Dear “Old Army” Life,
It has been seventeen months since we drove away from Fort Bliss, bidding our lives there a farewell as an active duty family. It has been fifteen months since my husband, Kevin’s medical retirement date passed, and four years since the last time we said our “see you later’s” and I kissed Kevin that one last time before he yet again, deployed to Iraq. My how the times have changed for us.
While I so desperately have wanted to hate you, I simply cannot. Had it not been for you and all of your experiences, Kevin and I would not be anything close to what we are today, nor would our marriage hold the love and strength it does. Sure, I despise the stress that came with you, the numerous times Kevin spent away from us, the many super close calls, multiple changes you brought into our lives, injuries Kevin now faces, and so much more. Yet, without you, this strength that now lives within me would be nonexistent and my heart would never swell with pride every time our National Anthem plays loudly through the speakers and brings me to tears. I wouldn’t know what my heart is capable of handling and loving, just as I wouldn’t know what it is like to miss someone so much every ounce of my being hurts or what it’s like to fall in love with the same person over and over again upon every return home. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to fill with pride and love as my husband dressed in his BDU’s and later in ACU’s, stood in formation, or led his soldiers. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to wait for that one phone call to come in in over two months and that one call get me through two more months of limited communication while he was in a war zone. I wouldn’t know the feeling of rockets hitting his FOB while we are talking on the phone and listen to him as he drops the phone after telling me he loves me; only to breakdown hours later as his voice came through the speaker of that same phone telling me he was okay, they had just lived through another attack.
It has taken me many hardships, time, struggles, doubts, and you finally bringing my husband home to me “bent, but not totally broken” for me to accept the permanent changes you brought into our lives without being so full of anger and hatred towards you.
You took the man I married before you came into our lives away so many times, the last couple of times, always returning him a stranger to me and our kids. Yet, we never allowed you to beat us with these changes. Instead, we learned to fight for our family and fall in love all over again, despite your crazy obstacles that should have left us walking away from everything that was hanging by a thread.
You had him by your side for many holidays and every single one of my birthdays. You took Kevin away from being with our children as they grew and changed for months on end, just as you took time and days away from our children not having their dad by their sides. Through the tears and frustrations, you left us with an unexplainable appreciation for our lives and an unconditional love we all now share. You tested our strength, love, and courage on many occasions. Hell, you even attempted to tear our family apart with the many unexpected changes you threw our way, yet at the same time, you also taught us how to fight and survive.
Before we began the journey in the army life, I never imagined or thought of what you would leave us with after you made your entrance into our lives, then so quickly faded after years, field probs, deployments, injuries, years, and Kevin’s return home. I never once thought that today the emotional, mental, and physical tolls would play such a significant part of our everyday life as it does. Nor, did I think that my career-minded husband would be medically retired due to injuries sustained during his deployments, leaving me as his everyday caregiver. You never told us he could be injured, whether it be visible or invisible wounds, you just warned us he could come home either with no permanent issues, missing limbs, or fearfully not at all. Yet, through all of this, I am learning acceptance in our “new” lives. I have found strength in unimaginable ways and learned to smile at the simple fact Kevin is home and safe with me – even if the severe injuries he has changed our entire lives around. They will always dictate most of what we do, and now, I am okay with that. We are blessed to have him home.
“Sweet” Army Life, you taught me how to grow and change, while letting me know it is in fact okay to do these things without having to explain my growths to those on the outside. In no way do I or will I ever miss the times that you took my husband away or long for those to return, but I do miss the comradery of those in the active duty life. I miss the structure you so brutally taught us and have instilled in our everyday lives. I do appreciate the lessons we have learned, whether it be in easy or hard ways. I am thankful for you allowing us to take these next steps in our lives with you being a part of who we are and will always be.
You taught me about raising kids independently while you took my husband to the field and to war. You taught me how to live through fear and worry of the unknown, while always reminding myself that “No news is good news”. You left me stepping away from all that I knew, my family, friends, and comfort zones, but you led me to a place I will always cherish with friendships that will always hold a special place in my heart. You showed me that being strong-minded isn’t such a terrible thing and that being independent is an amazing quality to hold in this life.
You’ve taught me patience in every step, just as how you have taught me “Hurry up and Wait” in everyday life. Everyone knows we all became professionals in this sense. During his first deployment, you taught us to never take a single moment for granted and to cherish every day that we live, good or bad. You’ve given me strength and confidence to stand up for what I believe in, to never give up, and to fight for Kevin with his injuries, after all no one else can advocate for him as I can. You left us with the cold reality of tomorrow not being promised so to enjoy each breath we take and to always smile.
I am stronger today because of you, just as my marriage and family are and will always be. You still bring me to tears and breakdowns, but that will always be alright because tomorrow is a new day, full of sunshine. Cloudy days will always come and go in life, especially when living through what we have.
“Old Army” life, you will always win a battle from time to time, but as you can see my old friend, we will always win this war. Thank you for the many lessons and continuing growth. We are living proof of survivors in this life.
Sincerely “A Bent but Never Broken” Veteran’s Wife,