Day 6 bonus 500 words a day for 30 days experiment @kale&cigarettes #500wordsaday
I have to confess that although my husband has been in the military for 20 plus, when asked what was the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, I had to pause and think about it for a split second.
On Memorial Day, we honor those that have lost their lives while serving in the Armed Forces. It’s something that I associate with death and war and loss and I keep that stuff over there- in a little box taped and sealed up-not to think too much about-not to deal with. Even though my hubby is still in the service and he’s been deployed to the Middle East during tumultuous times, I’ve kept the fact that he’s ever in danger at arm’s length. He’s been in some hairy situations there and in other areas of the world. But, denial has been one of my survival tactics.
My line of reasoning has been that he’s in a big ‘ole ship, out in the ocean, he’s the vessel that carries the combat teams over to deal with that mess. His line of work is physically and mentally challenging and draining but he’s not in the line of fire. We’ve both compartmentalized our lives a bit. Work and home life has been clearly defined. I don’t know much other than a few details but it’s not something that we talk about at length. He says he doesn’t like to bring it home and right now it makes it easier to do because he’s not on a ship and it feels like he has a regular 9-5, coming home everyday and out of harm. It’s a fairytale. Until he goes back on a ship with deployment rotations and a demanding schedule leading up and some time off after for the next two years.
It’s coming up soon and I don’t dare to go there too much in my head. I put that off until it’s time. That’s another reason that I don’t give too much thought when the holidays like Veteran’s or Memorial Day come around. I honor those that put their lives on the line to serve even though I don’t agree with war or violence. Being in the military, you lose your freedom. When you’ve signed the papers and committed, that’s it. But, no one can really know what it’s like to experience the unknown and what that commitment will cost you. I’ve heard the nonchalant comments; you know what you got yourself into, even from those in it. You chose this life. These comments are part of the reason for brushing the feeling aside and not voicing the pain and fear because it’s not encouraged to do so.
As a spouse, I haven’t been involved in support groups or in the spouse’s groups other than a meeting that included some useful info about managing finances. I’ve wanted to keep it at a distance and live in my denial. I haven’t found an in between. It’s either all gung-ho, knowing every detail (no, thanks) or in tears and not being able to handle it, from what I’ve seen. I’ve stayed away and have chosen to share with a few close friends that have already been through it. But, again, no one really knows what it’s like at that moment of feeling overwhelmed, scared and alone. Well, we all have felt these real human emotions but sometimes it’s too much to share for fear of being weak or judged or pathetic. That’s what’s stopped me from opening up all the way. In the past, I’ve put up a big, fat wall of denial and have hidden the moments of depression. That deep despair and hopelessness that thankfully has been brief and passes. I’ve reached in to myself and thankfully through yoga and self-reflection, I’ve been able to endure.
Again, it’s been 2 years of a fairytale so I’ve waved the wand and blocked all of that out until it comes closer to going back to a ship and it starts to seep in again. The anxiety and worry and I brush it off again. I remind myself that we’re not there yet. Enjoy now. Yoga helps and also that fact that I’m fortunate for all that I have, my freedom, close friends and creative outlets.
I can never put myself in the shoes of the warriors out there that have to confront and live the life of a soldier, sailor, marine, on the front lines. I feel compassion and love for those out there that have been there and back and now are changed forever. We, my husband and I, are the fortunate ones. Like I said, he’s not in direct harm’s way or on the ground in the midst of the chaos. We acknowledge that and are deeply grateful. We have a meaningful and good life. He’s seen the effect of overwhelm and the deep desperation of others and has mentored and counseled many men that have given up on life.
I ventured in a little yesterday on the car ride home. I asked Frank how many people he knew that have committed suicide while he’s been in the Navy. Over the span of 22 years, he’s personally known over 10 men that have died while in due to car accidents, suicide or illness. Most have taken their own lives. He’s personally escorted one sailor that was threatening to kill himself all the way from Africa to San Diego. That guy couldn’t handle it anymore while they were on deployment and they decided to send him back to the naval hospital in S.D. Frank had just received news of his father’s death. He passed away on New Year’s Eve two years ago. I received the news from my mother in law in Ecuador. He had been ill and passed away in the hospital there. In Ecuador, you are cremated right away and the funeral is usually the very next day. There’s no way either I or Frank all the way off the coast of Africa would have been able to make it.
Having no experience with a death in the family or how to contact Frank with an emergency while he was gone had to ask my close friend what to do next. I wanted to be the one to deliver the devastating news to him myself but there’s no way to contact them simply by picking up the phone. I felt sick and tried to absorb the pain that he would have to deal with when he found out his Dad was gone. The pain that he would feel that he didn’t see him before he passed and that he wouldn’t be there for his memorial. I was in action mode and made countless calls and followed the protocol and procedures set forth by the military. What the hell do I know about protocols? Zero. But, I got it done. Sent the message through the Red Cross. The ways it goes is that the sailor receives a message from the chaplain to call home right away and they’re on standby to deal with the aftermath. I begged them to let me deliver the news. Let him hear it from me. But, that’s not the way it works. Once a chaplain comes up to you, they know it’s serious, a death, an emergency at home. He later told me that when the chaplain came to him, his mind immediately went to, my wife, my kids, something happened to them. But, the chaplain laid it out for him, his Dad was gone.
Another wave of relief but new devastation sunk in. He had never received news like this when he’d been on deployment and he didn’t know what to do. He was led to the phone to call me. We talked, cried and didn’t know what was next. They told us that he could return home on bereavement leave and go from there. That was a mission and a half to get from the middle of nowhere back home; days of waiting, while the protocol and red tape and paperwork were completed, connecting overseas flights all the while keeping a close eye on the guy that had attempted suicide that was under his care now.
What did I do in the meantime? I had planned a small New Year’s get together for my closest friends, the inner circle, my chosen family. I briefly delivered the news to them and struggled with whether or not to proceed with our plans. They helped me make the decision to gather together and be with me and as an extension with Frank in our time of grief. We had a quieter NYE than planned that year but we wove in some laughs and stories about my incomparable father-in-law, a true character that spiced up any interaction with his unique personality. That’s what we do. We have no other choice but to keep it real, deal with it with humor and keep it moving.
That for most people not in the military would be excruciating and painful circumstances. But, for the ones in, it’s a pretty good scenario. He was alive, all limbs intact, getting a brief reprieve from service, to grieve with his family. He had his wife and kids waiting at home to console him. We still had to find gratitude and solace in that.
This is a little slice of life from a military wife’s perspective. This is the reason why I care so much for what happens to our warriors coming back wounded, devastated and forever changed for what they’ve witnessed. In honor of my husband and all of those that serve in the military whether on the battleground or not, I give my time to serve in whatever way I can. I’ve volunteered my time to raise funds for the Warriors for Healing foundation, headed up by Bhava Ram. Their efforts to fund free yoga classes, resources and spread the healing of yoga to vets, active duty service members and their families is admirable and an amazing mission that I’ve chosen to be a part of. I’m looking for a space to hold a weekly free yoga class and have committed to raise money for this worthy cause. This is how I choose to help; this is how I choose to pay it forward. Yoga has and continues to help and heal me and I believe wholeheartedly that this is my purpose.
I’m not peddling my wares and trying to get you to buy anything but I am asking you to take a moment to consider making a donation to Warriors for Healing. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. If I’ve shed a little light on what Memorial Day is all about and you want to do a little more than share a generic pic on FB today, than please click on the link to donate. It will take you a few seconds and a few bucks that you might have otherwise spent on something you don’t really need. Or not, you do have the freedom to choose your next move.
More about Warriors for Healing here:
P.S. Through W4H, I connected with an amazing resource for military spouses, one that finally, I can relate to-In-Dependent. I must give them a shout out because they're talking about the issues that military families face in a true, authentic voice.