I think Terry was sweeping the floor when I looked at him and felt a wave of emotion. It was a benign act with no power to evoke any feelings and that's the irony of these moments. Doing something routine represented something extraordinary: He was home, standing right in front of me. I had forgotten how that felt, to feel surprised that he was in my house, in my kitchen, not in Iraq sweating buckets and rushing off the phone due to a mortar attack that annoyed more than terrorized.
I feel guilty that I don't have to deal with Iraq anymore in that way.
I'm writing an article about military health care, and I read a lot about Walter Reed, Med Hold, MEBs, DD214s, etc. and I think about the spouses who have endured so much for so long, those with wounded soldiers and deceased. Is there no compensation for their suffering as well?Maybe they're simply happy to have their service member with them, or know that no amount of money can bring them back, but there is something about a check that says, I know this is hard for you. Terry got his disability rating from the Veteran's Administration for the brain injury sustained in an IED. It was much more than expected, and while it won't take away the chronic headaches or ringing in his ears, he said he feels like someone finally validated what he has been through. I feel that way too. I began taking medication for a chronic pain during his deployment, which my neurologist could only explain with stress and told me to try and relax. (ha!) Well, he's home, but I'm still taking it - and I don't want to pay for it :)
Wed is the one year anniversary of a soldier in his unit who was killed in Iraq, maybe that's why I began watching Newsweek's voices of the war dead story on MSNBC today. The stories overwhelm the listener with grief and loss, and pride.
And here we are.
We're buying a home and picking paint colors. Terry is on the cusp of his dream job. I am writing regularly and I'm also working and my children are healthy and I feel fulfilled (if not tired), but every night at dinner and bedtime our boys still pray for all the soldiers in Iraq (meaning, in their world, everyone fighting of course :). And sometimes Terry and I will peek at each other while Gabe prays and we are so proud that he knows some other little boy is living without his daddy with the same fears that Gabe had, and Gabe cares about them. And I know there are so many widows and orphans, and I can't stop thinking that war is such a terrible, ugly thing and I wish it would end soon.
A little part of me thinks that Sean or Tom or Robert is living somewhere oblivious to the chaos, that I'll get to meet these men who I only know through their widows and we'll say, what a bad dream that was. I think of the Vietnam Wall. Names of troops young and old, dreams unfulfilled, frozen in granite forever. Yes, their memories live on through obscure blogs or memorials stretching high and wide, but their physical bodies came to a jolting stop. It's unnatural that life would end like that.
We went to a welcome home party for my friend whose husband just returned from a year in Afghanistan. Cars lined the street with bumper stickers like "Proud Army Wife," and "Support our Troops." Every license plate represented a different state - none but ours with the state we actually live in. A handful of kids, ranging from 7 to 10 years old I think, playing in the middle of the otherwise quiet street, slowly moved to the side as we pulled up to the curb to park. The stared and pointed and I figured they were irritated that we interrupted their game. My husband told me later that they were talking about the Purple Heart license plates on our beat up Escort. They knew what a Purple Heart meant. How many civilian kids know that? Should they? Maybe there should be some kids in this world, blissfully unaware...
If you are reading this blog, you are a loyal reader.
Where do I begin? Life has been so wonderfully busy and full in the last few weeks. I've been working for almost two months now and I still love it, though we've been having a lot of car trouble with one of our cars, so I don't enjoy trying to get my husband to work at 7 and me to work by 8:30 and try to get the boys to their respective schools sometime in between. We're really torn about whether or not to simply rid ourselves of the SUV gas payments and constant repairs or pay it off at the end of the year and save the previous loan payments. Terry is determined not to have a gas hog anymore, he feels that oil is a big part of this war and doesn't want to be a participant to big oil anymore. I guess it's justified. I just want to be able to have a couple extra seat belts, but there is no way in hell I'm getting a minivan!
Gabe has already made it to his first stripe on his gold belt in TKD and just decided he wants to play machine pitch again, and with Asher playing kickball, I'm truly afraid of what my calendar will look like in the next few months.
Our biggest news is that we just signed a contract to buy our first home! We had the inspection today and he found some minor things, but enough adding up to make me worry that the owners won't fix everything. It's been such a churning of emotions. I've lost about 7 pounds in the past couple of weeks due to stress, excitement, adrenaline, and total fear of a huge mortgage. It's great to be thin and all, but I'm hungry dammit!!! :) - and I can't get anything in my tummy, it's just too anxious.
We look back at ten years together and all we have been through, from having a baby so young, to finishing college together, to moving across the country, to the deployment, to recovery, to home owners! It's like we've finally "made it," but I feel like it's all just the beginning too. And I can't believe that he was gone for so long. If it wasn't for his constant post IED headaches, and the occasional discount (our home inspector and car repair guy gave us heavy discounts for Terry's veteran status) I might forget altogether that he was gone.
I've also been writing for a magazine. Just got offered my third article. If this keeps up I may actually back off on my hours at my "real" job :) Anyway, I just wanted to pop in and give an update for both posterity and for you - if you're still following along :)
What a rough week for military news. Walter Reed. Senior level officers firings. Homeless vets. Legless vets on the cover of Newsweek. And the sad thing is that it took the Post and MSNBC to get something done - well, at least put a bandaid on it and make some heads roll.
It's truly daunting to think of the cost of war. Not only do we lose some of the best youth America has to death, but there are lifetimes of medical support needed for the physically and mentally wounded.
I keep thinking that one day, when Iraq is in the history books to be read by children yet to be conceived, will people still care, or will those names be like the ones etched in the Vietnam wall, touched by strangers curious about the past, and aging spouses, and grown children? I believe that this war has changed how American treats its military. I know of few people (including military) who want us to stay in Iraq much longer, but everyone wants to support the troops, even if they don't know how to do that.
I work for little pay for a place that supports them :) that's my contribution, but yours could be as easy as writing a letter. Yup. Everytime you think of it, every time there's an appropriations bill that will help military families, like more monthly cash for separation pay, or ending the "widow's tax" send your rep an email. When they get enough of them, they just might listen.
This blog started as a way to document my life being married to a longtime reserve soldier who spent a year in Iraq. Now it's about life after Iraq for a reserve family - splitting our hearts and lives between the civilian and military world, and living with a greater appreciation for active duty families.