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Apr 25

An awkward time

Posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 in Army wife

Today is probably HabMoo’s last day at his day job before he’s deployed. It’s hard to believe that the time is finally approaching.

I learned a little about how I’ve been coping with the upcoming deployment from Scientific American Mind. I successfully keep the actual date of the deployment very vague in my mind. Apparently humans see complex and difficult tasks as far in the future until you put a date or deadline on them. “Simply imposing a deadline reversed the mind’s relation between work and time. Difficult tasks loomed all too close.”

Now that I can’t quite avoid the date I’m gone into mode of coping with the anxiety of a difficult task near at hand. I’m wanting to get everything done ahead of time. I want to move HabMoo’s stuff out of the way right now. I packed up all his winter jackets before the last April snow and had to unpack them. I want all the paperwork organized. I want the workbench cleaned. I want the study cleaned up. I want him to take care of everything tonight even though he has several days at home ahead.

I’m also wanting to spend quality time with him. I want to go places and play games and watch movies and just hang off of him. Since I hate feeling needy like that I’m sure I’m pushing him away while trying simultaneously trying to hold him close.

I’m not so good about asking for help or even knowing when I need someone around since I’m typically very comfortable being alone. I’ve joked that I want his friends to keep coming over on weekends and hang out while I ignore them. I like having people around without feeling any responsibility towards them. So I’m getting clingy towards those guys, too.

I’m a little surprised that I’m not feeling angry. I could be angry at him for remaining in the National Guard. Or I could be angry with U.S. government for continuing to send troops to the Middle East. I could take my pick of all sorts of politicians to be angry with. But I’m not. I think I’m treating this war on a personal level more like a natural disaster. Shit happens and what matters is how you deal with it. You keep moving forward.

That’s what I want: forward motion. If he’s got to go, then let’s go as fast as possible so he can get back home.

Mar 22

Pre-depoyment stress

Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 in Army wife, Military Spouses

In no particular order …

Predeployment stress indicator #1

Refusing to commit to memory any dates associated with his deployment. It must be something like 6 weeks to his annual training which immediately precedes deployment. In my silly mind the date is sort of associated with the royal wedding in England, although I’m sure that’s wrong.

Predeployment stress indicator #2

Jealousy over how he gets to plan for what he’s going to pack and buy, e.g., new laptop, board games, video games, books on Kindle. I’m trying to plan on how to keep occupied at home. For some reason his planning seems a lot more interesting. I’m only planning trips to FL and Vancouver to visit family and friends I’d rather see with him. When he was in Iraq I only got to go to Buenos Aires for a week. (Jealously isn’t know for its rationality or logic.)

Predeployment stress indicator #3

Wanting to pick a fight with him. So far I haven’t done it, but I’m angry that he’s leaving and he’s the only person around to take it out on. I also feel pride, or assume I”ll feel pride once I’m past some of the anger and resignation.

Predeployment stress indicator #4

Beating myself up (and HabMoo, too) about stuff we should have done last fall. We should have painted the trim. We should have cleaned out the shed. Now I’ll get to take responsibility for that.

Predeployment stress indicator #5

A desire to push all his stuff out the door. I think what I really want is to take over all the house and make it just mine so I won’t notice his absence later. Plus I’m one of those people who rips the band-aid off so I can marvel at the mess underneath.

Predeployment stress indicator #6

Jealousy that he’s going to be surrounded by friends and people who understand what he’s going through. I’m going to have to seek out my friends (hard for an introvert like me) and most are not going to understand what I’m going through.

Predeployment stress indicator #7

Wanting to make lists of everything we should be doing in preparation.

Predeployment stress indicator #8

Avoiding the lists I’ve already made. Anger that they aren’t completed already.

Predeployment stress indicator #9

Anger that he’s not going to be around to take my annual picture with my sister’s goat kids. I love those photos. He’s going to miss a lot more events, like Xmas and tax day, for instance, but those are too far away and too painful to think about now.

Predeployment stress indicator #10

I’ve begun to wonder about how I’ll cook for just me. It seems like an awfully big chore–even worse than cooking for two.

Aug 15

Songs and other things to avoid during deployment

Posted on Sunday, August 15, 2010 in Military Spouses

Today I ran across a few things I plan to avoid when HabMoo is deployed.

Songs

Come Home Soon” by SHeDaisy is getting temporarily deleted from my iPod—too much emotional longing. “Another Sleepless Night” by Anne Murray is also getting dumped, but for a slightly different reason—too much sexual longing. (It might be back on about 2 days before he returns.) I will also have to purge all the country songs about waiting for your trucker or cowboy to come home.

Certain blogs and podcasts

While taking my daily walk  and listening to Stuff Mom Never Told You the hosts spoke about 10 Reasons Why Long-distance Relationships Just Don’t Work. As if there aren’t enough reasons why our relationship might struggle, I’ll need to worry about these new ten while we’re spending another year apart?

This one I decided to just tackle head on.

10. Communication breakdown

I am not worried about that one. HabMoo would implode if he couldn’t talk to me. At least that’s what I like to think. I figure he could easily find a hundred other women he’s attracted to and could have a good relationship with, but even if left me for another woman he’d probably call me every day to tell me how it was going. And I think the military does what it can to promote family communication with soldiers, sailors, and marines. I don’t anticipate being unable to communicate for long periods.

9. A murky future

It is hard to imagine me being 60 and him being 43, but I can still easily imagine us a dozen years from now living and working in Minnesota and talking walks with camera and binoculars. I know he wants to make the National Guard his career and he’ll always be some rank of sergeant. Who knows what I’ll do with my life in ten years, but it’ll probably be a surprise to me. In some ways he is my stability.

8. The monogamy challenge or ZIP code rule

I think we have a shared understanding of this rule. If either of us were jealous, worrying types there’s no way we could have made it to marriage. He was deployed with his ex-girlfriend; I had my old boyfriend come help me fix my A/C. Neither was a problem.

7.  Trust

If I didn’t trust him with my heart, we wouldn’t be together. It’s not that I don’t think he’ll ever hurt me, but it won’t be intentional. He’ll always consider my heart. He’ll care for it and worry about it. I know that when he’s not feeling close to me, he’ll let me know and we’ll talk about how to fix that. And when I tell him he’s irritating me, I trust that he knows that it’s a temporary thing and not a fatal issue. We’ve always been able to communicate honestly.

6. Cost of keeping in touch

The Army and the Post Office help with that a bit. We’re both tight wads, but we’re willing to pay for staying connected.

5. Time commitment

Writing letters takes more time and effort than does a chat while we’re eating supper. When he returned from Iraq last time I really missed getting letters and e-mails. I loved knowing that he had spent time thinking just about me as he wrote. I had his focused attention. Honestly, I prefer the unfocused attention of his hand on my thigh as we watch a movie, but there’s a special electric excitement that comes with opening the mailbox and discovering a letter from him. I expect far more e-mails and Facebook messages, but those letters will be the things I pack away in my nightstand.

4 through 2. Blah, blah, blah … not issues at all.

1.  Life goes on

This is where my fear kicks in. There’s no way I can share the experience of serving in a forward operating base or wherever he’ll be assigned. I need the independence of separate lives and separate friends, but all relationships are strengthened through shared experience. He’ll probably come home with a new set of friends I won’t really know. I’ll know their names and some of their habits, but I won’t know them as civilians. I’ll have to learn their first names. They’ll share jokes that I’ll need carefully explained. He’ll invite them over and I’ll feel like an outsider. But I’ll also get new insights into his personality and what his experience was like.

I guess I better exercise and walk to the my Arabic music. I can’t get overly sentimental about lyrics I can’t even understand. “Habibi, habibi, habibi.” (I think that means “darling.”)

Aug 8

2 weeks a summer … right

Posted on Sunday, August 8, 2010 in Military Spouses

National Guard troops are supposed to serve one weekend a month and two weeks a summer. That sounds reasonable. Except this summer it’s three weeks and I never heard anything about a class that runs from the week of Thanksgiving until spring. HabMoo’s absences are becoming more routine than I’d like.

After the winter’s training, three weeks sounded like nothing. He went off with friends to a cabin for the weekend before he left and neither of us really thought much about it. We’ve commented during nightly phone calls about how we’re doing just fine. But now it’s day 14 and we’re missing each other. Two weeks is what we can accept. Additional days are too many.

At two weeks I’m beginning to establish a new routine. By the end of week three I’ll have parts of it down and when he comes home he’ll mess it up. That’s a pretty minor conflict, but it’s an element of stress and there are more. When he returns we’ll both assume the other knows thoughts we’ve had in the previous days because we would have shared them it we’d been together. The refrigerator and cabinets will be rather empty because I quickly get out of the habit of stocking food for him. He will need to catch up on sleep when he returns and I’ll be used to staying up until I can’t keep my eyes open. The cats have been allowed to stay out all night and will make us pay for HabMoo insisting that they come in.

There are lots of small issues like these that slightly stress the marriage. Add to that the mental preparations we’re both making for his upcoming deployment and we could have a real issue. Not an easily defined one, however. I fully suspect that we’ll love the first couple of days he’s home and then things will feel slightly off. It’s important not to take those feeling too seriously, but to acknowledge them, nevertheless. I guess it’s good that we have experience hearing the other say “you’re kind of bugging me right now” and knowing that it’s a temporary state.

We need to come up with a few more homecoming routines to make transitions more comfortable. It seems almost silly to think that three weeks ‘f separation during which time we communicate nightly by phone and are both in the same state should need a ritual, but I think it does. I’m sure we’ll go out for sushi. We had our first sushi together when he was at some southern base waiting to go to Iraq in 2004. So we do have that ritual, but I think we need another. We need a project to complete together. Maybe we’ll tackle the last of the house painting I began in 2001 or just start over at the beginning. Or maybe we’ll just go hang out at Best Buy and Half-Price Books.

Jul 24

Spouse’s deployment: what to look forward to

Posted on Saturday, July 24, 2010 in Military Spouses

Whenever HabMoo has left for a deployment or months of training, I try to think of things to do I’d pass up if he was home. He’s only gone for three weeks for AT (annual training) but it’s not too early to plan for the year-long deployment next year.

Games

Phantom BraveHe sort of monopolizes the gaming systems we have. That’s OK, since before I met him I was playing Sims with a dogged determination to play it until it became fun. Then he introduced me to some good games. Like Rock Band. I always think I’ll play Rock Band with my friends when he’s gone. I don’t know why I always forget that he takes that with him when he goes. So no Rock Band during his AT. But he’s probably leaving enough pieces behind next spring that I can play. Friends: Can you come up with an awesome band name for us?

Food

Liver, beets, tuna fish, white sauces, here I come! If I think about it and don’t get into a rut of food we normally eat together.

Movies

Bette Davis will be playing next week. I’m thinking it’s time to watch all the Godfather movies again, too. And maybe catch up with those movies from the 40s and 70s I never saw. Maybe I’ll do a Robert Duvall festival.

Shopping

M'amI’m not much of a shopper, unless I’m in a book store. But I do enjoy telling HabMoo that he should buy me something and then telling him what. So during his last training, I got the artwork pictured at right. It reminded me of the animated emoticon he’d frequently use when we IM’d during his last deployment. It was of a smiley face tipping it’s cowboy hat. Plus it just makes me smile.

I’ll have to give him a list of flowers I like and don’t like. He tends to confuse various types. I’m not a big fan of spending money on something like flowers which die and have to be thrown in the compost, but occasionally they are appropriate. Since my views on when to send flowers is rather capricious, I just tell him when. Some women get them every week or so during a deployment and that’s too much waste of money. I’d rather save up and get a pair of pink leather gloves.

Travel

During the last deployment I went to Argentina and that was a great distraction. I think next year I’ll visit a friend in Vancouver. Anyone want to invite me anyplace else? I’m always up for Yellowstone. I’d love to go to the Calgary Stampede.

Pets

Three cats isn’t too many is it? I’ll be very susceptible to mewling kittens in my sister’s barn. I’ll want to rescue one and bring it home. I am sure of this. I am sure that having a new kitten would fill some of my time. I’m sure that the currents boys will not be happy. I am sure that I’ll regret it at times. But I bet I bring one home anyway. Sorry, HabMoo. But it’s better than bringing home a new boyfriend.

Jul 21

Army vs. Peace Corps deployment from the SO’s viewpoint

Posted on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 in Military Spouses

Today I was wondering why I’m already so focused on HabMoo’s deployment which is several months away. I suddenly recalled preparing for D’s Peace Corps service and how that was significantly different. But why and how?


Background: D is an old boyfriend I met shortly before he left for the Ivory Coast. While there, he had to be evacuated because of civil unrest. He lived with me for a few months and then left for Jamaica. HabMoo is my husband and we married after he was deployed, but a day or two before he left for Iraq. (He spent several months of deployment in the U.S. being trained and bored.)

Length of service

Even though the Peace Corps term is two years and the Army National Guard’s is now officially only one year, the Army deployment feels longer. When D was in the Ivory Coast and Jamaica I had the option of visiting him. I don’t have the option of flying to Kuwait and getting a tour of all the historic sites and national wonders. I never planned to go to the Ivory Coast, but I did have that option. And I did take the opportunity to visit D in Jamaica. The distance in terms of miles and time seemed less because I could influence it.

Plus I have the knowledge that the MN Army National Guard Red Bulls had the longest tour during WWII and so far in Iraq (22 months of active duty, 16 in Iraq) And those soldiers who had their deployments extended just when they thought they were coming home. I also remember how many months HabMoo was in the states seemingly just waiting to go to Iraq when the countdown would actually begin. So my trust in the announced length of deployment is very low.

Historic precedence

I haven’t seen any movies or heard any songs about the Peace Corps or their loved ones left at home. I have seen lots of war movies and have listened to my own family’s stories, so my expectations are that deployments truly suck for those left at home. If I let my imagination wander, it wanders to some pretty unpleasant stories and images.

When hostilities break out in a host country, Peace Corps volunteers are evacuated. Soldiers are sent the into the fray.

The image of the soldier and the nurse in Times Square is iconic, but reveals the relief of a war ending. I don’t expect the wars we’re in now to really end so I don’t envision HabMoo coming home when the war is over. I expect him to come home when the Army decides his unit can come home. I know that his family will be excited, but I don’t expect a parade or community celebration and relief.

When Peace Corps volunteers comes home, they bring lots of stories that everyone wants to hear. When soldiers come home everyone is curious, but cautious and not so sure they want to hear the stories.

Preparations

Preparing for D’s departure was emotional and involved gift-giving, getting his new address, buying phone cards, and making sure he left one of his t-shirts behind. The date was set even if we didn’t know exactly where he’d be working. The Ivory Coast was harder to prepare for since the country had less infrastructure, but when he left we weren’t as close and I liked the thought of learning more about him through letters. Jamaica was easier; I knew I could get phone calls and regular mail.

D was super excited about his Peace Corp preparations and didn’t hide that. I could share some of that excitement. HabMoo also displays some restrained excitement a, but even though this time he’s preparing for a fairly secure location in Kuwait, he’s still preparing for war. There’s excitement, but it’s in a different key. He’s making purchases just like D did, and planning what to pack. They both prepared for a mission, for service, and I could feel proud of each of them for that.  But preparing for poverty and cultural shock differs from preparing to carry a weapon with you to meals.

The organization

The Peace Corps does a good job of preparing loved ones and letting them know what to expect before, during, and after the volunteer stint is over. And it’s even possible for the volunteer to quit. The Army is trying to prepare families, but they still pretty much suck at it. The Peace Corps has more experience and functions in the U.S. as a single organization. The U.S. Armed Services has multiple branches and there are a multitude of poorly organized websites with information and resources. This serves to frustrate this family member more than it supports her.

If the Peace Corps says the volunteer will be at this location and this is how you can reach him in an emergency, then that’s what I’ll believe. If the Army tells me that, I’ll be thrilled that they shared concrete details and then I’ll wonder how long this information will be accurate. This is particularly true when the soldier has leave or a departure date. I trust dates when I have confirmation that my soldier is on a plane and not before. War is hell on one’s ability to schedule. I can’t help but wonder if he’ll be leaving in January or November instead of April or May.

Conclusion

Peace Corps isn’t war. It’s just a long-term separation which might change the volunteer, but will most likely be a positive experience. It’s hard and lonely and routines are trashed.

War is messy and unorganized and worrisome. It’s a much harder long-term separation which will certainly change the soldier. It might be a positive change, as I think HabMoo’s was from his time in Iraq, or it might not be. I worried about D coming home and being obnoxiously wanting to tell me how things were done in his host country and how privileged my life is. I worry about HabMoo coming home crazy.

Please note: I don’t mean crazy as in having PSTD. I worry about what being cooped up and bored day after day does to his psyche, not to mention the tone of his communications with me. I’m hoping he has a few important decisions to make while he’s there so he doesn’t have to re-learn the skill when he returns. Last time he came home with the trick of picking up a pencil with his upper lip. I hope he’s able to channel his creativity and energy as well this time around.

I hope I learn to be flexible and resilient.

Jun 13

Reluctant Army Wife

Posted on Sunday, June 13, 2010 in Army wife, Me

I’ve written before about my conflicted feelings about being an Army wife. Or a Army National Guard wife. It’s not an identity I chose, but it’s coming on with additional force. There’s nothing like a spouse’s upcoming deployment to focus your attention towards the Army and how it affects your life.

The National Guard has more influence on my life than I’d like. It’s the reason I got married. HabMoo and I might be married by now even if he hadn’t deployed, but it was one huge reason I wanted to marry. If something happened to him, I wanted that knock on my door. I didn’t want a visit or call from his parents who I didn’t know well yet. I wanted a person trained in how to deliver such news. Plus he made more money if we were married, so it was a good financial decision, but one I felt a little rushed into making.

This week I’ve taken a few steps to accept this Army wife identity. I joined the family readiness group (FRG—everything has an acronym.) I’ve even volunteered my time to the organization. But I do it with some amount of resistance. And I found myself bristling at so many things I might normally take in stride: website terms and conditions, commander’s approval needed for newsletter content, online discussions needing a moderator, etc.

While working on this blog entry I finally realized where so much of my emotional reaction is coming from. My introduction to the Army was through my high school sweetheart. She was a woman. This meant that everything even remotely indicative of our relationship was hidden. I did not officially exist. Any hint of me was buried. When my partner was at Basic Training I received phone calls only when she could get away from everyone and be as secretive as possible. She didn’t even want too much correspondence from me. I resent the fact that the Army created so much stress in our relationship. I resent the fact that now I can be part of the community because this time I fell in love with some with more testosterone.

I think I need the FRG, however. Being home alone during HabMoo’s deployment and a few extended trainings has been difficult and isolating. I have great friends and family, but I could use the additional support of being around a few others who understand my situation first-hand. I have hopes that if I’m a volunteer for the group, I can shape it a bit so it’s a place where other reluctant spouses and loved ones can feel welcome.

Military Spouse magazine coverToday I took the additional step of signing up for Military Spouse newsletter. I’m not up to subscribing to the magazine yet. The cover they use to entice you to subscribe shows the 2008 military spouse of the year. So for one thing, I’m appalled that they haven’t updated their ad. For another, it feels too much like other popular women’s magazines. I don’t identify with the spouse of the year image at all. I think I’m a good wife, but I don’t think a childless, bisexual, liberal, agnostic really fits the spouse of the year mold. I am not interested in how to stretch my makeup budget nor about choosing the perfect wine. Luckily, I’m positive that there are others in the FRG group who also have little or no interest in these things.

Here’s what I learned from a page on the site. This should give my friends another sense for why I’m a little uncomfortable with the Army’s intrusion into my life. While my spouse is in uniform, I have specific etiquette to follow.

  • Offer your husband an umbrella in the rain, but only if it’s black. He’s not allowed to carry any other color.
  • Push the baby carriage or stroller so your spouse doesn’t have to. It’s considered “unmilitary” to do so while in uniform.
  • Help your spouse carry any packages or bundles to make it easier for him to salute.

I’m actually happy to know these things. I’m not terribly good at etiquette in any situation and it’s easier if I know which rules I’m probably breaking. And those rules are more for active duty situations. I’m not sure I’ve even seen my husband salute.

I feel like I’ve joined some society with a language and mores I don’t understand yet. I’m slowly learning a few acronyms HabMoo uses, but even at the FRG meeting there were a few I had to ask about. And I know that once I become more of a part of this world, the more I’ll be using that same language and drawing that same boundary around me. I do not like that. I distrust any group large enough to have its own jargon and the Armed Services has layers of it. I don’t want to make someone feel like I felt so many years ago.

I think HabMoo gets a good feeling from being part of an institution with a long history. I wish I felt that same connection. My father served during WWII, but he wasn’t married to my mother at the time. So she has no experiences to share with me other than having a boyfriend killed during the war (and she was never willing to talk about that.) My brother served during Vietnam, but I was too young to remember and he never left the country. I’ve been around only a few people with loved ones serving and mostly I paid almost no attention to that part of their lives. My circle of close friends hasn’t included service members for a long while. So I haven’t found where I fit in history. Can anyone recommend any good book about the history of military wives?

I’m trying to be more comfortable with this identity. You’ll know I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid once I join I ♥♥ Being A Military Spouse! on Facebook. I’m just not there yet. (And those hearts will probably forever keep me out. Are those military spouses all 6th graders?)

Mar 11

As a reminder for the next time he comes home

Posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010 in Army wife

HabMoo was at Fort Gordon for 14 weeks learning how not to lead. He missed holidays and my birthday. Now he’s home and I want to recall how the end of this first week feels for the next time he’s deployed or off for weeks of training.

It’s not the relief and joy I expected. Is has been both of those things, but not today. Today things just feel wrong and out of sync. By next week I’ll probably forget the frustration of today. So I’m recording this so I won’t be surprised or alarmed the next time.

He’s in the way. That’s what it really boils down to. Months of living alone means taking over all the space in the house. It means creating a new rhythm and routine. It means being able to ignore your own messes. And it means a new routine. For example, I miss the nightly phone calls. They were something I looked forward to every day. Now he wants to talk when he gets home from work and its time to eat. It used to be time to think about dinner and anticipate his call.

It’s funny how while he was gone I would make sure to unplug the coffee maker because it bothered him if I left it plugged in. It doesn’t bother me a bit. But I unplugged it as a reminder of his presence. I did not lock the doorknobs or close all the curtains like he did and like he’s doing now. I’ve cursed him just a little when having to use my key twice at the door–once for the deadbolt and for for the knob. No big deal really, and something easily adapted to. Like I said, in another couple of days I’ll forget that it even bothered me. It’s just that today it does.

One of the things I really looked forward to was just having him in the house, being able to talk to him whenever I wanted, receiving a caress as he walked by, simple familiarities. I’m enjoying that but I’m also having to adapt to things like him getting up earlier than I want to and being in our tiny kitchen when I am. The stuff I miss and the stuff that bugs me are very much related.

I feel like the wife who complained constantly about her husband’s snoring and then couldn’t fall asleep after he died because it was too quiet.

Feb 24

Reflections on being an Army wife

Posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 in Army wife, Me

HabMoo is in his last week of training in Georgia and will most likely be leaving for another deployment in the next 24 months. I’m a little scared of that next deployment since it’s been hard having him gone for just over three months. So I’m taking some time to reflect on just what it means to be married to a soldier.

I’m actually a Army National Guardman’s wife so I don’t have to follow him from base to base or live in provided housing and I don’t have to rely on TriCare for my health insurance. I also don’t get the services and amenities of an Army base and surrounding community. Nor is there a large number of other wives and partners to go to for support and understanding.

But there are some good things about HabMoo’s choice of employer. For one thing the National Guard is more than just an employer. Its his opportunity to serve. He and I have different ways of expressing service. I’d much rather volunteer and give donations. I prefer to choose who I’m serving and he serves the entire state and nation. I respect his choice.

crw_2701_thmI’m not really attracted to a man in uniform, but the dress uniform is pretty sharp. He wore it for our wedding so he looked good without spending any money. His daily uniform is really not attractive, but since he wears it every day there’s more room in my closet. And less washing. But the thing is covered in Velcro and sometimes snags my sweaters if I forget and put them in the same batch of washing.

Two more things about the uniform. First the boots. The man has far too many pairs of boots. They really don’t need to issue him any more. And then there are the duffel bags full of odd equipment and clothing. That also takes up valuable storage space. Can’t they just issue that as needed? Or store it in a locker at the Armory?

There’s a Yahoo Answers thread about the benefits of being married to an Army service member and there’s consensus that some people marry for the health care and paycheck. I had better health insurance through the U of M, but the paycheck isn’t bad. HabMoo gets paid more because of me. It’s so strange to think we’re in the 21st century and he’s getting more pay just because he’s married. This makes some sense for regular Army soldiers because spouses have to move when their soldier does and can’t just immediately find a new job. It’s sort of similar to how a university might do a spousal hire in order to get the professor or researcher they really want to hire. And it makes sense for when a spouse is deployed since there are expenses caused by the soldier’s absence, but that’s what the extra family separation pay is for. The extra pay is something I enjoy, but feel is wrong.

Speaking of money, there are a few discounts we’ve received because of HabMoo’s status. I tend to forget to ask about them and they aren’t as common around here as they are around military posts. We got excellent rates and a nice place to stay when visiting Seward Alaska. We pay a little less for our phones. Sometimes my husband gets a free lunch paid for by someone who appreciates the sacrifices soldiers make. But no one has ever offered me that honor. (Spouses should get a special uniform or badge or something so people could identify us and offer to pay for groceries, I think.)

None of these benefits really makes up for the time lost with my husband. We’ve been married for a little over five years but probably spent only about three and half years together in the same location. Extra cash in the bank can’t make up for that lost time. I’m not counting the one weekend a month he spends at drill. I like that time to myself. But the trainings and the deployments are a struggle. There’s just no avoiding that truth.

I’m not sure how it affects our marriage. The initial deployment for HabMoo was immediately after we got married so we were still a little giddy from all that and we’d never lived together. So neither of us had married life to miss. Now that’s different. He’s away and I miss him terribly on weekend mornings, on garbage day, at bedtime, around dinner time, when I spot cardinals in the bushes, when the truck needs to be washed, when I visit his folks, when I’m grocery shopping, when I’m excited and when I’m lonely. There’s something similar to grieving that I go through when he’s gone for more than six weeks.

I never wanted to marry a soldier. Like I said, I’m not attracted to men in uniforms and I don’t really get a charge from being married to a man who is defending freedom and the American Way. I wanted to marry HabMoo. Sometimes I can’t help but ask myself if he’s worth the worry, loss, frustrations, and hassles of the soldier stuff that comes along with him. I’d honestly prefer that he not be in the National Guard. I’m proud of him, but I’m also selfish and would rather not share him.

Would it be easier if he just had a mistress? This is the first time I’ve asked myself that. If he had a mistress he’d probably be home more often. I’d have a chance of winning him back or taking her out. Any anger I had would be justified in other people’s eyes. It would just make more sense and be more satisfying to hate another woman than to hate Fort Gordon. I’d better understand what he was getting out of the situation and I’d know just who it was I was hating and fighting. I can’t really fight the Department of Defense. I suppose I’d worry about him leaving me for her, like I worry about his next deployment.

So today I wish my husband was a computer geek working for some big company that was just trying to run his life. I’d prefer him not to be a soldier. But I still like being married to the guy. The excitement I feel when I get his evening calls still pays off for me.

Nov 11

Veteran’s Day

Posted on Wednesday, November 11, 2009 in Army wife

My husband, father, brother, and uncles all served in the military. Yet it’s hard for me to identify much with Veteran’s Day. Hab Moo has the day off and that’s all the celebrating we’re doing. I don’t recall anyone in the family making a big deal of it. The holiday has always seemed like a day just for old men who missed their identity as soldiers.

It should amount to more. Serving in the military isn’t anything I’d want to do, but nations do need defensive and offensive capabilities. So I’m glad someone is willing to do it. Probably the best way to celebrate the day is to give quick, reliable and friendly service to all those so used to waiting around, and getting one set of direction to be replaced by a new set to be replaced again by yet another set of orders. And soldiers are always willing to accept a thank you for their service.

I’m having a hard time writing this post. I have conflicted feelings about the military. I hate the fact that it jerks my husband around. I hate the fact that they require him to be away from home so often. But I’m glad they have separation pay. And they are making my lack of full-time employment a lot easier on us. I like watching friends and family talk to Hab Moo about his experiences. It’s great that people buy him lunch every so often when he’s in uniform. But it’s still uncomfortable somehow.

I think I may have picked up some of my father’s messed up emotions about serving in WWII. He didn’t talk much about it, but when he was dying he talked about how he still resented not getting a promised promotion. I think he was proud of the work he did and he believed in what he was doing. He also lost companions, missed out on time with two kids and a wife, and endured a lot of physical discomfort. I think he just wanted to put it all behind him. I knew not to ask him much about his experiences.

Then my husband goes to war and we chat online every day and he suffers through sitting around and from a short-term lack of onion rings. I know that in other wars, some soldiers served their time away from the front lines and danger, but those stories never got told in books or film so it’s as if they didn’t exist. I feel like there’s no real story for soldiers today. The wars are too complicated or maybe the stories can’t be told until the conflicts are over or resolved somehow. Except for getting married two days before Hab Hoo left for his deployment, I don’t feel like we have any real story either.

I don’t even feel like the nation knows that their are men and women serving overseas. Maybe it’s because I’m in Minnesota, far from any large bases. I only know a small handful of others with loved ones serving. No one is growing a victory garden. Very few people are protesting. It’s like soldiers are custodians that are easily ignored. It’s not pleasant to think about the person who is going to clean the toilet you just used and it’s not pleasant to think of the person in Afghanistan trying to clean up that mess either.

The only times I’ve really seen veterans honored has been at pow-wows and rodeos. Then I have to fight back tears.

At all other times I’d rather not pay attention even though I know several people currently in Iraq or who have had at least one deployment. I’d rather talk with them about their cars than about their service. It’s awkward. If they weren’t in the shit then what is there to talk about. And if they were in the shit, then that’s too uncomfortable to talk about.

So I guess I’ll end by just saying that I do appreciate soldier’s service. And I appreciate what those left at home go through. I have no clue what it’s like to lose a loved one to a recent war or conflict, but I do grieve for such loses until the point I think about the soldiers I know and then I rush away from that grief.

I think I will refrain from apologizing for celebrating by doing nothing more than going to a Veteran’s Day sale. I mean that’s partially why we fight, right? To keep the American way of life and what’s more American than shopping at a chain store? Soldiers fight for those who are oblivious as well as for those who are actively engaged.

One more thing, though. I’m linking to an article written by a Gold Star Mother who challenges us all to pay more attention and take real action on this day: Veterans Day: Not for Sale. You should pay more attention to her than to this confused woman.