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Archive for the ‘Deployment’ Category

math

I skipped a few days! Oh NO! I’m sorry to have left you guys hanging this weekend. It was filled with sun and beach,

beer at a local brewery (my favorite Saturday afternoon ritual, by the way)

and a hot tub. It’s kind of nice to disengage for a while and not worry about anything. But I missed ya!

You know how I’ve been claiming that I have some pretty severe OCD when it comes to the organization front? Well… my calendar looks like Rainbow Brite threw up all over it. The calendars on my phone and also on my computer desktop are the same way. Lots of color. Lots of organization. Lots of OCD. This is not new; I’ve done this since I was in high school. I’m going to blame my mother and the fact that when I complained about the planner that was issued to me when I was a freshman and she took me to the Franklin Covey store. I’m a lot like her in the organization respect and she fed my OCD. Thanks, Mom…

But the point of this is not that I’m crazy. You and I both know that. The point is to do a little math. I finally got around to pulling down the boxes of office supplies from the top of the closet in my office that haven’t been unpacked yet (don’t judge) and I found my old planners! (I’m also a borderline hoarder when it comes to certain things… I might NEED to know what I did on November 4th 2007!!!) I’ve written down every TDY, deployment, overnight flight and every other time TC has been away from me for an extended period of time. The first night we spent together was our second date… so I just started from there. Other than the military (and a few other random trips for my work) we’ve spend every night together since that day. So, here’s some math for ya.

1,635: The number of days we’ve been together (wow… and we haven’t killed each other yet. This = miracle.)

683: The number of days he’s been deployed to the sandbox. (or in transit to and from)

189: The number of days he’s been at training within the states but not at our station.

94: The number of days he’s been TDY outside the US.

The totals for this (if you’re not great at math, or simply don’t want to break out the calculator):

Of the 1,634 days we’ve been together, we’ve spent 966 days apart.

Almost 60% of our relationship has been long distance.

I know this is nothing exciting for many of you and there is a large majority of ladies out there that are saying, “Yeah… so?” But my civilian friends are simply floored by this number. Confounded even.

He’s been home since November, and secretly… I might wanna kill him. I kid! I kid! Kind of.  This is the longest stretch of time we’ve ever spent together. As much as deployments and the time away makes me appreciate him, it’s a different beast trying to adjust to having someone home so much.

Side note: Please don’t hate me right now by talking about how it’s SO inconvenient to have TC home. I don’t feel that way at all. I’m treasuring the fact that he’s actually here and I’ve been getting so much time with him. The next three to five years will consist of 2-3 months deployed, 1-2 months home.

But the readjustment… Spending over half (60%) of your time alone and not with someone else is… interesting. When TC is gone, I don’t have to check with anyone to see if they have plans for that night. I don’t have to cook for someone else unless I really want to. I don’t have to work with someone else’s schedule. It’s strange to have another human with opinions and thoughts living right next to me, all the time! I don’t really know how civilian couples do it!

I am very used to being by myself. Doing things on my schedule and not worrying about not spending enough time with TC. I am usually the one to take out the trash, pay all of the bills, feed the dogs, etc. Having him home has shifted the balance of our household and we’re both a little freaked out by it. I am slightly resentful that he doesn’t know what days the trash man comes. I’m slightly resentful that he has no clue how much we spend on water and electricity every month. I know these things. They are second nature; I’ve never had a need to share them with TC.

It’s a learning experience for us both, and something that we’ve been working on for the past three months. I’m sure that we’ll get it figured out just in time for him to deploy again. Isn’t that always how it works?  When that happens, I’ll fall back into my routine of being alone and pay all the bills, take out the trash, and occasionally have cereal for dinner… or chocolate chip cookies… or popcorn. The dogs will have to be walked without TC’s drill sergeant type discipline. We will all adjust… and we’ll have it down to a science, again.

But until then, I’m just enjoying TC being home and the percentage of time we’ve spent apart vs together in our relationship slowly decreasing. 🙂

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I’m comin’ home
Made up my mind that’s what I’m gonna do
Can’t love nobody on the telephone
I’m comin’ home to you

I’m feelin’ better since I got your card
I read it over and over when the road gets hard
Ain’t nothin’ better than your own backyard
I’m comin’ home to you.

“I’m Comin’ Home” by Robert Earl Keen

If you don’t know that song, I highly recommend you go here and take a look. It’s a really great song for anyone who has ever had a spouse deploy, go TDY or even spend a night working while you’ve sat at home, waiting for him or her to return.

This song has been on my iPod (and before that on a CD in my car – yeah… remember THAT time in life? When we didn’t have mp3 players?!) for many, many years. I’ve used to skip over this song for one reason or another. It’s too slow. It’s too mushy. I don’t really feel like listening to it right now. My brother was in a band that played this type of music and he would play me this song. I loved to listen to it when he played it. Right after TC and I met, he deployed for what I thought would be a standard two-month deployment. I made him a CD of music I loved so he would have a little bit of me while he was away. This was one of the songs I placed on that CD.

It wasn’t a bad deployment. I didn’t talk to him as much as I would have liked, we didn’t have Skype then. And right around Christmas, I lost all communication with him. For a week and a half. I thought he was just caught up working and the times he wanted to call, he couldn’t because the lines for the phones were too long. It was around the holidays and he was over there with people who had kids, wives and parents who needed to hear from their loved ones more that I needed to hear from TC. But by New Year’s Eve, I was worried. Really worried. I finally heard from him about a week later when he was on his way home. Evidently his crew had the opportunity to come home 24Dec and he didn’t tell me. On their stop in Europe, they ran into a broken plane that was also on its way home.  These guys had been overseas and away from loved ones for four months. They were supposed to get home in time for Christmas, but with the broken plane, it would set them back until after New Years. TC was commanding officer on his crew. He gave up his healthy plane so the other crew could get home to their families for Christmas.

Although he intended on coming home without my knowledge and driving out to my parent’s house to surprise me for Christmas… that didn’t happen.

I was fine with it. It’s part of being a spouse. Communication can be limited. Surprises can be spoiled and disrupted. Plans and promises can be broken. It’s part of the life and I was fine with it.

After he finally arrived home, I decided to go over to his house and cook for him. As I stood at the stove and sautéed some onions he put on the CD I made for him. During this Robert Earl Keen song, he put his arms around me and told me that he would listen to this song every time he thought he was coming home (evidently they teased him and in the course of a week and half, they told him he was coming home and then told him he wasn’t about 14 times.) He told me that he knew I was the only girl for him the first time he heard this song and he will always listen to this song when he’s coming home to me.  We danced to this song at our reception. It was perfect. It was beautiful. It was the one of the most beautiful and memorable moments in my life.

I found it fitting to listen to this song this morning, as I got ready to head back to TC and Florida. No matter where we are and no matter what we are doing, we have this special little thing to connect us. I listen to it when he’s coming back from deployment and I know that he’s listening to it today as well. It’s our song and I love having this connection to him.

What to you do to connect to your spouse when he or she is away? What do you use to make sure that special bond between you is never broken?

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While browsing some news articles online tonight, I found this. If you haven’t seen this already, be prepared to be shocked and sickened. Basically, someone prank called wives of few deployed Canadian soldiers to tell them their husbands had been killed by an IED. I know. I had to read the article twice to make sure I was reading it correctly, then immediately felt sick to my stomach for a few reasons.

  1. My heart hurt for those families. That is not only a shot below the belt, but that’s a slap in the face. A punch in the gut. A mental mind f*ck. (sorry about the language!)
  2. I wanted to find these people and do horrible things to them. Horrible… (I sometimes have some extreme thoughts about people who harm the innocent. More on that in another post) My rage started to build to a physical pain.

I tried really hard to put it out of my head, but for some reason it just stuck. This is something that I’ve thought a lot about since TC started training in the new plane. His old plane was pretty safe… really, really safe, actually. His new job isn’t publicized, not even to me, so I’m not 100% sure what we’re getting into. I know it’s dangerous, but that’s about it. I’m trying to wrap my head around it and be ok with it. I know that in time, I will, but right now… it provides me with more than a little anxiety. My brain is currently full of “what-ifs.”

The people who pranked those families are below human, at least in my eyes. I know that next of kin are notified in person, but a call in the middle of the night would send me into numerous panic attacks and most likely the beginnings of a mental breakdown. What they have done will haunt those families for a good while. They need to be punished.

This leads me to about three hours later, with me waking up in my bed, crying hysterically. I’d dreamt that I drove into my driveway to find two uniformed men standing at my door. One of my worst fears. I’ve finally calmed down enough to send off a loving email to TC (for some reason just writing to him makes me feel better) and to write this post. I think sleep might be a little scarce the rest of the night. I really just want to be home with him and the dogs.

I’m sure this will pass and I’ll be better about it in the morning. Things are always worse at night. I’ll be home with them soon and neither one of us will have to leave for a while. It’s still scary to think about, but it will get better.

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Few things in my life make me cry. I read something today, something that I’m not sure is 100% real and true to life, but it hit home. While TC and I are happily married and live blissful, content lives while we’re home; I realize that this next station could mean he doesn’t come back to me. I know, you think I’m overreacting and being over dramatic, but his airplane is new enough and secret enough that even before we move, the POA and his will MUST to be in order.

I’m an animal lover. My parents have had our two black labs for the past few weeks and will continue to have them until the bulk of this PCS is over. I know they are safe and are being spoiled at this very moment, but it’s scary to not have them with me. We don’t have actual kids, so they are my babies.

Please, please, please: Check out these links. Our service members give so much. They love pets as much as I do and even though they can’t be there 100% of the time because they are protecting our country, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to know the companionship shown by my two labs. They need our help and our support.

Providing assistance to pet owners reporting for duty

Fostering Military Pets

Military Pets Foster Project

Military Pets.org

Now, on to the story that made me cry harder than I’ve cried in a long time and get out of bed to write this. Learn more about the source of the story here, as it’s another story close to my heart.

From the Hike for our Heroes facebook page:

To: Whomever Gets My Dog —

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean, and the people really friendly.

I’d only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open.
Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted to settle into my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn’t hurt. Give me someone to talk to.

And I had just seen Reggie’s advertisement on the local news.
The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn’t look like “Lab people,” whatever that meant. They must’ve thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner.

See, Reggie and I didn’t really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too. Maybe we were too much alike.

For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls – he wouldn’t go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes. I guess I didn’t really think he’d need all his old stuff, that I’d get him new things once he settled in.. But it became pretty clear pretty soon that he wasn’t going to.

I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones: like “sit” and “stay” and “come” and “heel,” and he’d follow them – when he felt like it. He never really seemed to listen when I called his name – sure, he’d look in my direction after the fourth of fifth time I said it, but then he’d just go back
to doing whatever. When I’d ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.

This just wasn’t going to work. He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes. I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell.

The friction got so bad that I couldn’t wait for the two weeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on search mode for my cellphone amid all of my unpacked stuff.

I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest room, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the “damn dog probably hid it on me.”

Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the shelter’s number, I also found his pad and other toys from the shelter.. I tossed the pad in Reggie’s direction and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the most enthusiasm I’d seen since bringing him home. But then I called, “Hey, Reggie, you like that?? Come here and I’ll give you a treat.” Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction – maybe “glared” is more accurate – and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down. With his back to me.

Well, that’s not going to do it either, I thought. And I punched the shelter phone number.

But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that, too.

“Okay,Reggie, ” I said out loud, “let’s see if your previous owner has any advice.”…. ……

To Whomever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie’s new owner.

I’m not even happy writing it. If you’re reading this, it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter. He knew something was different. I have packed up his pad and toys before and set
them by the back door before a trip, but this time… it’s like he knew something was wrong. And something is wrong….Which is why I have to go to try to make it right.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls…the more the merrier. Sometimes I think he’s part squirrel, the way he hordes them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn’t done it yet. Doesn’t matter where you throw
them, he’ll bound after it, so be careful – really don’t do it by any roads. I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.

Next, commands. Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I’ll go over them again: Reggie knows the obvious ones – “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “heel. ” He knows hand signals: “back” to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up; and “over” if you put your hand out right or left.? “Shake”for shaking water off, and “paw” for a high-five. He does “down” when he feels like lying down – I bet you could work on that with him some more. He knows “ball” and “food” and “bone” and “treat” like nobody’s business. I trained Reggie with small food treats. Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.

Feeding schedule: twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six in the evening. Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand. He’s up on his shots. Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info with yours; they’ll make sure to send you reminders for when he’s due. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car – I don’t know how he knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time. I’ve never been married, so it’s only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He’s gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn’t bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.

Which means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.

And that’s why I need to share one more bit of info with you….His name’s not Reggie. I don’t know what made me do it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie. He’s a smart dog, he’ll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. But I just couldn’t bear to give them his real name. For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I’d never see him again. And if I end up coming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it means everything’s fine. But if someone else is reading it, well… well it means that his new owner should know his real name. It’ll help you bond with him. Who knows, maybe you’ll
even notice a change in his demeanor if he’s been giving you problems.

His real name is Tank. Because that is what I drive. Again, if you’re reading this and you’re from the area, maybe my name has been on the news. I told the shelter that they couldn’t make “Reggie” available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’ve left Tank with… and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call to the shelter… in the “event”… to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed. He said he’d do it personally. And if you’re reading this, then he made good on his word.

Well, this letter is getting too downright depressing, even though, frankly, I’m just writing it for my dog. I couldn’t imagine if I was writing it for a wife and kids and family. But still, Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.

And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me. That unconditional love from a dog is what I took with me to Iraq as an inspiration to do something selfless, to protect innocent people from those who would do terrible things… and to keep those terrible people from coming over here. If I had to give up Tank in order to do it, I am glad to have done so. He was my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that’s enough.

I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter.

I don’t think I’ll say another good- bye to Tank, though. I cried too much the first time.

Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank.

Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight – every night – from me.”

Thank you,
Paul Mallory

________

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags had been at half-mast all summer.I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

“Hey, Tank,” I said quietly.
The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

“C’ mere boy.”
He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the
hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted,searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months.

“Tank,” I whispered. His tail swished.
I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as awave of contentment just seemed to flood him.

I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.

“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me.”

Tank reached up and licked my cheek.

“So whatdaya say we play some ball?” His ears perked again.

“Yeah?? Ball?? You like that??? Ball? ”

Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room.

And when he came back……he had three tennis balls in his mouth

 

 

Every month pets are left behind because brave men and women fight for our country. Help them out. Give them a piece of mind when it comes to their furry little friends.  Check out the links above and save the life of a pet that means the world to a service member that might not come back.

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I’ve been contemplating deployments. I’m not exactly happy about them. In fact, we have another six months away from the time that real deployments will start, but I’m dreading it. As my friend Liz puts it, “it’s like a car wreck, but you know it’s coming.” And that’s exactly what it is. It’s like a horrible wreck, your car is going to be messed up and you’re going to fight with insurance and medical bills for WEEKS to come. It’s a pain in the butt, but you know it’s going to happen and you’re going to have to put up with it. Oh the joys of military. But thinking about it, and emotions associated with looming deployments, I determined that getting ready for one is essentially going through Elsabeth Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages of Loss and Grief. You’re probably thinking I’m crazy, but hear me out. I can only speak for myself, but honestly… after being around the Air Force for almost 4 years… I’m one of the MORE sane spouses out there. Not kidding. You think Army Wives is fiction? Think again. But here we go:
1. Denial and isolation. There comes a time in the pre-deployment shenanigans that I start to pull away and begin planning my schedule for the weeks following the TC’s departure. This normally involves rekindling some of the friendships I’ve let lapse since he’s been home in order to spend more time with him, and less time with the women that keep me sane. I’m a bad friend… But I can admit that and the ladies that love me know this is how it works. I do go into a denial of some sort. I don’t want to admit to myself that this is really happening and that I’m going to spend months away from the man I love. Isolation? I’ve got that going on too… except it’s normally right after he’s left. The first week or so after he leaves, I have to push myself to get out and do, well… anything. Also – I have to convince myself that the carton of Ben and Jerry’s and the tub of hummus in my fridge IS evil. I’m surprised I don’t weigh 200lbs by now.
2. Anger. Do I hate him? No… Do I strongly dislike some of what he does and how he acts because I’m incredibly angry that he’s leaving me? Yes. Now, I’m not saying that I hate EVERYTHING, just little things that normally wouldn’t bother me, anger me to the point that I want him to leave… until I take a step back and realize that I’m being completely irrational and borderline insane. Then I put it all back into perspective and forgive him. He doesn’t have a choice, this is his JOB. The job that pays pretty well and in retrospect isn’t all that bad. Then, after I forgive him… I turn my unbridled anger at the Air Force. Why is HE going AGAIN?! Why can’t they send someone ELSE?! Why does he have to go for so long?! Why can’t he talk to me MORE?! While I do realize that most of the anger that I feel for the Air Force is not warranted… quite a bit of it is. It’s part of the life, but I’m allowed moments of insanity… right?
3. Bargaining. “Maybe if I give up doing THIS… I can spend more time with him NOW and then when he leaves it won’t be AS bad.” “Maybe I can just count paychecks, or weekends until he gets home and that won’t make it seem like such a long time.” While these are good ways of looking at things, it still doesn’t change the fact that he’s still leaving, and there’s really nothing I can do to make it go away. He’s not going to magically stay home just because I decided to make deals with myself to steal more time with him.
4. Depression. Personally – I think this goes hand in hand with isolation. The more time I spend at home, shut in with the dogs, the more I get depressed about him being gone. This normally happens the first week or so after he leaves. Not an ideal situation… but this does pass, just like all of the stages of loss. Which leads me to:
5. Acceptance. Speaking from experience, this is NOT an easy step. I go through all of the stages twice, sometimes three times before the deployment’s over. Ultimately though, I do accept the fact that he’s gone. It’s not for good, just a little bit. My Mom always told me ,“You can do anything for a short period of time.” Guess what… she’s RIGHT. (Yes Mom, I am admitting it PUBLICLY!!!) I can do pretty much anything for a short period of time. In the scope of military deployments, our deployments are short, frequent, but short. I am a strong, independent woman and I can do this.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that regardless of how you see deployments, or where you are on the political scale of loving/hating that we are at WAR; deployments suck and it really is like having a part of you taken away. It’s a form of loss. Perspective helps, but when it comes right down to it, and you’re faced with another one, it still hurts… And it doesn’t really get any easier. You’re still sending the person that you love to a foreign land with people that would like to kill him/her. (I’m by no means saying that what my husband does is not safe… I’m very confident in his ability and his crew’s abilities to do their jobs well, but let’s face it, our troops are sometimes in danger.)

These are simply my views on the deployment process. Like everything else in the military and in life: others experience things differently. If you’re going through a deployment, just remember: Cherish the moments you have, breathe deeply, enjoy having the bed to yourself and know it won’t last forever.

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