I wrote this just over a year ago for my husband as he came home from his first Afghanistan deployment. On the anniversary of the Iraq war and in light of all the negativity surrounding the military right now I thought I'd put this out there as a reminder that 1. the Afghanistan campaign is NOT the Iraq war and should not be tarred with the same brush as Bush's war of greed and 2. the soldiers and their families are NOT to blame for the war, and deserve your respect and compassion.
(written in early March 2009 as I prepared for my DH to come home from deployment)
Very soon you’ll be home. And that prospect fills me with joy. To have my best friend, my partner, back home safe with me is what I’ve wanted since you left, and something that many wives don’t get because their husbands don’t come home. I bought a new dress, remembered to get batteries for the camera, started packing as soon as you got your travel dates excited that the ordeal of deployment is finally over.
But as your homecoming day gets closer I realize that even though deployment is over the struggles of re-integration are just starting. There will be a whole new set of problems to be solved, situations to be negotiated, worries and anxieties. Your physical and mental injuries will need to be healed, and I will be getting back a partner who really isn’t ready to be a partner just yet. We need to get to know each other in a whole new way. I’ve changed a lot, and discovered a strength that I only suspected that I had. You have too. We’ve both learned to live apart relying on ourselves instead of on each other. Things will never be the same, and that’s scary and intimidating. It will take work and commitment from both of us to incorporate the changes we’ve both been through into our relationship and find a new way to interact with each other.
Sometimes I think it’s too much, it’s just too hard. I’ve been alone for so long, worked so hard, and now I’m facing months of more work while we learn how to be around each other again. I indulge in some self-pity and think "Why do I have to go through this? Why can’t I have a normal, quiet, secure life like so many other women get? Why do I have to make these sacrifices?" But when I’m feeling overwhelmed and under-appreciated and like I just can’t be in this relationship anymore because it’s so hard I remind myself that I signed on for this.
I agreed to this because I love you, and because I know that for every crisis I had to handle here at home alone, or for every bad day when there was no one here to comfort me it’s because you were needed elsewhere. For every bad thing that I had to deal with alone I know you were dealing with a worse one in Afghanistan for someone else who really needed your help. You couldn’t be here for me because someone needed to be there for them. And I know that the children whose lives you saved and the soldiers that you protected needed you more.
I also remind myself that I never wanted that safe, secure and boring life. You and I have had our ups and downs for sure. But for every sad, angry, anxious or downright terrifying moment there was a moment of relief, or joy, or pride that most people never get to experience. During deployment we both learned to live for every moment. After one of the many " If I don’t come back these are the things I need you to know" phone calls or emails for every minute that I cried not knowing where you were or if you were hurt or if you were coming back there was a moment where I knew you loved me with a certainty every woman wishes for and very few get. To live in conditions where you truly understand that time is finite and every "I love you" counts, and every minute counts, is an amazing experience. I would never trade that experience for the safety and security of a "normal" life.
There will definitely be a period of adjustment while we figure out how to live together after depending on ourselves for so long. But honey, you need to recognize the appreciate the sacrifices I’ve made and the battles I’ve won because they were just as hard and as hard fought as yours. I may not have the medals for valor, hard work, or sacrifice that you have but I have proven myself everyday of this deployment just like you have. I have battle scars too, although mine are hidden. You need to respect that, the way I respect your struggles and achievements.
Because we’re in this together, you and I. That hasn’t changed. Everything else in our lives has changed, and there’s more chaos to come. But that hasn’t changed. That won’t change. At the end of the day it will still be you and me, trying to figure out things together.
Despite all the tears, all the loneliness, all the fear that comes with loving a soldier and surviving deployment I’m still here. Because I love you. And I’ll be waiting when you get off that plane.