When I was a lot younger, I remember sitting in a service at the campus church we attended. The pastor was speaking about marriage, and for some reason, I actually paid attention and remember it like it was yesterday. He said a wife was supposed to “leave and cleave”- leave her parents and cleave to her husband. It’s the same thing as Ruth saying, “I will go where you will go, and your God will be my God.” I admire the mindset, the strength of loyalty, the unswerving devotion without conditions. And yet, when I said my vows to my husband, I knew the fine print included not going where he will go. I knew I was promising to stay behind.
We’ve been through half a deployment together, since we started our relationship on his leave. My family has been through a whole deployment with my brother leaving- the months of training and pre-mobilization beforehand included. Between the two of them, we sent hundreds of emails, letters, and care packages. We drove several states away for a graduation or a goodbye. It seemed like an overnight transformation for us as a family- suddenly, we were experts in time zones, post office rules, attendance at family meetings at the armory.
But once my husband came into the picture, things changed even more for me. Not only did it mean another person to miss and worry about, it meant so much gaining and losing at the same time. Now that I experienced his kiss, his hand gripping mine, or his laughter, it felt like a cruel joke for it to be taken away from me for months. We had gotten so close during his leave that I came home and felt a little lost, because it didn’t feel right being without him. Going out with friends was a little lonely. I felt a kind of hostility to any guy who noticed me, as if they were trying to take him away. I picked out things for our apartment, wanting to tell him about every little purchase, only to get online and feel silly about describing a new shower curtain when I would see his makeshift bedroom. I felt annoyed when I would hear someone complain about their husband. I felt angry about anything that reminded me of the war, because it had taken him away. I began a very strange relationship with news channels and online newspapers- feeling the need to not miss a headline, but being scared to read too much. I became even more politically-minded but tried to keep my mouth shut, especially to the boys while they were gone.
So I had my military experience- the first deployment. But last summer, we drove to the nearest base and got my military ID card that looks a lot like his, with my picture to the side of his name and his rank. As we waited in the stuffy reception area, sliding doors would open every so often and we would hear bits of “Hail to the Chief” being practiced on the lawn nearby. We drove by the housing area, where women put out holiday flags or potted plants so they can identify their house among the 50 that look like it. After they called us back- by his name (and rank), not mine- we handed in our documents and the lady in the uniform addressed me as ma’am. Afterwards, we went to the PX and looked around at all the stores, including the military supply shop that was selling “The Army Wife Handbook” . I thumbed through the pages and read how I am supposed to tie my husband’s tie for his dress uniforms, and how I am to address officers. It felt a little like Dorothy stepping into Oz after her house thuds on the ground.
Being caught up in all this is not the way I pictured my life. Who raises their hand and signs up for years at a time of loneliness and worry? Who gets married with the guarantee they won’t always be side by side with their husbands?
The women who love their Soldiers.
Erika Perez is new to the HUN team this week. Erika is an Army National Guard spouse and a new mother to a baby girl. She has always wanted to be a writer. Her hobbies include reading and writing blogs, as well as photography and photo editing. Welcome Erika to the HUN team and join her weekly as she explores and discusses the obstacles of being a National Guard spouse. She also has a blog at www.chambanachik-live.blogspot.com .