Let me say at the outset that it’s my wife of 17 years, Katie, who is going to Afghanistan. She joined the Navy Reserves right out of high school in 1985 and other than a few years during Law School, she’s been in the whole time. Last year she was promoted to Chief Petty Officer which I have since learned is no small achievement. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew there was a chance she might get mobilized but when it actually happened I was stunned. We were in the Honolulu Airport in between flights on our way to the Big Island when Katie found a message on her cell phone from her commanding officer. This was our first “fun only” vacation since our honeymoon. The news that she would be leaving to spend a year in a war zone hung over the whole trip like the gas clouds over the Kilauea volcano. In the 20 years we’ve known each other, we have not been apart for longer than ten days.
After I got over the initial shock, the complexity of it all began to set in. Our lives will dramatically change. It’s both logistical and emotional. The responsibility for the house, pets, bills, vehicles and such is one layer, the day to day stuff. Beneath that are the more complicated things like estate planning, powers of attorney both legal and medical. I came to recognize that those were easier to deal with than the emotional aspects. Some of them are selfish like my fears of being lonely and worried she may be injured or killed. Couple that with recognizing that she needs my emotional support so that she can do her job and not worry about things at home. How I balance all these feelings and how much of each I display to her, our friends and family is something I am still figuring out.
Both of us have been putting the deeper emotional issues off and have focused on the details of her deployment. It’s been all business and I could not be prouder of her. She could have chosen to go inactive and stayed home. But she takes her service to our country very seriously. She made a commitment and she’s not backing away from it. When she found out that she would have to carry an M-16 rifle and wear 50 lbs of body armor she immediately hired a personal trainer to get into shape. She also signed up for an additional three weeks of specialized training for the job she will be doing over there.
There is one more thing I have come to understand, that is how easy my situation is compared to others who have had to deal with multiple deployments and becoming single parents in the process. I have a much deeper understanding and respect for the families left behind. In the documentary This Emotional Life it says: “We adapt to misfortune when we know we can’t change the circumstances.” Well, I still have some adapting to do.