(If you are new here, my husband is a medevac pilot who just returned home from a 9 month deployment to Afghanistan.)
He’s home now, and we are lying in the dark under the covers, me with my hand on his arm because we must be touching. And he’s right next to me, but there is an ocean between us while he tells me what he’s seen.
I’m holding my breath to keep the tears quiet, but they slip fat and silent onto the sheets.
Here’s my dirty little secret. I didn’t truly believe he would come home. But I didn’t know that until he did. I all-the-way-deep to my bones thought he would not survive this deployment. Like the disciple Peter, I was sinking under the wind and the waves. I was drowning when I tore my eyes away from Truth.
And so for the month of September, I sat, in silent amazement, on the the gross green couch, sneaking glances over at this gift of a man, alive, and physically whole. Occasionally I would touch his arm softly, just to reassure myself.
But the danger in rejoicing, I discovered, is diminishing the lives of the young (oh so young) soldiers carried from the battlefield in pieces … patients worked on with a steady, relentless fervor by the docs, nurses, and medics riding these complicated beasts. There is a singular purpose for this technical ballet of man and machine.
(And believe me when I tell you I could write a book on the bravery and humility of the medical personnel serving the wounded, and they would hate it.)
And so while I sit in silent gratitude, sliding my hand into his, he can’t shake the loss. When I tell the flying stories to family, because I have to tell someone how I’m busting with pride, he’s grim beside me because the stories end before he tells me if they lived or died. Because the violence of CPR, and the bloody aftermath of carrying the wounded does not for a story make when talking to his mother.
And so an ocean opens up in the bed when he tells me that my gratitude comes at a great cost. That he wrestles with why he’s next to me, and so many others caught an angel flight home.
This is reintegration.
(There are happier parts, for the record. Like how Wee Man (who is three) asking for his dad from sun up to sundown because he is so excited to be with him. When he says, still, three months later, “Dad? I’m really glad you’re home.”)
It’s Veterans day today. This woman explained the Thank You narrative beautifully and we have learned to accept thanks graciously knowing what it may mean for the person offering them. I know we will receive many such words today and I love you all for them. We have survived this life born up by the support of our friends and family. Thank YOU.
And David Maddox, Bowen Wheeler, John Maddox, James Wheeler, Mary Beth Wheeler, Andy Newman and Paul Holt – I love you, thank you for your service. I’m sorry I can’t list you all.