- Posted August 31, 2010 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Combat mission ends in Iraq
More change than most people will ever know
For me, the war started in 2002 when my then fiance deployed to Kuwait for 6 months. There were whispers & rumors about the war starting as early as Summer '02. By October we knew he'd be home the following month & that he would be returning shortly thereafter. We were married in the 6 weeks that he was home inbetween deployments. It would be another 7 months before we'd see one another.
When Ari Fleischer announced that Operation Iraqi Freedom had begun my phone began to ring. It wouldn't stop until around 3 o'clock the next morning. I wouldn't fall asleep until 430 am.
Mail took 4 weeks to travel from Ft. Benning, GA to wherever the 3ID was and back. We had weekly briefings on post to let us know where the guys were, what battles they'd been in & what the casualty list was like. He called me in early March. It would be 93 days until I heard his voice again.
Any phone calls that came from post made my heart jump into my throat. Any knocks on the door did the same. The fear of losing my husband was so real. It happend to several members of our unit. One was a 24 year old soldier who died in my husband's arms en route to rendez vous point. The fighting was so intense that the medevac pilots refused to land & would only do so approximately 20 miles away.
My husband came home in July of '03 (first in, first out) & our daughter was born 9 months later. Ironically, a year to the day that the soldier died in his arms.
He would deploy to Iraq two more times for OIF3 & OIF5. By the time our daughter was 4, he had been away from us for more than half of her life. We were on a schedule of a year home, a year (or more) gone. This didn't include the weeks that he was in the field or TDY for training.
After his 2nd deployment (2005-2006) I began to notice changes in him. He got angry much easier than before. Little things bothered him. That August, he went to talk to a counselor. Once. He had litle support from those in his unit.
In January '07 we were told they would be part of "The Surge" & despite 29 days at Ft. Irwin, CA, would be leaving 2-4 weeks after returning home. We were among the lucky ones---he left 4 weeks after returning home from CA.
Life goes on during deployments, even if it doesn't seem like it is. Fear becomes an all too familiar emotion. You learn to live with it. You bring your cell phone with you. Everywhere. You start to stalk the mailman. You stay logged into messenger "just in case" For us, it was our primary means of communication. During our chats I would feel like I was boring my husband with our day to day activities. What I could never understand was how badly he needed to hear these things. Life over there is so far from normal that the most mundane of things reminds them of home. Reminds them of being safe.
We had our final homecoming in May of '08. Like all of our homecomings, I can remember the events of that day. What I bought at the grocery store at the last minute, running to buy a balloon so he'd be able to find us in the crowd, what I wore, what our daughter wore. Who we stood with while we waited.
In Summer of '09 my husband's PTSD came to a head and he was treated as a day patient in a local mental health facility. What I suspected in the summer of '06 was true. He was finally getting the help he needed. That our family needed. That fall, he was assigned to the Warrior Transition Brigade on post & did not deploy with his unit to Iraq. I have to admit that I breathed a sigh of relief knowing he would never go back there again. Our family would never be torn apart again. We were lucky that his wounds weren't physical but faced a long uphill battle to help him heal mentally. In Spring '10 he was medically retired from the Army.
The war taught me, as a spouse, several things. I learned that unless someone has walked in your shoes, they just will not get what life is like for you. The war isn't just something unpleasant on the evening news. It's part of your life.
I learned my own strengths--as a temporarily single parent, as a woman, as a person. I learned the meaning of counting down. I learned how to survive what was possibly some of the hardest days of my life.
Despite the hardships we faced, I know that our family was lucky. My husband came home to us. There are a lot of families who can't say that and those are the ones I pray for.