Reflecting On The Past

As the 4th of July approaches, I tend to ponder and reflect on the past (as I now do with Memorial day and Veterans Day), with a new found respect for what these holidays represent. Before September 11, 2001, to me they were just days that reflected some of our country’s history. Not any more. September 11, 2001, changed the direction that my family’s life would go. It forever changed how I felt about what our Armed Forces do.

When the Twin Towers were attacked, I remember my husband saying ” We will go to war over this” and I felt such a relief that his time with the Army National Guard had been up for about a year. He had served his duty to our country (he was in the Navy during the first Golf War,and later enlisted in the Michigan Nation Guard). That relief was short lived. He came home from work one day and said that he wanted to re-enlist with his unit (1461st Transportation Unit) because they would most likely be heading to Iraq and he needed to be with his “family”. I stood behind that decision. I understood, they were an extension to our family for many years. I understood  his desire to serve his country. I respected that and was proud of that, but at the same time, as a wife and mom it was scary, I did not want to be a single parent and a widow. A few years went by and no deployment. Some of the unit went with the first wave of troops that were sent over to Iraq but My husband was not on that list. They all came back safe and sound. However, deployment was not to avoided. It would happen.

Three years later in September of 2004, the biggest challenge I ever faced in my life happened. I stood alongside my children and my husband’s family and wept with fear and sadness as I watched my husband and his fellow soldiers prepare for deployment. I still  feel the agonizing ripping of my heart when he leaned out the bus window and pointed at me yelling “I will be back!” There were the questions in my mind that I refused to voice out loud… How do you know you will be back? Are you God? Do you see the future? I was filled with a fear that I have never felt before. It truly was a sickening feeling! It would take months before I could sleep at night without crying myself to sleep. It would be months before our kids would settle in to our “new normal”.

For the next 14 months, I would be a worried single, yet married mom of three, hold down two jobs, and take care of not only my household duties by my husband’s as well. I had support from friends and family, but mostly I did things on my own. I learned that I truly was a strong woman. But I still yearned to have my husband by my side. I waited days and weeks for for video chats and phone calls. Prayed for there to be no knocks on my door from the men in dress uniforms. I learned no news is good news.

This is a picture that my husband sent home. One of  our favorites! A sweet message from dad from far away to just say “I love you”

 14 long months passed before Marty (my husband) and his unit came home. It was on Thanksgiving day, 2005. One of the happiest days of our lives! His promise to come home was fulfilled. We could go back to the way life was. Or so I thought. Physically, my husband, and father to my children was home. However, it would take several months before I realized that the man that left was not the same as the man who came home. Marty was not as happy or carefree as before he left for war. His anger was quick, and emotional issues were setting in. For a long time, he had a hard time driving down the road with out having the drive be tension filled and in high alert mode. Finally through a visit to the VA Hospital, he was diagnosed with PTSD. It has not been an easy journey these last few years. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a silent disorder in the sense of there are no outward signs of it. It’s mental disorder that will never go away, he will only be able to have treatment to learn to manage it.

This is my husband in the turret of his gun truck

Flash forward eight years, and life is finally finding some sense or “normalcy”. Marty is retired from the Military, and has taken a medical retirement form working at the prison. While his PTSD is more manageable, it still at times holds us captive. This war is still going on for our country and for our servicemen and women and for my husband and our family. We are still living with the side effects of  deployment. All five of us in my family have been affected by Marty’s deployment in different ways.  It was by the grace of God Marty returned to us. I am thankful, and praise God often that we did not have to endure multiple deployments. God has been faithful, and through lots of prayers, tears and hard times, our marriage and our family has remained intact.

As we head out on the 4th to celebrate with a canoe trip followed by fireworks over the lake, I am thankful that finally we can go to the fireworks without them sending Marty into flashback mode. I am proud of what Marty has done for our country. I am proud of his service during two wars. I am proud of the man that he is and for trying his best to overcome the issues that he has from his time over seas. I am proud of all of our family members who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, and our extended military family from the 1461st. I am proud to be an American.

Thank you to all our servicemen and women active and veterans and our fallen heroes. I appreciate you!