My grandfather served in World War II, my uncle in Vietnam, and my cousin in Operation Desert Storm. Despite having more than a few family members in the armed forces nothing prepared me for dating and marrying a soldier. Being in a relationship with a member of the military is unique and presents its own set of challenges in addition to those experienced by a “civilian” couple.
Just a few short weeks after my honey and I officially became a couple he was deployed for the first time to Iraq. He was there for 2 months before the war began. I spent every waking moment either worrying or writing him letters. At that time I was in school and I had difficulty concentrating because I was so focused on what he was doing. At this time phone calls and emails were few and far between. I carried my cell phone with me at all times I even slept with it so I wouldn’t miss him. I recall there was a period right after the war started that he didn’t call and my nerves were frazzled. I am normally looking for the positive side in every situation, but for some reason I was extremely tense and waiting to hear some sort of bad news. I prayed every night he would be okay, but I had no idea what to expect.
I didn’t know any other women dating a man in the military so there was no one who I could really talk to that understood my situation. It was difficult dealing with the questions from friends, especially when I had no answers. I was obsessed with watching CNN. I think that year I watched CNN more than I’ve ever watched it in my life. After a number of sleepless nights and waiting till the last minute to finish school work I gave myself a little pep talk that basically amounted to me telling myself to snap out of it. The only thing that kept me sane was writing those letters and sending care packages. Imagining his reaction to his gifts and hoping that he knew how much I loved him gave me so much hope.
I thought once he came home that would be the end of all of my anxiety; however I had no idea what dealing with a soldier after war would entail. Let’s just say the next year was an emotional rollercoaster. I had no idea what to say or do to help him and honestly because I wasn’t there I couldn’t begin to relate to his experience besides he didn’t share it with me either. By the time we got our footing and seemed to be on the right track I was 4 weeks pregnant and he was getting ready to deploy again!