getting a dog was the best decision we made early on in our marriage. We call Burly the "glue that holds our marriage together." After finishing our 'sea' tour and starting our 'shore' tour, life changed once again. After having a rhythm of together-apart for 3 years of marriage, being together all the time was hugely unfamiliar. And not exactly graceful. But it has become so wonderful and now I can't imagine life apart. I have no idea how I will explain to our little girl next summer, in Japan, that we are not going to be seeing daddy for months at a time. Daddy loves us, but daddy is serving our country.
Being a military wife is hard, certainly not for the faint of heart. I am fiercely proud and completely in love with a man who has given his life to something bigger than himself and our immediate comfort. I am grateful that God is our rock and nothing, not life nor death, heights nor depths, can separate us from His love. He who knit us together watches between us when we are apart. I never imagined that this would be my life. I never imagined how proud I would be to call a military veteran my husband. I still largely see myself as a pacifist, and long for the day when war will cease. I don't know what will happen in the rest of my lifetime, but I am grateful to be married to a man of fortitude, strength of character, who serves us daily and serves our nation. I can not adequately or succinctly express my admiration for my Veteran on this day. Suffice to say, being in the military is hard and comes with great sacrifice. Your family, comfort, community, mental health and even life can be be taken. We live in a country full of luxuries and people (myself included) are spoiled and self-centered, forgetful of the fact that others are sacrificing on their behalf. So please thank a veteran for their selflessness today.