Shock and Awe, March 22, 2003
The Last Visit
For a few minutes there, people began to joke that the 4th Infantry Division was never actually leaving for Iraq. By the first of March of 2003, the whole division was still waiting, and the other division in town, the 1st Cavalry Division, had orders as well. Some of the 1st Cav guys began to joke that the 1st Cav would beat the 4th ID to the punch after all.
Alan’s parents came for their visit. I baked my first cake for Alan’s mom’s birthday.
DaddyO and Nonna handled all this with such brave faces, I honestly had no idea the level of stress they were feeling. (You will get to hear about this deployment from Alan’s parents’ perspective on next week’s post. I can’t wait to share that!)
The only thing I noticed at the time was that they called more frequently that month before he left. Obviously, they were also sitting on the edges of their seats sweating out Alan’s departure date. They watched enough Fox News for an entire retirement village, and this was before they were retired.
Alan’s mother was a middle school science teacher, and his father was a forester. Yet somehow they managed to watch the news around the clock.
Alan’s parents’ visit came and went, but Alan remained, still at home.
My 22nd birthday came, and I received happy birthday phone calls from 12 different people, a completely unprecedented occurrence that had never happened before or since.
I think everyone among our friends and family were waiting on pins and needles with us!
My parents visited us too, along with my brother and sister. My sister, Amanda, is fully incapacitated. She was born with such severe brain damage, resulting from a random neural tube defect, that she was not expected to live past the age of two. Amanda cannot see, walk, talk, or do anything for herself.
As you can imagine, road trips weren’t something my family did a lot of. The 15 hour trip from Alabama to Texas was no small undertaking for them, but they did it.
Mom and Dad gave our new digs their stamp of approval, and we enjoyed showing them around Fort Hood.
I do not remember how we fit my entire family in our new, barely furnished home, but somehow we did.
My family’s visit came and went, and yet Alan remained, still at home.
President George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein a 48-hour deadline to leave Iraq. Of course, that order was ignored.
Shock and Awe
March 22, 2003 was the day of the famous “Shock and Awe” invasion of Baghdad. We still remember sitting in our little living room, watching the bombing of Iraq on our old-school 19- inch t.v.
I can still see Alan sitting in his little green recliner, eyes glued to the set. Watching Alan watch the bombing was entertainment in itself. Alan was excited and restless, in thick anticipation of going over there.
After March 22nd, things sped up drastically.
We knew about 24 hours in advance. That call came on March 30th, and they said, “Bring your bags at 2pm.”
Everyone went down there at 2pm, loaded up the bags. We waited a while, and then they sent us all home until midnight, or some time in the middle of the night.
The details get fuzzy here, but I recall that after they sent us back home, we tried to just stay awake and enjoy our last night together. Rather than passing out on our bed, we ended up accidentally falling asleep in the living room.
It was a restless sleep, though. Before we knew it, it was the middle of the night and time to head back down there to say good-bye for an indefinite amount of time.
I just remember standing outside, in the chilly air, in a red sweater. The unit stood together in formation. At some point, someone took this photo for us.
Deployment in the Middle of the Night
The soldiers then headed to a trailer where they waited for even more hours before they ever finally boarded a plane.
I snuck a three-page letter into Alan’s carry-on ruck sack for him to find on his 20 hour airplane ride.
After we said good-bye, I remember watching him walk away, wondering if he’d turn and look back. I think the first time he did, and then we hugged once more, but the last time he didn’t look back.
Then I walked–or stumbled–because I was so sleep deprived, to my car. I drove home in a haze of exhausted tears. By this point, it was around 4 am. I didn’t cry that much until I was actually in my car alone, driving home. At that point I could let the sobs flow freely.
I committed Alan to God’s care. We’d been married all of 7 months, and I had no idea as to when I would ever see Alan again.
“After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1
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