To My Husband, Nicholas Johnson,
About a week ago you asked me why I put up with everything and stay. You questioned how long I would be able to put up with the way life is for us right now. I thought about what you asked me and at first I didn’t have an answer. I went to ask my question to a close group of friends that deal with this life first hand. I typed it out and just stopped and looked at it on the screen, “How long do you put up with this mess of a life before you give up?” I couldn’t do anything other than look at those words on the screen. How long? I asked myself a few things after a few minutes. Am I crazy? How dare I ask that question? That is the craziest thing I have ever thought. I thought of our vows and the day we got married and all of a sudden it was like the last 2 years just flashed before my eyes. I remembered everything from the good to the bad and everything in between. When you get married you make a commitment. You make a promise, to love you and be there for you through sickness in health. How dare I ask how long do you put up with things this way? I had no right asking that. I asked it out of anger and hurt. But those feelings all went away when I thought of our life together and the reason we started this journey to begin with, because we fell in love.
I had no idea that August 2009 would change my life in every way possible. Things were not what I expected and it was crazy. We met through a mutual friend in early August. We went on our first date August 10th. I was so nervous it wasn’t even funny. I felt like I was 13 and I had butterflies again. You picked me up that evening and took me out to dinner. We ate at Red Robin and had an evening full of conversation and laughs. No awkward moments at all. It was like I had known you forever. It was such a crazy feeling of comfort that I had never felt before. After dinner you took me to my favorite place in the whole world, the beach. We walked the beach just talking and enjoying the weather and then we sat down and talked forever. I remember what happened next like it happened yesterday. You leaned in and kissed me. It was the most magical moment of my life. You made me feel like the only woman in the world and it was a feeling I had never felt before. That night after you took me home I was on could nine. I felt like it was all a dream and I was afraid to wake up. I think I may have fallen asleep with a smile from ear to ear. We had a date every day that week. It was one of the best weeks of my life up until that point.
We never talked much about marriage or how serious we wanted things to be because at that time we were both military and had no clue what the next day would hold. We took it all day by day and enjoyed every minute. August 20th I spent the day with you, nothing special. You took me out to dinner again and then we went to the beach. It seemed like just a regular evening, something we would do any day of the week. It was late and it was getting chilly with the breeze from the ocean. You gave me your shirt even though it wasn’t much and just held me close to keep me warmer. We talked a bit and just relaxed after a long day. I made what I thought would be a silly comment about falling in love with you, not knowing that you were feeling the same way. And then you asked me to stand up. I argued because I was tired and cold. Finally I gave in. You knelt down and took my hand, and asked me if I would marry you. I was in shock. Before I could answer a crab bit you and I just started to laugh. It was a moment I will never forget. It was just you, me, the beach, and the light of the moon. Of course I said yes. But I still had no clue how much you would change my life. From that moment on you loved me more than I ever thought was possible.
A few weeks after being engaged, I had gotten a text from you saying that you were deploying. I didn’t know to where or for how long. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. I was angry, sad, lonely, and anxious. It was like my stomach just sank. Later that evening you called me to discuss some details and also letting me know that you didn’t know all the details yet you just knew that it was Afghanistan. The end of September I came back out to live with you. We were not married yet but had planned on a quick courthouse wedding since we didn’t know how much time we would have together. October 6th was a crazy day from the start, it seemed like the whole world was against us from the start. Nothing that morning was going right for us at all. But we were determined. That afternoon we finally pulled things together and managed to get hitched. It wasn’t anything romantic but it was legal and that’s what counted. From that moment on I was yours and you were mine. I think sometimes I forget about that determination we had that day or how much I loved you the first moment that I met you.
We didn’t have much time together being married as we would have liked. The end of November just after Thanksgiving you got the news on your orders. You would be leaving about 2 weeks after that. We had about 2 solid months to “enjoy” being married and then our world was turned upside down. The moment you loaded into the van to leave I felt like my whole world was falling apart. I had no idea how I could continue on without you. I was so scared for you, me and for us. I just knew that I had to be strong for you because you had been so strong for me this far. I managed to swallow my emotions early that morning and hug you one last time. I watched you leave and I didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t know if I would see you again or when I would talk to you again. It was the worst feeling in the whole world just watching your life walk away and not know what the future would hold for us. For the next few days I just continued with what I knew I had to do. But I felt so empty.
All of a sudden my kisses goodnight were gone and my hugs in the morning were no more. The love of my life, my everything, my husband and my hero were off to war. It felt like the scene from a movie. It didn’t feel like it was really happening to us.
Everyday felt like a year while you were away. I always heard people say that but I never knew what they meant. Now I knew. It was so awful. I missed you more and more everyday and I had no idea how because I thought I loved you more than anything. My life hung on every email, phone call, and letter. It felt like I couldn’t breathe until I heard from you again because I had to know you were ok. I just wanted more than anything to wake up and have you home with me. Soon I was preparing for your return home. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was so nervous. I think I was more nervous during the homecoming process than I had ever been during our relationship thus far. Finally that day came. I got up early and made sure that I looked as pretty as possible for you. I drove to base and parked and waited. I felt like I was waiting for days. It was about a 7 hour wait but it was worth it. Finally I saw your smiling face and ran into your arms again. It was the happiest moment of my life to have you home with me after 7 long trying months. I had your arms around me and your kisses to comfort me. It was heaven all over again. Once again I loved you more than I did before.
The months after homecoming seemed hard but I just figured it was all part of the adjustment everyone had talked about. I kept quiet and just kept loving you. Soon it wasn’t enough. I then realized that we were battling something much bigger than imagined. It was what we later found out to be TBI and PTSD. It felt like a battle we would never win, and still feels like that some days. Every day has been a learning experience and a journey. It hasn’t been easy but we still have us. I know that this is something we will deal with for a very long time, if not forever. I know it won’t be easy and I know some days will be hell, but at least we are going through it together. Just know that no matter how angry or upset I may seem at the time that I love you more than anything and I am always going to be your wife.
I am so proud to say that you are my husband, my hero, my love, and my everything. You mean the world to me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You are the only one I want to love forever and ever. You are my husband and I am your wife. I know it’s been a crazy life but we are in this together and I mean that more than you know.
I love you with all of my heart, my love!
Your wife, Sara Johnson
This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.co