So many people talk about how difficult deployment is, but nothing is as difficult as saying goodbye beforehand. Watching the one you love get on that bus seals the impending separation you’ve been dreading for months. If you’re lucky, you know about the deployment six months to a year ahead of time. If you’re not so lucky, you know only a few months, even just a few weeks, before you’re without your spouse for seven months to a year (depending on the military branch). Thankfully, in the Marine Corps, the usual deployment length is seven months, though that’s not always the case. Every Marine wife has to mentally prepare for the possibility of an extension and finding out of that extension during her preparation for his homecoming. In mine and Evan’s case, we fell among the lucky ones to know about his deployment early on. Projected dep. dates were given nearly seven months in advance. With deployment in the distant future and a baby on the way, we ignored that dreaded date for several months.
Those months slipped by quickly and even towards the end, we got so caught up in life— Little Man’s birth, my leg surgery, and packing up the apartment—that we were almost surprised when the final day before he had to leave came upon us. Tears flowed and emotions raged. We didn’t know what to do but cry and hold tightly to each other. Evan was scheduled to leave at 2 A.M. but had to be in by 10:30 P.M. to draw weapons. We lived a half hour from base, so Evan wanted to leave an hour early to make sure he got there on time. We decided to spend the last couple hours with our neighbors, because we couldn’t stand to be in our gloomily empty apartment which was mostly packed up. The clock ticked 9:45, and we still hadn’t left yet. Mentally exhausted and emotionally spent, we wearily packed up the car with Evan’s gear, coffee, food, books, blankets, and pillows. (You always prepare to spend a long time waiting.) By this time, we just wanted to get this part over with.
It’s after 1:15 in the morning, and all I can do is lie here, thinking about Evan. Thoughts like, “I wonder what he’s doing.” and “Is he okay?” keep roaming through my mind. Sometimes I envy our little baby, Ian. He sleeps soundly, oblivious to the reality that the daddy he sees through pictures and videos isn’t physically around. He gets to traipse off into a surrealism that I can’t reach, because I know the truth–Evan isn’t here and won’t be for a long time. I’ll admit that I’ve spent the last hour crying on and off. This isn’t the first tear-filled night, nor will it be the last. I’m not worried about Evan’s safety; I know that God is watching over him. What gets to me is the loneliness that deployment brings. I enviously watch happy couples cuddle and laugh. But, when I start falling into a pity party, I remind myself of who I am . . . a Marine wife! I get to proudly say that my husband serves our country. Yes, I cry because I miss him (which is a good thing, because it shows I love him), but I also get to smile because I’m proud of what he’s doing.
Tonight through my tears and prayers, I asked God to help me. He did so by drowning out my lonely thoughts with memories of this entire last year. What a crazy year it’s been! Going into the military life was quite the adjustment for me. I’d have to sum it up with the descriptions of exciting, scary, difficult, and even funny. One of the funniest moments that sticks out to me is a time we went to the Naval Hospital. I was about 12 weeks pregnant and going in for one of my appointments. Evan and I were chatting and walking as closely as we could without holding hands. He was wearing his camis, and holding hands isn’t permitted in camis (no, not even with your spouse). As usual, I was yammering on about who-knows-what when taps started playing and the National Anthem came blaring out of loud speakers. I just kept talking and walking, looking strangely at all the poeple who were suddenly stopping. I thought to myself, “Boy, people on military bases sure are strange.” Then it occurred to me that Evan was being awfully quiet. I looked to my left to find him gone. I looked behind me, and there he was, several feet back, standing in a perfectly straight form (at attention). He simply muttered from the side of his mouth, “Stop walking.” Confused, I raised an eyebrow but did as I was told. I looked at his face, but he wasn’t looking at me. I followed the direction of his eyes to see that he was watching the raising of the American flag. Realization set in as the final chords of the Marine Corps hymn sounded out, and I felt warm redness creep up my cheeks. This was yet another new military rule that I needed to get used to. The moment taps starts playing, everyone stops. It doesn’t matter if you’re late, if you’re sick, or even if you’re about to pee your pants; you stop and wait for that flag to go up. Even if you’re in your car, you stop. More than once will you see traffic come to a complete halt, for that very reason. Although it can be a nuisance and could result in wet pants, I think it’s awesome that Old Glory still has the respect that it should. Now, when I hear taps playing, I make sure I stop talking and walking (whether I can see the flag or not). It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was actually the idiot of whom everyone else was probably thinking, “Oh look, another newbie.”