It’s a story told a million times before and one that will be told over and over again in the future. If you’ve been through a deployment, you know the feeling. Of hating the weekends, because even if you sit in your house all day, you can just feel the families all around you relaxing and enjoying their time together, while you try your hardest to make the time go by. Of loving Mondays, because you’re busy weekday routine can begin again, and another five days can go by. Of breaking up months at a time into three- or four-week chunks, and of remembering that nothing is certain until you see that bus with your husband or significant other on it roll in to your home base.
There are twists and turns, of course, that make each person’s story different. Maybe you’ve given birth alone during a deployment, or lost a close family member, or discovered one of your children has a learning disability, or had a miscarriage, or had to go through your first 6-12 months of marriage alone. The old adage “everything waits to break until after your husband leaves” almost always seems to be true, and on top of dealing with life changes, you are most likely also becoming a car mechanic, a tool expert, and an electronic technician. These are all common stories, and the bond among female military spouses.
Despite the changing details of each spouse’s journey, there is one common goal: the end of the deployment, and their return of their husbands.
But what about when the end of the deployment means saying goodbye to the man you love the most?
This is the case for one of my dear friends, a female Marine, who married a male Marine just over six months ago. As we all know, the needs of the military come first, which means he is stationed on the West Coast, and she on the East Coast. He deployed in April, less than a month after their wedding, while she deployed in August. Just when it seemed that they would not see each other for a full year after their wedding, circumstances arose that allowed them to be located on the same base in Afghanistan for several weeks, at the end of his deployment and in the thick of hers.
Suddenly, their newlywed life began in the most unlikely of places: the dust bowl of Afghanistan. Sure, it was filled with handshakes, public greetings (mainly in the chow hall), and following the strict rules regarding relationships on a military base (even if you’re married, they exist). But in the midst of these restrictions, there were 10 straight days of eating three meals a day together. These meals allowed for stress alleviation, sharing jokes, and the rare “normal conversation” that so many couples pine for during a deployment. “Being deployed” came to mean being together, while “going home” meant saying goodbye and not seeing each other for five more months, until she comes home.
Soon, her husband will leave. She will stay in Afghanistan, being a faithful military spouse, writing her husband letters and emails, and dreaming about the day they finally live together. Her husband will take the long flight back to the US, and will step out of the white bus to a field of wives all greeting their husbands, knowing that his is half a world away, eating meals in a chow hall without him. This, too, will end soon enough, though, and in a few months, her “homecoming” will be what it is meant to be – a reunion, not a separation.