Annual training is just around the corner. The Army National Guard does not always do well at keeping their promises, but this one is always kept- those ‘two weeks a year’ they mention in their commercials and billboards are always penciled in.
It’s similar to a month ago, when the Guard called on hundreds of troops in our state, sending them to riverbanks and towns that had turned into lakes. They hoisted up sandbags, waded through murky, knee-deep water, and slept in tents in a parking lot. They worked much more than an eight hour day, and they ate MREs between tasks. Those men have used their hands to hold M-16 rifles in Afghanistan, but during the flooding, they used those hands to knock on doors of flooded homes, and drive humvees from town to town in the rain. It’s the very purpose of the National Guard.
Whether the scheduled AT or the unplanned active duty, it means he’s away. Packing his things hastily the night before, my husband leans in towards me, and I see an outline of a man in a patrol cap bend down to kiss me goodbye. We don’t always know how long he’ll be gone. And no, this isn’t a deployment. He isn’t fighting a war with bullets searing the air around him, and he isn’t a million miles away. But he’s still gone.
People may not understand that while I am not greatly concerned about his physical safety, my husband isn’t home and home doesn’t feel right without him. There’s no life or death in this, but in a strange way, it’s an unexpected, miniature deployment. I go through many of the same motions as I did while he was overseas. The bad habits come back- wearing sweatpants around the clock, eating even more junk food than usual, and checking my phone regularly to make sure I didn’t miss a text from him. My daughter and I laze our way through the days, and she sometimes seems to get pretty tired of only seeing my face. I can’t say I blame her.
But during this pseudo-deployment, I can be thankful for many things. Most importantly, I can be grateful that he is not overseas in a war zone. I can shift my focus back to priorities, and the time apart gives us the space to remember all the things we love about each other. We are reminded to not take things for granted. I am reminded that I can run the household alone, and I am also reminded that it is better when he is here.
I cannot say I look forward to AT, or to any time that my husband is gone. But the positives are things that civilian couples don’t always get to experience, and for that, I am grateful. And the homecomings are always sweet.