Being strong during a deployment means lots of things.
People may think we just have to be strong to get through 6 months, or 9 months or 12 months apart.
People may think we have to be strong to meet all the day to day challenges of life with out our other half by our side for such long periods of time.
Maybe they think we have to be strong to say Goodbye.
And it's true, we need a lot of strength for those things.
But sometimes we need the most strength just to get through a phone call with our soldier.
Letters from Team 19
Strength, Fear and Phone Calls
By: Spartan Wife
I hear my cellphone ringing at a distance. Two months ago, my brain wouldn’t have registered it this early in the morning- but things are different now. It could be him, my husband, and I would hate myself if I missed his call. So I reach out and find my phone, and it is him- which makes me smile but want to cry at the same time. The happiness of hearing his voice, the painful reminder that he’s gone. I quickly answer good morning in my best “I’m awake and alert” voice, but he notices I’m groggy and says he will call back so that I can sleep. No!! I can talk now! I couldn’t sound more desperate if I tried. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that I slept 4 hours last night and I am exhausted and barely able to open my eyes…what matters is that he called. And what happens over the next 15 minutes is, at least to me, one of the hardest dynamics for the wife of a deployed soldier.
I tell him how happy it makes me to hear his voice. He asks how I’m doing, and I say okay, but we both know neither of us is really okay. I ask how he is, and he says lonely. I say I’m lonely, too, and instantly, I begin to weep softly, but I cover my mouth with my hand so he can’t hear. After a couple of seconds, he asks if I’m still there, and I say yes, and compose myself enough to say that we will be together soon. Which, to me, isn’t really comforting being that soon isn’t for another 7.5 months, but it’s all I manage to say. He asks if I’ve heard back from any jobs, and I tell him ‘not yet’ as if it’s no big deal, and continue crying without him knowing. Because I’ve applied to more than 15 jobs and nobody has called me back- because being re-located to this town has limited me professionally in so many ways- because we have no children yet precisely so that we could both pursue our careers and right now he’s the only one doing that. But I don’t say these things to him, because I don’t want him to feel guilty for any of it; because as much as it sucks, I also know that nobody forced me into this lifestyle.
So I just say ‘not yet’ and continue weeping in silence. He reassures me that something will work out soon and I don’t know if I’m more thankful for his words or the fact that he can’t hear me crying. We continue talking about what I’ve been up to, and I share good things. Things that I know will make him happy or smile or give him a moment of “home” or something to look forward to. He knows what’s gone wrong, but he doesn’t know how bad it’s really been. He doesn’t know that I still am sleeping 4 hours a night on the living room couch, or that I spend most of my day worried sick about his safety, or how frustrating the job situation really is, or that I hate that we can’t talk more often, or that I’ve lost weight in the last 6 weeks from lack of sleep and stress. Because if he did know all those struggles, he’d worry about me, he would be distracted- and I can’t have that while he is a war zone. I refuse to add to his stressful situation in any way.
So we continue talking, knowing that soon it will have to end, and he tells me, in a very nonchalant way, some of the ‘bad’ things that have happened. And I know he doesn’t do it purposely, he really is just sharing with me and venting, but I feel like my heart wants to come out of my chest and scream and be angry at anyone that had anything to do with him being there. I cry even harder now, this time using a pillow to muffle the sound because my hand won’t do the job anymore. Because as he’s telling me this, all I can think about is something bad happening to him. And he has to come back so we can have children. He has to come backbecause now I feel horrible for not letting him get that silly car that he wanted, or for arguing with him over stuff that now, in comparison, seems so stupid!
Mind you, this all happens simultaneously while he is telling me the ‘bad’ stories; only a woman can feel 72 emotions at the same time (and I wasn’t even PMS’ing then, which I’m now thankful for). When he is done telling me the story, I have two choices: I can be selfish, and cry, and tell him how I worry about him and how I hate life right now. Or I can be selfless, and say what he needs to hear.
Most people would think that he choice is obvious, be selfless, but when you’re in that situation, it isn’t that easy to be because during deployment, our wife needs double in size and what we actually get goes down to the bare minimum. Nobody’s fault, but it’s just the way it is. But I suck it up and decide to be selfless, which is a miracle considering how weak and lost I’m feeling. I wipe away my tears and I tell him that he will come home. That we will have children and a house and soon it will all be over. That he is trained and has one of the best teams by his side. That they have his back and would never let anything happen to him. That he is the smartest person I know and he will always figure out a way to make it work.
And I don’t just say these words in a girly, lovey-dovey way; I say them like those Spartans from the movie 300, all strong and epic. I wholeheartedly believe everything I have just said and I know that’s exactly what he needed to hear, and he’s relieved and thankful and I know I have eased his mind, even if for that one second. Can you imagine if I had broken down to cry? Or told him how worried that makes me? Or whined about my problems back home and how the turtle tank fell and spilled water everywhere and it took me 3 hours to clean? Of course, I’m not perfect, so I’ve done this before, but I am learning that there is a time for everything, and that was a time in which he needed me.
Sadly, I start hearing weird background noises and I know I’m going to lose him soon. Before I can say I love you, he’s gone. Of course, initially I sit by the phone and wait…and wait….and wait for him to call back. But he doesn’t. And I have no choice but to accept it and understand, even though my woman brain is being psycho at this point, “why did he hang up on me?” or “how hard can it be, really, pushing the button and calling me for a second?”, etc. But I calm down and remind myself that my husband is in a war zone. In the same way he will never truly know my daily struggles, I can never come close to understanding his.
Now that we are no longer on the phone, I let go of the wet pillow and cry out loud for some time. I thought this second deployment would be better, but it’s still kicking my butt. Please God give me the strength to do things right. I want to think logically and not emotionally all the time. I have a big role to fulfill during this deployment- I don’t want to be selfish, and sometimes I really suck at that. Being selfless is easier said than done, especially while he’s gone. If you bring him back safe, I promise I’ll let him buy that silly neon-green car he wanted. And I won’t fight when he leaves the toilet seat up, which ironically, I now do on purpose to have a reminder of him in our home. Make the next 7.5 months go by really reeeeally fast for both of us. Amen.
And now there is nothing left to do but to go about my day, and wait until he calls again.