Military life...

      Charleston is a military town with a steady stream of Air Force, Navy, and Marines.  Since moving here, I've met quite a few AF and Navy wives and watched them go through their husbands' deployments and missions.  Six month deployments are common. Husbands coming home from a six month deployment just to be sent on a two week or longer mission is also common. Just stop right there. Can you imagine what that's like? Your husband has been gone for 180 days (You know because you count each one). He finally comes home! You get a few weeks together then he's unexpectedly sent out to who knows where for another couple of weeks.  Do you see why military marriages fall apart so often?
      Every time I hear about another deployment and watch the wife try not to cry and put on a blank face while telling her friends, I'm the one that starts crying for them. And maybe for myself a little bit, because I always think back to how I felt when we got our own phone calls. By the way, Yes. For those of you that don't know, Mr. Inc is a military guy. Anyway, I thought I'd share a little of how I felt at those times since it seems to keep coming up for me.
      First off, I admit up front that Mr. Inc. never actually had to deploy overseas. I still don't know how we missed out on that lovely experience, but I'm grateful and won't complain. =)  Okay, our story is in two parts (2 wars, 2 parts. Get it?).  Go back to September 2001. Mr. Inc and I had been married a little over 9 months, and we were both in college. Although I was very mature for my age (only 20!), I was also completely and utterly naive about the risks involved with marrying someone in the military. I'd never been close to anyone actively serving, and the thought of war never crossed my mind. I'd never even considered the possibility that Mr. Inc would have to leave to "fulfill his duty." In my mind, military was a once a month and 2 weeks a year kind of deal that helped pay for college. **Smacking my head at my own naivety!**
    So you know what came next. September 11th happened, and the world changed. We didn't know what would happen next, but we knew something big was coming. For two weeks we waited. Maybe Mr. Inc had missed out on the first round of activations (calling up Reserves for active service) least that was my selfish hope.  We were in the middle of midterms, and Mr. Inc had a full class load on Mondays.  He was in class by 8am and didn't leave school until 9pm. On the other hand, I had a light schedule on Mondays and was on my way home by lunch time. As I drove home, the radio voice started talking about the activations that had just begun out of the Charleston base. Then they started talking about my husband's unit and how many guys were getting calls at that moment to report for duty. Of course, I tried not to panic. I failed miserably. 
     I drove straight home, walked directly to our answering machine (remember those things?),  and saw the blinking light that meant we had a message. I knew. I knew as soon as I'd heard the guy on the radio. One push of the button and my fears were realized. My husband was being told to call back as soon as he got the message. I knew what it meant. He would have to leave and go God knows where for God knows how long and do God knows what.
     At this point, I made a decision. Mr. Inc was in class all day. He wouldn't be home that night, AND he had exams all day.  At the time, many people didn't have cell phones. Although Mr. Inc DID have one, it wouldn't get a signal where he was. The only way he could get the message was for me to drive all the way back to school, hunt him down, and tell him myself. I had to go to work, so I rationalized in my mind that he could wait and get the message himself. After all, if I hadn't happened to hear the guy on the radio, I would have gone straight to lunch and work afterward. He had to do exams anyway, so why screw up his grades? I know, I know. This was wrong thinking. I know better now! 
    Ultimately, I didn't tell him. I spent the rest of my day tied up in knots.  When he got home late that night, I told him he had a message. He called back immediately, but it was too late by then and no one could give Mr. Inc a definitive answer.  Of course we hardly slept all night because I was crying thinking my husband was about to go off to war.  I was thinking how unfair it was for him to leave when he was still in school, and we hadn't even been married a year (again, so nearsighted and selfish, but that's what I was thinking). It was the first truly devastating thing to happen in my life, and I wasn't holding up as well I'd hoped I would. 
     First thing in the morning, Mr. Inc called back to get the final word and...the most wonderful thing (for me anyway) had happened. All of the spots were filled! Mr. Inc WASN'T being activated after all! I was too happy that he was staying to give much thought to the family of whoever DID get that spot.
    And that, my friends, was my first hard hit with the reality of being a military spouse. I like to think it was God's way of gently (as gently as possible anyway) cluing me into the world and life I'd married into. It was also one of those life changing, "shakes you to the core of who you are" kind of experiences. That day changed me into a different person. I became more wary, waiting for the bad news to hit. Because we knew the news was coming. It was simply a matter of time. 
    So that's part one. That was a whole mess of drama for very little action, wasn't it? Still, those 18 hours had a profound impact on me.  Part two doesn't have quite as happy an ending, but it will have to a wait a day or two. 


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