Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Land of the Free; Home of the Brave

This morning my heart is a mix of emotions.  Veteran's Day and Memorial Day always do that to me.  For some reason today, my heart is heavy as I remember how what we feared and dreaded the most came true.  Of course, when Scott signed up for the military scholarship to pay for medical school and joined the Army in 1997, he was fully aware that if we went to war he would have to go.  We were engaged when 9/11 happened so we were thankful his training would keep him from deploying.  I understand this might sound selfish, but it terrified me to think of him going to war and being separated.  When we got married, and I moved to San Antonio, we had 2 couples in our Sunday School class whose husbands were a part of the first groups to go.  I watched those wives as they waited for letters or any kind of communication.  My heart went out to them, and I hoped the war would be over by the time my husband was done with his training in 2004.
We got our orders for Heidelberg, Germany.  Scott had backfilled on posts stateside for pediatricians who had deployed, so we hoped he would be given a duty station where it wasn't so common to send pediatricians.  We arrived in Heidelberg, and they had a busy 5-pediatrician clinic supporting the 14,000 member community, and to that point no pediatrician had been deployed.  We relaxed a little.  Then we started hearing the soldiers/officers in Heidelberg were set to deploy the following December, so it started hitting close to home.  We had decided to start trying for a family in January.  That same week we got the news that Scott was put on the list to deploy with a group out of Friedberg about the time the group in Heidelberg was leaving.  It seemed like our nightmare had come true (what we had dreaded the most at that time in our lives).  I know people face cancer and other deeply difficult situations, and for us, this was that dreaded test result that was positive.  I did not want to be a single mom, so we decided to put having children on hold.  This was hard, because I knew it would be 3 years until we might have a child.  (1 year until he left, 1 year he would be gone, and then about a year until maybe we would have a child (I knew no guarantee).
The hard part about being military is that you know it is your duty.  You are not bitter, because you know what you signed up for.  The difficulty is that anyone outside the military has a choice.  If your boss told you to go live away from your spouse and family for a year and only get to see them 2 weeks out of that year, you would quit that job and move on.  There's no consequence.  When you get orders, and you don't follow through, you go to jail, which is obviously not ideal for your family either.  I do not mean to shed light on this disrespectfully, because I believe there is such honor for our Soldiers, Airmen and Maries who without hesitation answer their call to duty.
But for us, this was so difficult to swallow.  We had been married for 2.5 years.  I could not imagine being apart from him for a year.  So many uncertainties and anxieties.  Would he look different when I see him?  would I look different?  (this was before Skype and Facetime).  Would we grow apart?  My love language is quality time.  How would I ever feel close to him?  What if he and a nurse there developed a relationship in my absence? 
I gained strength from my neighbor who had been through several deployments since Desert Storm.  If she had made it through, and they had stuck together as a family, I could do this.  I was grateful I didn't have children that I had to help cope without their daddy, and my heart went out to those who did.
Everyone said he would be safe being a doctor and that I had nothing to worry about.  He would probably never leave post and would spend his time at the clinic caring for soldiers' illnesses, rashes, etc.  He missed taking care of kids and their families--adult medicine was not his calling.
The only problem with that was they changed locations less than halfway into it and moved to the most dangerous place in Iraq--Ramadi.  I was not only worried about Scott's safety, but all of the soldiers' safety.  It was brutal.  They lost a lot of men out there.  Now their time was spent on mass casualties and trauma surgery.  The horrors of war were in our faces.  A lot of blood was shed.  Anytime a soldier left post he was a target.  Then their group got extended.  Morale was already down, so it made things feel unbearable.  They were tired and done, but it didn't make sense to ship out replacements at that time.  We weren't sure if he'd be home at the end of February or March so the days were hard.  (He had left in January the year before).  Thankfully, they ended up coming home February 13.  It took us about a year to get back to normal, and it was hard for me to process it being over after spending a year preparing and then a year apart in an anxiety-filled scenario.
Living in Europe, I learned a lot about WWI and WWII.  I have so much respect for our Veterans, just for our glimpse into military life and our deployment.  What they went through back then must have been incredible, and they were ready to step up and serve.  Our men and women today are the same.  Times have changed--communication is more common, the cafeterias might be nicer, but they still deal with the stress of being separated and losing comrades. 
Hats off to the Veterans.  Whether you were in a safer place or in the thick of it, you deserve our respect for the time away from family.  The soldiers have all of my respect for their bravery, courage, and willingness to fight for us so we can stay home.  They are noble.  Anytime blood was needed they were lined up to give, whether for a soldier or Iraqi civilian. (actual pictures from Scott's group courtesy of Lucian Reed) 
long line ready to give. just a small portion of the blood that was shed

Our friend Cameron (and Scott's roommate) who is a physical therapist

This is just a part of the story, what I am feeling this morning.  I'm not asking for special attention; I just want to share, because many do not know.  We are grateful for all of the friends, restaurants and businesses who honor Veterans today.

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