One thing a spouse going into a military marriage has to be prepared for is the effect (of the job) that carries into the night. I don’t exactly know how well my husband slept before I knew him, but I only know the man whose sleeping habits have been affected by a deployment to Iraq, a deployment to Africa, and intensive training.
Evan is an extremely heavy sleeper and does not wake up easily. He talks a lot in his sleep, and I’ve woken up to him wide-eyed and talking but still asleep. Many nights I’ve woken to him shouting orders, yelling about mortars or gunfire, or yelling at people to put their heads down. Most of these nights he’ll be sitting up, eyes wide open, and arms either flailing or “holding” a rifle. I can’t adequately describe the cold, steely look in his eyes.
During those times, I try to not touch him, for fear of startling him. Instead, I calm him with my voice and coax him to lie back down. Once he’s calm, I embrace him tightly and wonder what demons he’s fighting that night.
Now, some of those nights can be pretty humorous. When you’re pulled from your sleep often enough, you have to try grabbing some humor out of it. One night I woke to Evan mumbling. I turned to him and asked if he was okay, to which he replied, “Your face won’t look so pretty after I smash it!” I was about seven months pregnant at this time, and that kind of remark is definitely a no-no in the pregnancy handbook, asleep or not. So, eyebrow raised, I calmly responded, “Oh really. I’d love to see you try it.” He immediately pulled out of his sleep and asked if he actually said what he thought he said.
“Yes, baby, you thought a disfigurement to my face would do me some good.” I had to run with this one; it was too good. He profusely apologized and explained that he was dreaming, and he woke himself up as he was saying the face-smashing phrase. I forgave him but still like to poke fun about it to this day.
Another memory takes me to one of those scary nights. I woke to Evan sitting up, shouting about mortars. I calmly told Evan to lie down. He did, but then shot right back up again. This happened about three times. By the third time, I was slightly irritated. I was losing some much-needed sleep here, and I was so pregnant, my stomach was about to pop. I became more firm with him, and he said, “Shut the hell up!” (Let me tell you, my husband is not usually a cussing man. That was the first time I’d heard him cuss. He doesn’t believe cussing makes a person any more of a Marine, though he does slip up sometimes. But, when men like him are surrounded by it, the sub conscience still picks it up.)
Needless to say, I was shocked. So, I ripped the blankets from his grip, flopped on my side, and said, “Fine! Sit up all night for all I care. Humpf!”
The next morning, Evan woke up and leaned over to kiss me. He received a raised eyebrow and a piercing glare. He immediately groaned, “What did I say this time?”
“You know, I can take flying mortars and fake guns, but swear at me again and YOUR face won’t look so pretty,” I said, so desperately trying to not laugh. But, you know, it hasn’t happened since. I think I struck fear into his sub conscience or at least I like to think I did.
By God’s grace, Evan usually doesn’t remember anything the mornings following his night attacks, but I do. I remember the look on his face, the sound of his voice. . . I remember. Though many of our service men return to us physically unharmed, every single one of them is wounded. Their minds are wounded by what they’ve seen and by what duty calls them to do. Those are the wounds that never heal.