On the Regarding War blog, soldiers, veterans, and journalists will share their stories from Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones. It will feature personal stories and opinions from those who have first-hand knowledge of past and current conflicts. Those at home directly affected by a family member serving in the military will also contribute. The blog is meant to be a place where ideas are exchanged and experiences are related in an effort to gain a better understanding of the realities and effects of war. Share your thoughts, raise a question, and join the conversation by leaving comments on the posts.
Preparing for a deployment is an emotional and a physical upheaval. There's a veritable laundry list from writing wills and last-minute home repairs to doing whatever it is the Army needs. Conversations are done on the run, via a phone call, in passing and during goodbye parties.
After a flurry of busy days, my husband and I went for a walk. It was dusk, our dog pulled ahead as we made our way down the hill. The night air was just a tad cooler than we would have liked, and we seemed to be at a loss for words as the countdown for his deployment neared. A car passed by, then a kid on a skateboard with his dog running ahead. As we made our way through the neighborhood, we looked at homes decorated with prayer flags for a neighbor's son who had died climbing a mountain in Tibet. Without turning to me, my husband looked straight ahead and spoke.
"You know, I'm supposed to set certain things straight with you. I'm not supposed to leave anything unsaid," he said.
I took a deep breath, looked at our dog as we continued walking. Was this going to be a movie moment when the dog's leash is released and we fall into one another's arms? Or was it going to be a day of reckoning where every gripe is brought up, accusations are made, blame is affixed and apologized for?
And so I nodded, not knowing what to expect, glad to let him take the lead in this conversation. I am, after all, past the point of movie moments in my life. There is a certain pragmatic streak in me, making me seem like a slow-moving train in the night. Our marriage has lasted at least 25 years, at times a careen through more drama than we prefer. Simply put, we have loved and fought. Anyone with a marriage as long or longer will have had times when words are barely spoken, when being together seems an impossible puzzle.
I slowed the pace, pulling the dog next to me. "I need you to know what I want you to do if I'm captured," he said. Then he described what I was supposed to do, what would happen, and most of all, not to talk to the media.
This wasn't what I expected. Being captured wasn't what I wanted to hear or think about. I knew bad things happen. People are maimed, bent or never come back. Although I had assiduously avoided TV, the books on my nightstand were a model for intellectual self-flagellation. In other words, I read ridiculous amounts of analysis, reports and cultural history. Intellectualized to keep my fear at bay. While my head was stuffed with facts, it left me emotionally drained.
"The Army will take care of everything," he said.
All I could manage was a feeble okay.
We continued, the dog moved forward again, straining the leash. My husband snapped him back into line. And then, he said of our son, who was on the cusp of manhood, "I think I've done all I can for him. I think he will be fine." He also said the same thing about our daughter, a lovely and budding teenager. I could tell it was much harder for him to leave her.
I slowed, letting him walk ahead. The pieces of the puzzle fell into place. He really had done as much as he could. He loved, cared and nurtured us. My husband was going to war knowing he'd done his best for us.
I walked quickly to catch up with him. While I could have felt very alone, instead I felt loved and grateful.
Writer and wife of an Army surgeon
Christmas Letter 2010 »
Troop Supporters: Neither in Lock Step Nor Complicated »
Veterans Day: The Breathtaking Beauty of Brotherhood »
The Sudden Leap From Teenager to Soldier: Spc. Gerald R. Jenkins »
The Woman Next to General Shelton: An Interview With Mrs. Carolyn Shelton »