May 29, 2004

THANKS

I got my first thank you the other day.

I just booked a cruise for when my husband gets back. (I know, it's risky guessing when he'll get home, but I had no choice: we had a voucher for a free cruise, and it had to be booked by the end of this month. We're taking a gamble here, but what can you do?) When I called the booking lady and explained the situation to her, she kindly said that she thanks my husband for everything he is doing and appreciates his service.

That's the first time that's happened to me. Of course blog readers have written and said the same thing -- and I certainly appreciate everyone who has expressed their support -- but it was the first time I had heard a stranger say those words to me.

Tim and I were recently talking about the unique situation we find ourselves in on the overseas posts. The only human contact we have is with other military families, who are in the same boat, and German citizens, who don't thank us for much of anything. The only people I talk to on the phone are family members and close friends. I hadn't yet had to go through the "my husband is deployed" explanation with anyone, and it felt kinda weird.

We here are lucky that we don't have much contact with anyone else, because that means there are no pity parties. I can't boo-hoo that my husband is gone because everyone else around me deserves the same sympathy. And the ones whose husbands are not gone know better than to say anything (well, excluding the girl I recently met who complained that her husband is leaving next month, which makes his deployment a good four and a half months shorter than everyone else's.) I'm glad that we don't get to play the victim card here in Germany; it makes it easier for us to focus on the mission at hand.

Deployment in general is a humbling experience. No matter how hot, hungry, tired, or grumpy I feel, I know that my husband and his soldiers have ten times more right to complain. It really puts things in perspective when I'd like to complain that I had to stay up until 2300 booking our cruise and then I think of my husband, who stays up until 2300 working every night (if he's lucky). At the end of the week when I'm beat from working two jobs and going to German class, I remember that my husband has been working for over 100 days straight without one single day off. When I'm sitting here right now thinking of how hot it is in this room, I remember that the highs in Iraq next week hover around 103 degrees. And no matter how much Ben Gay I think I need for my back, my husband wears an extra 65 lbs. of armor every single day. I'm humbled every time I think of how much trivial complaining I do in an average week, and I thank heavens that there are men and women who are enduring a whole lot more and complaining a whole lot less than I.

When the nice lady finished up our cruise booking, she asked if we had any particular food preferences. "Anything that's not an MRE and anything alcoholic," I replied. I'm really looking forward to seeing my husband be able to relax.

Posted by: Sarah at 11:48 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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1 A cruise sounds nice. We've tentatively planned a huge road trip when Nerdstar comes back. She has to come back thru Ft. Lewis for at least two weeks, probably more, so I'm going to drive up there and we'll hang out until she's cleared. Driving means I can take the dog instead of boarding him - Nerdstar and Ramen will both be happier! Then we're talking about driving down the Pacific Coast Highway to SF or LA and heading over to Vegas. Without departing flights it'll be hard to leave Vegas! It's a tricky balance to plan for the future and worry about today. I think that's the hardest part for people who don't have loved ones over there to understand.

Posted by: Beth at May 29, 2004 06:45 PM (RCNQ5)

2 The other day when I was mailing another package to your husband and my son at the Post Office, the postal worker asked the relationship to the name on the package. I explained it was my son and that both of my sons were over there. The 2 ladies behind me gasped. The Post Office is selling phone cards for service people in Iraq and giving a small pin to those who buy the cards. The Post Office will send the phone cards to the units in Iraq for distribution. As I was putting away my paperwork in my purse, the lady purchased a card and gave my the pin. I thanked her and then the next lady did the same thing. It was a wonderful gesture and touched me. It is these gestures that help.

Posted by: Maryellen at May 30, 2004 11:05 AM (My8fB)

3 Sarah, As you well know, it's been 100+ days now of encounters where I tell people I have 2 sons in Iraq. I get a lot of Oh,man, or You're kidding? or holy shit! Lately, Idon't reply, just leave that embarassing silence hanging out there to guage their opinion on Iraq. I'm sure it's now scientific, after all I try not to sound happy that my sons are over there. It's been about 3-1 that invading Iraq was a mistake. I then try to re-inforce those folks that "mistake" is too small a word- Bush is either criminally devious or criminally incompetent, or both. Occasionlly, some will defend Bush, but grocery check-out lines and such are not good debate sites. I usually end the encounter with "Regine change in November!" and I'll get a thumbs up or a blank stare. Hopefully, the thumbs up will translate into voting patterns. But pro or con, they are always supportive of the troops, esp. my ttroops. Maybe the reactions of the junior enlilsted families to your sunshine match my experiences. Your father-in-law

Posted by: Don at May 30, 2004 11:20 AM (i86QG)

4 I did the same thing for thirteen months while my husband was deployed in Iraq- everything I experienced was in no way comparable to what my soldier went through. Hot here? Hotter there. Stressed out by bills and responsibilities? No contest. Power went out? Don't even mention it. That sort of thinking permeated my outlook the entire time. Several other wives felt the same way and we broached our new found humility at our family support group meeting. The FRG Liaison NCO stayed quiet as we each took turns explaining how we no longer griped and bemoaned our daily stresses because we felt too guilty knowing out spouses had it worse. Then our Liaison NCO got up and looked at us thoughtfully. What he said had a huge impact on me and how I viewed the deployment. He reminded us that in the military there may be a rigid hierarchy, but there was no hierarchy of pain and suffering. One soldier doesn't suffer more than another, soldiers suffer together. He stressed that as wives, we were crucial to the military family and families suffer together. Our soldiers may suffer differently but they don't necessarily suffer more. And our attitude towards sacrifice ought to be one of humor and camaraderie rather than guilt and humility. Embrace it and Laugh at it- his words. My husband's deployment has been over for two months now. We've each had an opportunity to share things that we didn't mention while the other was gone. Traffic tickets. Close calls. That sort of thing. It is a relief not to have a misplaced sense of guilt or superiority between us when we talk about the past year. It was what it was- no need for value or judgment to be placed on it.

Posted by: Crys at May 30, 2004 02:52 PM (s6c4t)

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