With you, I salute your husband, who is in the United States Army and has just left for a yearlong deployment. I realize the extent of his sacrifice—leaving you and his two, small children—to support our country and its various freedoms. But, I’m writing this letter to you because I think sometimes, we forget who stays behind. I won’t pretend to understand what you’re going through because I don’t completely. But, I will explain a little so you know you’re not alone.
You posted some pictures of your goodbye today as your husband leaves for his deployment. I am not saying any goodbyes now, but your post brought all the goodbyes I’ve ever said, flooding right back to me. I have an ache in my chest and my eyes are welling with tears as I type this. My face is starting to tingle as my body reacts to the emotions of saying goodbye. Both my brother and my husband were in the military, and I was left behind during deployments.
I’ve been watching your strength as you say goodbye to your husband. I haven’t known you for very long; I met you at a Fourth of July party. It was fitting, really, that I met you that day, the day our country celebrated its independence, since your husband will be deploying to continue to support that independence. I remember when my husband, just a boy then and only my boyfriend, left for basic training for the Navy. I was proud of him for serving our country, but I felt very alone, even though I was surrounded by people who loved me, just like you are now. It was 1995, and I wore his Nirvana T-shirt for days.
I saw you last week and you told me that your husband had all of his bags packed, lined up and ready in the garage. The reminder was visible, and every time you walked by the bags, you told me how it made it real. I remember something similar a very long time ago. Green bags lined up. Head shaved. Supplies packed. My brother was getting ready to leave for the Marine Corps. I didn’t have to look at the bags for long, but I hated those bags. After hearing you describe your husband’s bags, all lined up, the weight of that goodbye feels heavy to me even now, all of these years later.
You invited me to your husband’s farewell party, and his mom had the yard decorated in shades of red, white and blue. Everyone was happy and laughing, telling stories that I overheard from the perimeter. The pride was obvious; the love was enveloping; the support was commendable. You have many supporters, but I saw your face when your husband thanked everyone for joining him at the party. His voice skipped a little, and his eyes filled with tears. I saw you staring at him, willing him to speak, tears in your own blue eyes, a slight smile on your face. I was an observer that night, watching a family gather to support one another. I wonder if anyone observed me, years and years ago, as I watched my husband walk down the pier and climb into a submarine hatch. I remember my hair catching in the wind, blowing in front of my face and sticking to my tears.
You posted a picture of your wedding last week. You’ve been married for only four short years, but in those years, you’ve built a life and a family with this military guy. You mentioned how year five would be the hardest and the greatest test—the year of the deployment. I’m sure it shadowed your anniversary a bit, this impending departure. I remember my wedding over 13 years ago and how it was bittersweet, really. I finally married the boy I had loved since I was a young girl. But, my wedding felt like a bit of a send-off for my brother, who was leaving for a deployment. I was so happy, and I hardly thought about this fact until the bouquet toss. I made sure to toss it right to my brother’s fiancé, and I said a quiet prayer that he would make it back to marry her. I’m sure you are saying quiet prayers too.
You are one military wife. I was one military sister and then, I was a military wife. We are two of many.
To the military husbands, wives and partners: We support you.
To the military mothers and fathers: We support you.
To the military sisters and brothers: We support you.
To the military sons and daughters: We support you.
To the military grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends: We support you.
To members of the military: We salute you and support you. When you return, we will be waving banners of red, white, and blue.