Monday, May 26, 2008

While You Were Sleeping

Today seems like the right day to share an R&R memory from months ago. At the time, it felt too raw to write about because my husband had just left back to the sandbox after being home for 17 days. That 17 days of joy was just what we needed after being apart some 8+ months--it recharged and reinvigorated us for the second half of the deployment. I found it much tougher to "let" him go back after R&R, but I tried not to cry too long when we went to bed that night.

He had an 6 am flight out of San Diego the day he had to go back, so we woke up around 3:15 to have our last morning together. After, I made coffee while he laced up his boots and gathered everything. Our son woke up and stumbled out of his room to say goodbye again. I got dressed and cursed the person whose idea it was to start flying planes before the sun was even peeking out from the horizon.
When we got to the airport, there was a few piles of young Marines sleeping in the hallways near the USO, which wouldn't open for several more hours. They either arrived on a red eye or were there to make sure they caught their own flight back I'm sure. It broke my heart to see these young men without a send off that befitting to their service. No a wife or parent or volunteer or camera....just some lady riding up an escalator with her husband at the end of R&R taking a picture with her cell phone. Did America know the USO isn't always open?

Moments later, I was standing quietly with my husband, waiting for the moment when I would have to let go of him again to go do what he does when I am safely asleep. I held my emotions in as I strained to see out the window, hoping to somehow see his head in one of the plane's windows. It was too dark, but I pressed my face against the glass anyway hoping that somehow he was looking out the window and could see me still there for him as long as I could be. It was so dark that I lost sight off the plane as soon as it taxied off.

When I came home, our son was sitting on the couch, crying softly which he said he'd been doing since he pretended to go back to bed that morning. We didn't say much, he just hugged me and we stayed on the couch the rest of the day, indifferent to the tv and napping intermittently.

America, while you were sleeping, thousands of soldiers and marines were getting up early to catch their their early bird flights back to Iraq. While you were sleeping, America, a young marine was sleeping next to his cargo bag to catch his flight out to someplace far away. Before dawn cracked on your horizon, men were getting up at 3 AM to make love to their wife one last time and kissing away her tears. They were hugging their half-asleep kids, feeding the dog, and buttoning up their ACUs as if today were just another day of work.

While you were sleeping, America, your military was already awake and keeping watch over you.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Light at the End of the Tunnel

It's now been 11 months and two weeks. Even though time has suddenly slowed down, I think that this deployment might really end. We're PCSing to Germany when he gets back, so there's a lot of action that will take place once he's home and so much to look forward to. It's kind of funny how we're planning such major life changes (a move out of the country and pregnancy) via email and instant message but you get used to it. my husband and I have adapted pretty well by using the Tony Soprano philosophy of life-"Whaddaya gonna do?" I mean, what can you do anyway? You just have to keep going and do the best you can under the circumstances.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Live...from Baghdad

I had a dream that the war lasted so long that they started letting wives go to Iraq to visit with their husbands in a secure compound of shared homes. It turned out that when I got there, I realized my husband had been working 18 hour days since he got there. I didn't get to see him very much, but the four hours of sleeping next to him was worth it.

When I realized he would be coming home, I blocked out the sounds of mortars exploding in the distance and went in the kitchen to see what I cook him for dinner. Food was scant, all I could scrounge up was a peice of fronzen chicken breast, half a red pepper, half a green pepper, and an onion. When I tried to cut the green pepper, I saw that it was rotten and I was so disappointed that I couldn't cook him a favorite dish with Indian spices. Instead would have to make him a basic stir fry out of chicken and onion (I later thought this meal symbolized something else about deployment - you do the best we can under the circumstances, but it's never really what you want to do.

Suddenly, it was night time and he still wasn't back from "work". I was in the living room listening to a television reporter interviewing other wives about what it was like to be sitting there waiting in the living room while at the same time knowing your husband was in danger. Some of the women wept as they told their stories, others nodded their heads in understanding.

When it was my turn to be on camera, I told her I wanted privacy and didn't want to talk about this in front of everyone. The reporter seemed excited, as if she knew she was going to get a heartwrenching soundbite for the evening news. She said "I'm going to need more cameras in here!" and went with me into our dimly lit bedroom. She asked me, "So what is the hardest part was about your husband being gone so long?" I looked around at the empty windowless room and said "Shhhhh. Listen. This is what it feels like." At first, she was puzzled by the silence, but then she looked around the bare bedroom walls and felt starkly alone.

The dream ended the moment I sensed she felt my loneliness as her own and somehow heard the sound of the mortars I hear in my head at night sometimes. She got really quiet, looked around at the bare bedroom walls and signed off, "This is Christiane Amanpour. Live...from Baghdad."