On September 11, 2001, my husband and I had both stayed home sick from work. In the daze and haze of a cold-medicine induced sleep, I became aware of the phone incessantly ringing... someone was calling, letting it ring a few times, hanging up, and calling back. Finally I managed to get my head together enough to answer the phone and the voice I heard on the other end of the line was that of my mom… panicked, shrill, and demanding to know if I’d seen the news. As the story tumbled out of her mouth, I rushed to turn the TV on... just in time to see the second plan hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I knew in my gut that our country was under attack, but my brain just couldn’t process it. I just couldn’t grasp that somehow this was really happening.
I went to wake my husband… trying my best to keep my voice at least a little steady… quickly explaining what had happened so far and then rushing back to the TV. As my husband came into the room, Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, and he calmly and firmly stated, “I’ll be enlisting tomorrow.”
Before that fateful morning, we were a “typical” suburban couple. I had a good job. He had an okay job, but was a junior in college studying Civil Engineering. We had a dog… a house… family and friends close by… a comfy life that required very little sacrifice or heartache. Within a few months, as our previous life was being neatly wrapped up and put away, my husband left for Basic and AIT. Then in a blink, I was preparing for a move to Germany… our first duty station. I arrived in Germany just in time for him to leave for a series of lengthy training exercises. Then he was back a few weeks and was gone… gone to Iraq… gone to war… gone to do his new job.
I found myself a 22 year old Army wife, living in a foreign country, farther away from family and friends than I had ever been, fiercely proud of my husband and determined to make the most of our new life. The first five months of his initial deployment, in the beginning of the war in Iraq, there was no communication. I spent my days praying, crying, and picking myself up. I was terrified. The “what ifs” and horrible possibilities swirled in my mind day and night. I knew, though, that my husband’s new job was about more than me… about more than us… about something greater and more meaningful than my need for my heart’s love to be close to me again. I slowly found my footing, discovered the strength and character of our dear military families, and began to “soldier up.”
Almost seventeen months later, my husband’s unit arrived back in Germany. Their arrival was quickly (much too quickly) followed by many months of training, and then he was gone again. This time, he left not only me, but a sweet little baby growing inside of me. A year later, he came home to a me and a seven month old daughter… and “he” came home as a different person… my sweet, tender, Love had been replaced by an angry, struggling, injured Hero.
In the years since, we’ve learned to cope with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury), degenerative issues in his bones and joints, surgery, the VA system, and our “next” life as a Veteran family. None of it has been easy, and there are days when I find myself wondering about the price we’ve paid for patriotism… about the different life we would have had… about the Daddy my daughter will never know. But then, I remember those images from that now long ago morning of people jumping to their deaths to escape the roaring flames, of people bloody and soot covered walking aimlessly from the wreckage in New York and D.C., of the heartache and pain and disbelief that those attacks caused, and of the heroes who held places deep in our hearts that were lost on that day and in the years that have followed. And somehow, each and every time, I know that we paid a price that had to be paid and am so proud of my Hero Husband and every other Veteran for stepping up to offer him or herself in defense of our country. May we never forget the lessons we’ve learned. May we never, ever, ever stop remembering. May we all continue to “soldier up”.
Proud Wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of FamilyOfaVet.com