***This post is part of the Real Army Wives series, which appears each Monday morning on storiesofourboys.com. Click here for last week’s chapter. In this series, all names of service members and their wives are changed. However, names of the fallen soldiers are their correct names.***
Preparing for the Worst
We all supposedly knew going into this that they wouldn’t all come home, but I never dwelt on that bit of information. Call it a defense mechanism, I don’t know. Being happy is important to me. I couldn’t let worries over things that may not even happen steal my joy.
Alan’s mother and I used to discuss what we would do if we found out before the other that Alan had died. I certainly did not cherish the thought of telling a single one of Alan’s family members that sort of news.
I knew that if Alan died, a casualty officer would be dispatched to my house to give me the bad news in person.
However, what I now know is that IF your spouse dies in war, there are usually multiple people in uniform that show up at your door. Not only that, but they have to arrive at your door at exactly the same time as they arrive at the door of the soldier’s parents.
So the good news is you should never have to tell your mother-in-law that her son has died. That’s not your job. They do that for you. That’s a relief and something I didn’t realize until I befriended a war widow many years later.
Meanwhile, there is the news.
If you watch the news regularly, they will tell you how many have died and where, and if you know where your loved one is serving (as we did), there is added anxiety until you find out for certain who it was.
Alan’s parents were more devoted to the news than I was, so they clued me in to lots of things that year, both good and bad.
Thurs., Sept. 18, 2003
I’m SO sleepy. It’s 10:30 already. I got BAD news from your parents today. 3 men were killed and 2 more wounded in a shooting VERY close to Tikrit. We’re really worried. I just have this HAUNTING feeling.
I’m so afraid. I can’t help it. I won’t feel secure until I hear your voice, and that will be a while because I JUST talked to you like 3 nights ago.
Man, Alan, I love you so much. I don’t even want to think of “what if.” It scares me so much. I don’t ever want to lose you!
Fri., Sept. 19, 2003
Hey! Well! Only 1 more week of teaching! I went to a 4-42 coffee tonight at the Irish Pub at the mall. It went well. It was another sad one though because there were 3 more deaths and 2 wounded yesterday. But of course, you know that.
That was really hard to talk about. Did you know any of them? Were you nearby there? All I know is that it was a team in support of 1-10 Cav, from HHB.
Other things were difficult too. Holly Marsh got switched to the 4th ID unexpectedly, and will be deploying within a month, leaving their 15-month-old to a relative for roughly six months. [editor’s note: Holly Marsh’s husband was deployed already with Alan’s unit. That left their baby without a parent at home.] Plus, her family’s house was destroyed in Hurricane Isabella that struck the east coast this week.
[Holly was devastated. Yes, her mind raced to find a way to stay home with her baby, but what could be done? This is another of the harsh realities military families face.]
I stayed up after the meeting talking to Sarah and Kayla about what I learned at the meeting. Plus, Sarah said that one of those soldier’s wives is expecting a baby soon. How awful is that? I was okay until they said that, and then I was a mess.
I was so relieved to know you’re okay.
I love you,
Meanwhile, in Iraq, the men honored the friends they lost and were all prevented from calling home until the families were properly notified. And the mission went on.
Monday, Sept. 22, 2003 9:05pm
Hey! Today was the memorial service honoring the three soldiers of ours who were killed.
Then, at almost 10 this morning we had our first try at a city council meeting and, well….let’s just say we learned a lot about how we’ll do the next meeting!
They’re talking about moving us to the Brigade Support Area (BSA) which is this really big camp that’s just a bunch of tents in a bunch of fine sand we call “moon dust.” It wouldn’t be fun. Here we have hard shelter, paved areas, and a routine, you know? We’ll supposedly know if we’ll move or not by October 1st.
I hope we get to Tikrit some time soon and are able to use the phones. It feels like it’s been so long since we’ve talked on the phone, but when we went up last Friday, we were restricted from using them because of those guys getting killed and their families had to first be notified.
Those $40 Thurya phone cards are sometimes difficult to find. I’m looking though! I love you. I miss you it seems every moment.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, they thankfully did not move Alan to the “moon dust” area mentioned in the letter above. He continued to live in his rat-infested building with electricity, in Ad Dwar, where there were many, many adventures left to be had. We were only halfway through this deployment.
The families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country are our heroes. As a part of the military community, our hearts break for them, and we always know that we could be next. Just talking about it leaves me with a heavy feeling.
Don’t live in fear that your service member could be next. It won’t help.
Just live with gratitude, being thankful for what they have done for us. And be generous with their families, not jealous, when they may sometimes need your or your husband’s help. Hold them in honor always.
I can’t wait to tell you about the rest of our adventures. Come back next Monday for the next chapter!