When you sign on to be a military spouse, no one tells you what you can really expect. If you have any involvement with the military, you’ve probably heard it said that “The Military is the mistress…and sometimes she gets all of the attention.”
For those of us living with this reality, it can be tough.
The hubs left for Coast Guard training just two short weeks after we said our vows. We’d had a whirlwind romance, and had just found out (three days before he left) that we were having a baby. Despite growing up not too far from an Army Post, I didn’t have any clue what I was getting myself into. I was a newlywed—and newly pregnant—military wife, about to see my husband off for a little more than 30 days, just a few short weeks into our marriage.
I wouldn’t get to talk to him very often, if at all.
I wouldn’t get to see him.
That week long honeymoon we had was the most I would “connect” with him for at least a month.
I cried a lot over those first few weeks. We didn’t have a house yet, nor did we have our allotted moving allowance to get us from our home state of Alabama to our new duty station in Saint Petersburg, Florida. And what little military knowledge I’d gained, came from watching Army Wives reruns and a few sporadic online conversations with women who had done this duty before me.
After several very long weeks of separation and one long 7 hour drive to Florida (with my little black Cobalt loaded down with our personal belongings trailing behind my parents who volunteered to make the drive, pull the U-Haul, help me unpack and get settled into our new place before the hubs ever made it back to Florida. They were awesome), the day that my husband was to come home finally arrived.
It was an estimated 28 minute drive from our tiny apartment in Saint Pete, to the airport in Tampa. The husband’s flight was scheduled to come in at 5:00…I showed up at the airport a little before 4:00. I remember grabbing myself a Starbucks, the latest copy of People magazine (I love their crossword puzzles) and plopping my pregnant rear into one of those hard and uncomfortable terminal chairs to wait.
I couldn’t stop checking the clock. I was impatient. I was antsy. I was nervous. What if my husband came back and thought he might have made a mistake? What if he was attracted to me anymore because I was pregnant?
Those were the thoughts I was battling that day. Those were the things I was worried about.
And then I noticed a lady sitting beside me. She was about my age; maybe a little older. She had two boys with her—one had to be about six and the other was probably three or four. They were wearing American Flag t-shirts. (You know those that Old Navy sells every year?) And in her hands, was a little girl. The little girl she was holding had on a precious red dress and some really cute little white sandals. She had shoulder length curly brown hair and the most beautiful green eyes. She was a year and half old.
And she’d never met her daddy.
When I noticed the lady wearing a yellow ribbon on her shirt, I assumed (correctly) that her husband was military. She smiled, affirming what I already knew, and asked the same question to me. I smiled proudly, saying that Yes, I was a Coast Guard Wife. We chatted for the next 45 minutes, and I learned that her husband had been gone for a little over TWO years. She didn’t go into detail about why her husband had been deployed for so long, but the idea of being separated from my husband that long was enough to make me cry.
She went on to explain that he’d been deployed when she was seven months pregnant, and had been scheduled to come back to the states when their daughter was about six months old…but he’d been detained. And then detained again. I remember sitting there with my hand on my very-pregnant stomach and wondering what it would be like to have to raise this baby on my own, in a new place, without my husband. I couldn’t begin to fathom it.
As both our husband’s arrival times neared (they happened to be on the same flight), her little boys grew antsy.
The airport in Tampa is like a big Spider’s web. Planes dock at their respective terminals, and then passengers have to get on a shuttle bus to get to the main area of the airport.
As the shuttles came and went, this woman’s sons grew more and more anxious. Each time the doors would open, their faces would light up, only to be met with the realization that their father wasn’t on that particular shuttle.
Finally, their moment arrived. Their daddy stepped off the shuttle dressed in his Army Uniform. I remember watching in what felt like slow motion as the little boys ran full speed into their out-stretched arms of their hero. By this point, I was in tears…feeling like an intruder on this beautiful reunion. Slowly, the woman sitting next to me stood, and put her little girl on the ground to walk. As if they had never been separated…as if her daddy had been there with her her entire life, this beautiful little curly haired girl walked right up to her daddy, smiled, and said simply, “Da-da!”
With tear-filled eyes, he said simply, “Hi, sweetheart. I’m your Daddy.”
As I watched this family walk off, eager and excited to make up for the time they had lost…I was filled with a pride that I’d never known before. A pride that I carry with me, even now. A pride and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what these men and women give up to keep our nation free.
My husband was on the next shuttle. And our reunion was as meaningful and as heartfelt in my eyes as the family that had left before me. We hugged, we kissed (a lot), he rubbed my belly and talked to our soon-to-be son. We spent hours and hours the coming days just curled up on the couch together, relishing in the fact that we were together.
But, I still think about that family, even today. I wonder where they are…if that little girl still has curly hair…if they’ve endured another separation as great as that one. I wonder when that will be me again. When I’ll have to say goodbye to my husband, watch him board a plane, and leave our family for an extended period of time.
And then I see this:
And I’m reminded of why it is that my husband does what he does. And that same sense of pride that I felt that day at the airport terminal, washes over me once again.
While your out and about today, take the time to thank a service member for the sacrifice that they make for us. Shake their hand and offer them your sincerest gratitude for all that they do to keep our nation “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Through the partnership Kroger will donate $250,000 to the USO. As part of the partnership Kroger and P&G have created an opportunity to let consumers virtually “shake hands with a hero” – the proper custom to show your gratitude to US soldiers in uniform to thank them for their service to our country. The first 50,000 people who utilize the microsite application to shake a soldier’s hand will receive a coupon (loaded to their Kroger Plus Card) for $1 off P&G products.
Thank you to Procter & Gamble, Kroger and the USO for sponsoring this blog post and the Shake Hands With A Hero initiative. Please click here to learn more about this program. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.