Last night my husband and I attended his battalion ball. You can check out the snark and sarcasm on twitter under the hashtag #tweetsfromtheball if you’re that interested but all in all, it was a really good time.
What’s always neat, though, for me as both a spouse and a soldier, is how often spouses are left out of the conversations. These men and women deployed together. When they talk about SRO, they understand what they mean without having to ask for clarification (sustainment replenishment operations). When they talk about Anvil and Forge, they understand what that means (routes in southern Iraq).
Last night, I watched and observed. The stories. The drinking and laughter about truly dark moments where they were sure someone had died. The failed communications. The blown up routes. All these things were laughed and joked about when less than six months ago, they were sitting in the the middle of the desert, aircraft overhead, the last boots on the ground (yes I know we have advisors on the ground).
Sitting last night, listening to the trash talking and the jokes and the drunken tales of air conditioned porta potties, I laughed with them. But this morning, I woke (not hungover) and felt a crushing sadness. I couldn’t explain my need to cry until it hit me: I was not sad. I was so fucking relieved my husband had made it home. Not once. Not twice. Four combat tours.
Tours like OIF 2, when he traveled the road to Fallujah, through Sadr City. Through OIF 06-08 when he did not see his daughter until she was nearly a year old, having missed her birth. OIF 09-11, when we lost a battalion commander and lived in fear that a good friend of ours down in 6-9 ARS might be next. And finally through New Dawn, when I prayed that there would be not one more loss of life.
Last night, it dawned on several of us that there are soldiers who just returned home who have no idea what the war was really like. They think when we’re bitching at them to put their eye pro on, we’re just bitching. They don’t realize that men like my husband have literally seen lives saved from those glasses. They don’t realize that Greywolf has fought some of the hardest fights of the conventional war in Iraq.
They don’t know any of the names on the First Team Memorial.
This then is the transition we are stepping into. The transition between those who have seen combat and those who have sat on the FOB or those who have sat in the Pentagon. Those who have run the roads or flown over them or merely looked at them on a map. Those who have lived on shitty fobs and cops, shitting in buckets and living on MREs in 120 degree heat while others went to the DFAC every day and ate Baskin Robbins.
There are different perceptions of the war. Different memories. Different lessons learned. This then is the takeaway that we as army leaders must some how implement as we transition to a time that is either forgotten or never experienced by a large portion of our force.
But today, I am relieved. When he crossed the border in Kuwait, I watched it on the news. The only thing I could think was that he made it.
Today, that feels no less true, no less real and no less crushing in it’s magnitude.
He made it.