Tonight is the official leaving ceremony for K’s unit even though they are not leaving right away. After a short discussion (because we were in agreement), K and I both decided it would be better for the kids and me not to go this time around. I have already been to one of these affairs and it was a lot of speeches—some heartfelt, some political— a fair amount of crying and trying not to cry, and a spectacular sense of dread for the coming months. The men were leaving the next day for their mobilization station and the last place I wanted to be was surrounded by people who looked as lost as I did. That night I managed to get physically ill from the pressure of it all. That hasn’t happened since, and I have no intention of it ever happening again.
One of the several reasons we decided to forgo this event (beyond too late at night and too far away) was that we both felt it would just upset R. Maybe we are wrong, but right now, she is doing well with everything and neither of us want to change that. If she were older, I might consider it so she could have the experience of going through the event, but I prefer that we stick to coming home ceremonies which are by far more joyous. Monkey could never sit for all the talking that goes on and I don’t want to chase him around telling him he needs to be quiet and that would be reason number 2 for not going. Monkey was an infant the first time around and he had to come with me, but he was so tiny and quiet and accommodating then. He kept me as focused as I could be that day. We had a small baptism at the armory after the ceremony proper because Uncle P (aka Uncle Fungus) was also deploying then and we wanted him to be Monkey’s godfather. It was a nice little non-denominational service where they used a helmet as the baptismal font. K was pleased even though neither of us is particularly religious and the Army is certainly such a large part of our lives, it seemed fitting.
I suppose there may be those who think I’m not being supportive or that I’m just shoving my head in the sand, but I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. This is one small event in the grand scheme of things and not even the most important one. I will do whatever it takes to stay sane and make sure my kids feel like their lives are, for the most part, normal. Speeches about the bravery of men, the point of their mission, and the sacrifices of family do not play into either of those goals. K knows that even though I may find parts of this Army life distasteful, I still support him in his career because he is happiest being a soldier. I would, and do, expect the same in return. As for the ostrich tricks, I know what his deployment means and don’t need a general to brief me on it. I’m good.
This deployment I’m going to change things up a bit. I’m going to pass on the mainly military moral support and stick with a mostly civilian pack. I don’t feel that I need to cling to some arbitrary requirement that the people surrounding me should understand what I’m going through. I have those people too, though, should I need a different ear, but I think most people understand what it is like to miss someone else or to feel lonely which are probably the most prominent feelings. Those are pretty universal. The only difference is that the odds of my situation becoming permanent are higher than others for about 10 months. No matter how many times or how confidently you say “when,” in relation to your soldier coming home, the voice in your head replaces it with “if” just loud enough for you to hear it. Of course anyone can have their life change in an instant, but rarely are people so aware of it the way they are when a loved one is in a war zone. That knowledge is like the constant hum of electronics in the background until the deployment ends one way or another. There are days when you can block it out with ease and there are days when that is all you can hear and you wish there was an annoying song you could be singing over and over instead.
I know that there are families who will be grateful for the send-off of their soldier and will enjoy the pomp and circumstance and the special attention the generals, politicians, and public will give them tonight. I hope they find comfort in the sentiments and strength in the words they will hear to last them for the next year. I’ll be happy to read about it in the paper and find my own strength and comfort my own way.