I read a book the other day about a soldier’s account of his time in Iraq. It told of his missions and what he saw and what went through his mind while he was overseas. It was interesting, it was scary, it was so sad. It gave me an inside look, a first-hand account of what my husband went through in the year he was gone. It made me wonder. How would my book read, my first hand account of being a mom on the homefront, holding down the fort? Maybe it would be an interesting read, maybe it would flop. I really couldn’t tell you, but I figured I would try.
I believe Dan got word that he was on alert in February of 2004. That was a scary day, we spent the day at families houses telling them the news. I held it together, mostly, I was really okay until his sister asked me “How are you holding up?” I lost it! I cried because I was mad, I was hurt, I couldn’t believe it. But we still didn’t know when he could leave, it could be tomorrow, next week or next month, we just did not know and that was probably the scariest part. Would I have time to tell him goodbye. Would the kids understand what was happening? What was I going to do? I spent a lot of time crying, always in private, sometimes to friends, but mostly into my pillow. I had to stay strong, I had to make everyone think I was going to be OK, when really I wasn’t sure. I mean, how could I be?
We never really talked about him not coming home, but it was always on my mind. I didn’t think I could handle that, being a widow at 24!
I tried not to think about it, but it was always there… just under the surface.
Finally word came.
The official orders, I am sure I still have them saved on my computer somewhere, along with every email and IM conversation we had while he was gone. He was going to leave on Veteran’s Day 2004. Kinda fitting right? We prepared as best as we could. And bright and early on November 11th we headed out to the unit to tell our soldier, my husband, my kids father, goodbye – perhaps for the last time. All of our best friends and our families were there. It was a tense atmosphere, so much crying from everyone around, talking, laughing, and just a lot of quiet thinking.
Finally the time came for the soldiers to line up and get on the buses that would take them to the airport. There were hugs, and kisses and more tears. Then we all got into our cars and headed to the airport to watch them board the plane.
It was so very cold out. But I don’t remember being cold. We all gathered at the fence at the air strip. Dan was on every single news station. One of my favorite moments, I have on tape somewhere, Dan leans through the fence and kissed Nick goodbye. The whole QC got to see that. That was right after Nick proclaimed that Daddy had to take Blankie with him so he would not be scared, which brought tears to everyone around. Instead we tore a piece of Blankie off and Dan put it in his breast pocket, where it stayed until he came home. We said some more goodbyes and tried to hug through a fence, which was incredibly awkward by the way. Then they had to board the plane. We stood and waved, all of us until the door closed. I was still not ready to say goodbye so I didn’t get back in the car, I stood on a small hill and just watched, soon I was flanked on either side by my mother and my mother in law. That too was caught on video and aired on local television. And we waved, somewhere there’s pictures of us waving until the plane looks like just a speck of dust that is on a photograph. I don’t remember much after that. I don’t remember driving home. I don’t remember going to sleep that night. I probably cried. I don’t remember but that’s probably a good thing.
I remember waiting, a lot of waiting.
Waiting for mail, waiting for phone calls, waiting for the computer to beep that he was online and of course waiting for the call saying he was coming home.
But those are all stories for another day.
I can only imagine how awful the wait is. I get impatient if my food doesn’t cook in the microwave quickly enough. Tell your husband thanks for his service, and I thank you for supporting him while he protects our country.
Supporting someone doing dangerous things on the other side of the planet while trying to maintain some kind of sanity and normalcy here at home is all kinds of tough. And that wait for correspondence of any kind, a special kind of torture. <3