Here is part II of my original post about our first war time deployment. I read this and realize that so many of the feelings are still true leading up to this deployment.
Catch up on Part 1 HERE
I am thankful that Chris left in the morning of a work day – it forced me out of bed and into my job of providing services for other military families. I had been up all day Sunday with getting things ready and preparing for the inevitable. He was supposed to leave at 9 p.m., I waved goodbye to him through a bus window at 2 a.m. Those hours were hard on me. I just wanted to sit and snuggle and cherish our last few minutes. He had to run around and make sure everything was ready. His anxiety and excitement wouldn’t let him sit with me in the heated car. Eventually he did and another Marine climbed into our backseat to get away from the cold and to rest a few minutes.
At 2:15 I followed the bus out of the base, the route that Chris and I both took to go home every single day, the only difference was that I turned and the bus didn’t. Chris has commented before that the moment the bus passed our street was hard, he knew he wasn’t going home that night.
The only thing I remember about that Monday was the walk into my house from my car. With each step my heart grew heavier, I felt physically heavier, it was the first time I’d be living my regular life without my husband, without him being there, without him walking in the door a couple hours later. Words don’t describe how it felt. I have felt it since and I know I’ll feel it again.
A few days later I had to take Chris’ car in for the insurance adjuster to look at it and repair it. The shop was 30 minutes from my house and I took it after work. The seat was still reclined to the position that it was last in when Chris sat in it during our last time together. I asked them not to move it. The guy looked at it and asked for the keys. I didn’t think I was going to be leaving it. The appointment was actually for the next day. I didn’t have a ride home and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Chris’ car. The tears fell hard and fast and I laughed because it was ridiculous that I couldn’t let the car stay. I just wasn’t ready to let go of something else, it was the last place I sat with my husband. The guy looked at me like I was crazy and I drove back home. That night I cleaned out the car and made sure that the seat wouldn’t be moved by making a little note to go on it.
Chris sat at an Air Force base for 3 or 4 days waiting to actually leave for Kuwait. He was only a 3 hour drive away and it took all I had not to drive out there just to hold him one more time. The first day I started writing him, I mailed a package to him so that it’d be there when he got there. I wrote him every single day of his deployment.
My coping mechanism was to make myself busy and not to watch the news. A friend’s husband had been in Desert Storm and she and I talked at length about how this was similar and different and how the worst part of that was that our guys* sat in the desert for 7 months waiting on something to happen. I want to clarify that in no way were we excited for a war to start, but the sooner it started, the sooner it meant our husbands would be coming home. Waiting for it to not happen was worse. In my crazy head I concocted a time-line. It was factually based I had done my research. I lived for the date of my time line. For the date I predicted we would cross the line.
In that time there were a few calls from Chris, he’d made it safely and it was sandy. The Kuwaitis were treating them like royalty, he was eating well and had a gorgeous tent that he shared with several other Marines. It wasn’t too bad.
On March 19, 2003 I was at my little local gym on the exercise bike when President Bush made the announcement. Miraculously enough – they were on my timeline. I was ecstatic and scared and sick and worried all in one. On my way off the base I stopped and told the guard that it had started. I went home and mourned/celebrated. It was the beginning of the end in so many ways.
*Yes, there are female Marines that deployed over there - they just weren't going to be the first ones across the lines. The Marine Corps does not allow women in combat/infantry units. It's all very chilvarous. They do, however, train them for combat.