My mind isn't on triathlon or training today....i'm thinking about the time in my life where things were most lonely, difficult and worrisome. I had been married barely a year, moved across the country away from everyone I knew and my husband was deploying almost immediately to Iraq. I was starting graduate school, thinking it would keep me busy. Busy, but not busy enough. I knew the being "separated," part would be hard, but I never fathomed how difficult it was to balance "worry," with "separation."
I remember the day he left as though it was yesterday. Absolutely gorgeous day in San Diego, we stopped by REI to get some last minute things and then I drove him to Miramar. We lingered a little in the car, stalled and finally, we said goodbye. There was a small part of me that feared he may not return. He was headed to Fallujah in the Fall of 2004--a hotbed of activity and little did I know, daily rocket attacks and not exactly a place where "everyone was just sitting around." What I didn't know I would learn later from journals that Dave kept. We both kept a journal and swapped when he came home. I'm fortunate to be married to an amazing person that despite his own political beliefs, he had a job to do--whether he agreed with where he was going or not. He decided he was going to "get the most out of these six months and make them count." That he did. He kept telling me that he was going whether we liked it or not, and he would be "damned if I wasted six months of my life." I was never so proud of someone. However, I couldn't fathom losing my husband for a cause neither one of us believed in, a war that left too many questions unanswered for us to agree with. But, such is the military, whether you agree or not, you go. The skills and exposure Dave got in terms of medicine and cases were unmatched----he was able to learn things that very few people could ever replicate in an ordinary training environment. He wouldn't wish that opportunity obviously upon anyone.....but he made the most out of the time he spent in Fallujah.
I held myself together pretty well until Christmas, he had left in August. On Christmas morning I was with my family and my brother-in-law offhandedly said to me "what's going on, are you ok?" and I couldn't hold back my tears. It sucked. Christmas really sucked. Just like Dave and I's birthday's sucked, our anniversary sucked, and now, Christmas. The hardest part sometimes was people trying to paint a rosy picture of "he'll be home before you know it!"....I guess they didn't know what to say, but I always appreciated it when people just let me say it stunk instead of them trying to cheer me up. Because honestly people, if you really had to live without your significant other for six months you would see that it really isn't easy, it's hard, lonely and everything is an effort. I made it through because of my amazing family and friends.
I also have to credit Dave for getting me through those six months. He called....everyday from Iraq. I couldn't really share that with some people in the squadron because a lot of people didn't talk to their spouses everyday----Dave called every morning around 9:00 a.m. (I had classes in the evening)--I would carry my phone with me running or to spin class..everyday when the phone rang and I saw "unknown" on the screen, I got so excited because I KNEW who it was! We learned a lot more about one another during those six months and I have to say, people who make it through deployments successfully, I think, honestly, have discovered the key to communication in relationships. If you can go six months without feeling like you've missed a beat in someone's life (writing real letters, emails, phone calls, videos) whatever it is.....you've keyed into something rare.
So-why bring all this up now? Because so many of my friends are affected by deployments and what you all see is a smiley face (after hours of crying), someone who is really "busy" or has a lot on their plate or they seem to be going from one activity to the next...it's because they're happy to be busy. But....being busy makes the hurt of being apart a little less so.
By the end of Dave's first deployment I was so tired of "being busy." I wanted to sit on the couch with my husband and talk. I wanted more than anything in the world for a hug. A hug I soon got and I told myself I would always remember how hard those moments were without him and I wouldn't ever take our time together for granted. Even now, it's been three years since he last deployed and I still get excited to do the little things together, grocery shopping etc. Now that we have Soren it's been an absolute joy being able to raise our little boy together. We're not sure if Dave will deploy again--we'll probably find out within the next year. I just try to live in the "now," and go with it.
I wanted to take the time to thank everyone who support(s) those who are deployed, and more so, those who are deployed. Thank you for putting your lives on the line and for supporting our country. And I wanted to give a hug and thoughts to my friends whose spouses are currently/gearing up for deployments.
Here are some pictures of Dave from Iraq.....
In order: Dave self portrait, phone booth where he would call from (fancy eh?), Dave in surgery, flag at sunset, Dave outside medical "building", medical tent he worked in, hanging with model planes, his arrival home via World Airways (WORST airline ever-they broke down in Maine)....it was just like you see in the movies, flags, little kids dressed in red, white and blue. The next picture is me seeing him for the first time. They had some commanding officer give a speech, so we had to stand there after NOT seeing each other for six months and listen to this guy speech (they literally had a rope separating the crowd from the servicemembers (ridiculous) ----you can see Dave is smiling in the way back--head popping up. The very last picture is of us in Carmel, CA---on our trip up the coast when he came home...best...feeling....ever.....