(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.
So beautiful, Molly, in the joy and in the grief!
Beautifully written. Thank you
These are tender and true words, Molly. Thanks for sharing them with us. I miss you and Pete and your amazingly cute rug rats!
Molly – I’d love to include this last blog in a DUSTOFFer Newsletter – we do not do enough to honor our spouses – may I?
Of course you can! Thanks for your kind words on FB.
Molly, what a beautiful post. Grateful for your family’s service and your man safe at home.
Thank you for sharing this Molly. You both have my unadulterated respect for the multiple deployments and reintegrations your family has survived. I am proud and honored to know you both.
A beautiful post, Molly. My husband just returned home from his 9 month deployment to Afghanistan in September and I have a son currently deployed. Thank you to your family for your service. Our military families are always in our prayers. Blessings.
These words are so beautifully written. I shed tears, because soldiers coming back from battlefields always make me cry: yes, even those who return outwardly whole.
I come from a small island off the West Coast of Scotland, and the two World Wars decimated our villages. This post speaks of a wonderful initiative our local community put in place last year, and it gives just some idea of the unspeakable anguish our communities must have gone through.
As a family, we pay tribute to our soldiers, both past and present, but I can’t pretend to truly know *anything* of the pain the soldiers and their families go through. Please know that even in this far away corner, your ‘boys’ are being prayed for, as well as our own.
Hats off to you all
(Oh, and I still call our Wee Guy our ‘Wee Guy’ …. and he’s 12. The fate of the youngest child!)
Thank you – for your words here, for your emotions, and remembrance. Our families are born up by people like you. And yes to our wee men!
It’s nearing 4AM and I lay awake because my husband is deployed in Iraq (again) and I had the privilege of being awakened to a midnight call. We actually got to talk 2 minutes short of an hour. The longest conversation we’ve had since he got in country. There is limited internet access where he is, no PX, no Skype. I live for our 2 to 3 conversations a week. But sleep usually eludes me after our typivslly timed 30 minute conversations. So I lay awake, reading your stories, many of them. Don’t think me a stocker. I recently discovered your blog when my sister shared The Happy Hour podcast with me. So I have a lot to catch up on. 🙂
My husband has been in the army for almost 13 years. The first 7 active and these past 5+ years in the Army Reserves. He has deployed to Korea, Iraq, Iraq again, Afghanistan, and now Iraq yet again. This is his first deployment as a reservist and I’m finding this one so much harder, for many reasons. One being that I am no longer surrounded by other military wives and the support and connection that comes from that. Your blog has made me feel that connection just a little bit more. So thank you!
I can relate to you when you say you didn’t truly believe your husband would return from his last deployment. I have felt that a lot this time around. I don’t know what it is really, I didn’t feel that in previous deployments, even when he was in a combat unit under much worse conditions. Perhaps it’s just that this is his 4th deployment (two of which were 15 month deployments) and I start to wonder, how many times can you go over there and still return home?