Real Army Wives: When Reality Smacks You in the Face

Real Army Wives: When Reality Smacks You in the Face****Disclaimer: Links on this site are affiliate links. April collects a small advertising fee when you purchase through links on this website.*****

We left Oklahoma full of excitement over finally being together as a married couple. We were ON OUR WAY! Things were looking up for us. Alan and I were finally picking out our first house. Okay, so we were only 21 and 23. Maybe we’d settle for an apartment or a nice townhouse, but either way, it was going to be OURS, TOGETHER!

Eeeeee!!!! Happy, happy! Joy, joy!

But there was this one problem holding back our complete happiness. Dark, foreboding figures loomed in the corners of my mind. They looked like naysayers to me.

“I hear 4th Infantry Division is deploying to Turkey. Going in from the North,” Alan’s buddies at Officer Basic Course, back in Oklahoma, said.

Thankfully, everything was all “probably”, “maybe”, and “talk of the possibility.” There were no actual set-in-stone facts yet. (You see, at that point, America had not set foot in Iraq as part of the War on Terrorism yet. We were still only fighting in Afghanistan.)

“Ah, no one knows anything for sure, ” I comforted myself. “I’m not believing any of these rumors until I hear them from Alan’s soon to be unit in Texas.”

I always held out hope. This was my turn to finally begin my happily ever after, and all these gloom and doom storm clouds hovering all around me were ignored to the best of my ability.

Gray skies were everywhere, but the sun could come out at any moment. Not a drop of rain had fallen yet. Not a single lightning bolt had actually flashed. They just threatened.

With that mindset, we packed up Alan’s white Blazer and my bright royal blue Grand Am, arguing about the best way to make it all fit, and headed south.

I don’t remember where we were. It was somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Texas. But neither Alan nor I have ever forgotten that day. I’ve never forgotten that punch-in-the-gut from out of nowhere feeling.

Since we were driving two separate cars, Alan didn’t even know what happened, but when he saw me pull over, he pulled over too.

Real Army Wives: When Reality Smacks You in the Face

Just like on 9/11, I heard it from my radio. It was somewhere around January 15, 2003. I was all singing at the top of my lungs, until the news came on.

That’s when the news man announced that it was officially released, just that day, that 4th ID did indeed have orders to deploy their division to the northern border of Iraq in preparation for invasion.

Just like that, I was Chicken Little, and my thunder clouds had all just dropped their rain at once. The lightning was everywhere. The thunder was louder than the news on my radio. The rain was so thick I couldn’t see in front of me.

My heart was broken. I was bawling my eyes out. How could this happen? Why did this have to be? Our happily ever after just kept slipping further and further away.

I’d finally gotten to spend a week with my husband, and even that week we’d traveled to all our family’s houses and then come back for him to go out to the field, so really we’d been married 5 MONTHS and still had not spent one regular week together in a home of our own.

There was nothing to say, and not a thing in the world anyone could do to help us.

So in that moment, I did the only sensible thing.

I pulled my car over, laid my head on my steering wheel, and I cried. Alan came over to my car, and I had to explain to him what I’d heard on the radio.

Alan probably wasn’t surprised. He was more connected to the military community, so he understood better that this was coming. Of course, he was not feeling the same way I was. Alan is an Army officer. This was his dream. He was only too willing to go over there and fight some war.

If I said one prayer of lamentation, I said a 1,000. Many petitions were made for Alan’s safety, for direction with my life, for guidance with my next step.

But that first day, I just cried. Bravery was for later. Alan hugged me and apologized and held me while I blubbered.

Reality had reached out and smacked me in the face, so it was time I looked her in the eye. I buckled under the weight of it all, with hours left to drive.

Alan and I dried up my face, hugged, and we drove on.

For last week’s chapter, click here. To start at the beginning of this series, go here.

 

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Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Home Sweet Tutwiler. My freshman year I lived on the 13th floor, aka the 14th floor. My junior and senior years I lived on the 6th floor.




For previous posts on our young military marriage, click here. This is part of the series I’m writing called The Real Army Wives.

As I mentioned before, Alan was away at training the first 4 months of our marriage, while I finished up my degree at the University of Alabama.

I lived in Tutwiler Hall. The funny thing about Tutwiler Hall, which is the freshman girls’ dormitory, is that there were actually 2 different buildings in the state of Alabama named Tutwiler.  The other Tutwiler is the women’s prison.

As you can imagine, everyone had jokes about that, especially Alan. He prided himself, once we got married, on coming to town to stay with me for my “conjugal visit.” Ha!

Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Tutwiler Hall still stands today, right across the street from the University of Alabama’s famous football stadium.

Even though we lived apart, we took turns visiting one another.

I loved it when Alan would visit and handle all of my Excel homework. 15 years later, I wish I had taken the time to learn how to use Excel. It’s probably the only computer system that is still mostly the same, and I’m still clueless as to how to use it.

When Alan came to town, we slept on an air bed in the floor of my living room at Tutwiler. As the 6th floor Resident Assistant, I had my own living room, bedroom, and bathroom.

It wasn’t much better when I’d go to visit Alan in Oklahoma. I only visited for one extended weekend. It was Thanksgiving. Alan was training to be a field artillery officer. In layman’s terms, that’s the Army’s big guns (cannons), which Alan insists I call “howitzers.”

We had Thanksgiving dinner at Golden Corral that year because Alan called every place in town to see where we could get the most affordable steak.

I will never forget that Thanksgiving because of the crazy person who stole from me. I was staying at the Batchelor Officers’ Quarters with Alan, sharing a bed that could only be described as a 3/4 bed. It wasn’t even quite as big as a full size bed.

Down the hall from our room was the community laundry room. No big deal. I was used to that. We had community laundry at Tutwiler. I wasn’t the kind to sit with my clothes either. I left my clothes in the dryer and returned to my room. On the way out of the laundry room, Alan introduced me to a guy who seemed a little strange in a creepy way, but whatever. I didn’t think too much of it.

You can imagine my dismay when I took my clothes out of the dryer and discovered that all 5 pairs of my panties were missing from the load!!! The rest of my clothes were all there.

Only my underwear was missing!

I’d been stolen from before, but this was weird weird weird. Icky.

I looked at every man in the building with a healthy dose of skepticism after that.

Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Beautiful bluffs near where Alan lived in Lawton, Oklahoma. Geronimo is buried near there. We visited his grave once.

Strange incidents aside, it was a semester of sacrifices. So much separation is hard on a marriage.

We worked hard. Alan was steadily training to lead soldiers to war, and I was squeezing my senior year of college into one semester.

That’s why we decided to do something way exciting and outside the box for fun that October. Remember how we had that free plane ticket left over from the mishap where we missed the military ball? We decided to cash in that ticket and have a 2nd honeymoon in a place neither of us had ever been before but where we’d always wanted to go.

We are both frugal people, but when it comes to relationships, we always fork over the money.

That’s why we fly in to visit our families every summer and Christmas, no matter how many tickets that costs us.

And that’s why we spared no expense going to see each other when we were living separately for a while.

People regret many things, but people never regret spending time with loved ones. No one on their death-bed ever said, “Man, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my family.” Nope. Doesn’t happen.

Relationships are always worth the money.

We decided to meet somewhere new and exciting. Alan would fly out from Oklahoma, and I’d fly up from Alabama.

So do you want to know where we went?  I’ll tell ya all about it on the next post.

 

 

 

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Army Wives Series: The First Good-bye and Watching the News

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last Real Army Wives series post, so where were we?

Oh, yes, Alan and I were engaged. The Army was starting to encroach on my plans and change my life. Hahahahahaha Oh boy, did I have no idea what was ahead or what!

Behind? You can catch up here with part 1, part 2,and the others weren’t exactly part of the story, per se, so we are really only on part 3 here.

Probably 99% of military couples plan their wedding date around a deployment, a move, a temporary duty assignment, or training.

For us, it was Officer Basic Course and my own college graduation. We could plan it for December or January, which was unstable because we were brand new to the military and didn’t know if that would work out…

Or we could plan the big day for August, exactly when Alan had about 10 days of leave between assignments.

So we went with the August plan.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Picture of a picture….Yes, we got married before digital photography was big…Funny story….A guest that we didn’t know caught the bouquet. She said, “Wow! I don’t even know her!” So Alyson, Alan’s cousin, snatched it up. That makes me smile.

The first good-bye

I said good-bye to Alan around May 30 that year. He was off to Ft. Lewis, Washington, and I was headed down to my parents’ house to spend the summer working, planning the wedding, and taking Genetics via distance learning.

This was our first ever attempt at a long distance relationship. Two whole months–which sounds laughable NOW.

But, oh! The drama!

You would have thought it was World War II, rather than…..Tacoma. We hugged and kissed, and made speeches, and it actually makes me roll my eyes and shake my head now to even think about it. Gracious.

Two months of separation between Alan’s commissioning and the wedding.

But that was nothing.

Once we got married, in August, we celebrated with a honeymoon to Jamaica, and then we drove from Alabama to Oklahoma to settle him into his BOQ. (Batchelor Officer’s Quarters)

I rode out there with him, spent a day there, and then I flew back to Alabama to finish my own degree, at the University of Alabama.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Yep. That was another 4 months of separation.

I don’t even think it’s that uncommon for military couples to spend the first months of their marriage apart. This has been a common theme throughout millenia of military couples.

As a newlywed 21-year-old young woman, it was agonizing.

How many times did I contemplate throwing it all out the window and moving to Oklahoma with my lieutenant? So many times! I could finish my degree anywhere, any time, why bother with all this? Ugh.

But my husband truly loved me, and was always looking out not only for his best interest, but for mine as well. Alan would not hear of me throwing away my degree only 4 months from completion.

Transferring to another college would have put all those credits at risk. I’d worked hard on this degree, and we both decided it would be best for me to stick it out and finish that last semester at UA.

…Even if I felt like I was the only married lady on campus. Actually, I wasn’t the only one, but I WAS the only married gal still working as a Resident Assistant, living alone, in the freshman girls’ residence hall, Tutwiler.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

My 3 closest friends junior and senior year: That’s me, Jennings, Leigh, and Chrisynda

But I was with my friends, and that made it doable. How many times have my friends kept me sane over all these years? Two things, y’all, there were two things that always got me through these obstacles.

  1. My faith in my heavenly Father. He’s seen me through too much for me to ever doubt Him.
  2. The support of my friends and family.

Around that time, speculation began to circulate about the possibility of war with Iraq.

It was the fall of 2002. We had troops in Afghanistan, not in Iraq, but the news kept building. I remember the day Chrisynda came to my room to tell me to turn on my t.v.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Chrisynda and me, 2002

Chrisynda was one of my best friends, a tallish, slender brunette with straight shoulder-length hair, and a positive attitude. She was the Alan of my friends: super responsible, practical, level-headed, beautiful, kind, caring, and fun, but always well-balanced.

She’s just one of those people who seems to know things. She was the friend who would keep my favorite snack in her room. She’d come to my room with a Walmart bag containing batteries because she knew that if she wanted to watch t.v. in my room, someone would need to put batteries in my remote control. April did not have money to spare for batteries. For Guthrie’s fried chicken tenders? Yes, I had money for that. For batteries? Never.

I remember Chrisynda came into my room, and she probably brought food with her too, and she turned on the news. It is permanently lodged in my brain how she asked me about the Iraq news.

“Did you see this Iraq stuff?”

I muttered something about avoiding all that news and hoping it wouldn’t happen. I like to live happily in denial.

“Ehh…I’m pretty sure we’re going, April. It’s happening. Do you think Alan will go?” She was so polite, but she leveled the facts with me that I don’t think anyone else wanted to talk about.

Time stood still. Wait. What? I gotta start watching the news? The news….the news…

The news was suddenly intruding into my life. It was more than a channel to flip past. What we were seeing on t.v. was affecting me directly. It had always affected me, whether I realized it or not, but now I was in the front of the line of dominoes!!

Ever since, I’ve never been able to form a non-partial opinion on anything politically related. I always think, “Wait. How will this affect me? Or this friend, or my parents, or my children?”

Some people remain objective much better than I do, but I cannot do it.

So there we were…..young newlyweds…we’d been apart for 6 months, with short breaks in between, and now there was talk of war with Iraq.

The questions swirled around me, but what could I do? How could I know anything?

All a person can do in any situation at all is to put one foot in front of the other. Do the next thing. What needs to be done today? Do that. How do I stay spiritually and physically fit to handle all this? Do that too.

Pray. Hope. Love. Cling to the good. Always hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and life went on.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Come back next Monday for the next installment!

Every Monday: a new installment of The Real Army Wives blog series on storiesofourboys.com

 

 


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