Kids’ Names, The Cop, & Living a Life that Matters

Real Army Wives Series *******This post is part of the series, The Real Army Wives. For last week’s chapter, click here.*************** Friday, July 8, 2003 Alan, Hey! I’m being bad. I’m in class, and we are watching a truly boring video. So I’ve been brainstorming children’s names for our future children. These are some that I have come up with. Tell me what you think, and try to think of some names to add to the list. 🙂

Girls:

Gracie Elizabeth  (my favorite) Kathryn Jennings (Call her Katie.) Autumn Faith

Boys:

Cody Alan John David David Alan  (but David is such a common name.) 🙂 I know I said we’d wait 5 years, but I hope you don’t really plan on sticking to that… 🙂 I just can’t wait for you to get back! I got a letter from you today. It was written June 23, and the CMIC had been attacked in broad daylight. : ( I’m wondering if you are in Ad Dwar yet and how that is going. I REALLY hope you like your new job. I know you’ll be great at it. You’re great at everything you do. #1 Cadet–RA of the Year–Cum Laude—You are amazing. I love you, April

*******

July was an exciting month.

My house was an active hub where we came together when we were tired of being alone. The house next door was also a hub because it seemed like Katherine and Nick’s (The Beefcake’s) house was always hosting one or several long-term house guests. First, Nick’s cousin Jay moved in. Then there was Phan. Jay stayed the whole year, but Phan was only there for a few months. Later they also introduced us to Tegann and Josh. Between Katherine’s house and my house, our little corner of the street was a regular YMCA for 20-somethings.

Those duplexes were an unbeatable support system.

On the flip side, Shelby, on the other half of my duplex, was not handling the deployment so well. By this point she was having an obvious affair, with her new boyfriend’s car always parked in the driveway. I remember saying, “Well, if it’s any comfort to her husband, she fights with her boyfriends just as much as she ever fought with her husband.” I never got to know Shelby. I did help her out with the cops once.

It was in the middle of the day when a lady cop knocked on my door.

“Do you know the people who live next door? I keep knocking, but no one answers.” “Yes, I know them. She’s at work right now, and the kids are at school.” “We received a complaint, and do you know if these kids spend a lot of time at home alone?” Oh, boy. “Well, usually if they get home and Shelby’s not there, they come over here, and I watch them.” This was true. “Our caller said that there’s a two-year-old and a baby?” “No. no. They are like 10 and 7. There’s no babies, and I would know. You can hear everything through these walls. That is so weird that anyone would say that. It’s not a perfect home, but I don’t believe there’s any neglect, and I know there are no babies. They are home alone sometimes, but not for long, and the oldest is very responsible.” The cop was satisfied and left. Yes, I watched those kids sometimes, but as their neighbor,  I felt like that made me part of their ‘village’, their built-in support system. I wasn’t about to start buddying up to Shelby, but I was happy to help her children. That afternoon, Shelby and her two children knocked on my door. She apologized for the cop showing up and explained that her dad was crazy and was trying to get back at her. He was the one who called the police. I’m sure Shelby knew that I knew what a wreck her life was, but I knew in my bones that for some reason I wasn’t meant to be the person to help her, even though I did want to. I focused more on the children.

*********

I also had my own, much less troubling, problems to sort out. I was talking to Elsie about how I’d missed Granny Mary’s funeral, which kind of put me in the dog house with my family. I was thinking about going down on July 26th weekend for my other Granny’s 90th birthday party.

Elsie thought quickly, “Fly down on the 25th, and we’ll be on the same plane!!”

We got Elsie’s flight numbers and I booked it. Up to that point, I had flown a few times, always by myself, except for our honeymoon. Elsie and I were so excited to get to fly home together! I wrote Alan all about it, and I told him, “How cool is it that there is a girl–my age–across the street–who I like being around–whose from my home town–and whose husband is deployed too????? That does NOT just happen. That’s God working. And you know, during this deployment, I’ve only seen Elsie get teary-eyed once, and that was the day she was here, and you called me while she was here. It wasn’t jealousy or sadness or anger. It was just pure emotion because she was happy for me. It’s so weird when you know EXACTLY what someone else is going through.”

************

Meanwhile, I began interviewing for teaching jobs and continued my teacher classes, and I felt happy. I didn’t need Ambien to go to sleep anymore.

In my letter to Alan, I explained,

“Our relationship has just put my life on such a—an unusual course, but you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for anything!! Not only do I have a man who I know loves me more than anyone, but I have a life that matters. It matters. It matters to the kids next door. It matters to the kids I will one day teach. It matters to Sarah, and Cloe, and Elsie. And of course, it matters to you. Isn’t that what we all want? To know that we matter? The FRG (Family Readiness Group) people are telling us not to expect y’all home until next March, though nothing is official yet. I’m choosing not to believe it because it is still up in the air. So I’m okay. For now, I’m better than okay. I’m happy. And you are still such a big part of that. Your letters–wow–your letters are a lifeline to me. Keep those bad boys coming.”   Last week’s chapter

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When Alan First Deployed: My New Friends at 9-1-1

******This is the 11th chapter in the series The Real Army Wives, stories from a young military bride from the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003.******

I tell you this particular chapter with hesitation and humility. It’s an embarrassing story, but at the time, this was my reality. I hope you can laugh with me now, and rest assured that I am not normally this paranoid. I promise.

When Alan first deployed, it was suddenly like….cue the sound of crickets. » Read more

Sending Our Son to War in the Beginning of the War on Terrorism

Army sister, mom, & wife the 1st Christmas Alan was in Iraq, 2003. Our t-shirts have the 4th ID logo and read “Ho Ho Hooah!”

 

*****Alan’s mother, Donna, aka Nonna, is here today to share with us a speech she gave at her church in 2004, when Alan returned from his first deployment to Iraq. This is part of the series, The Real Army Wives, appearing every Monday on storiesofourboys.com.*****

When Alan accepted the ROTC scholarship after his second year in college, we knew that someday he might have to go to war, but war was not in sight at that time and the next war would probably be over fast because of all the technology. His decision to sign up was stressful for all of us, but he had really prayed about it. Alan felt like he owed it to his country, was fit and able to serve, and could use the army as his mission field.

Now how could we argue with all that? We were very proud of him and supported his decision. My husband, David’s, daddy had retired as a Lt. Col. and was gung-ho Army, as well as our nephew who is an Army Major. I had an uncle who had died in Vietnam so our family has always understood how important the military is to us. We have always been patriotic and thankful to God to be Americans.

Alan was a college senior on 9-11 and we all knew what that meant. That’s when we became even more aware of world events.

When Alan was commissioned upon graduation, he promised to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. He took the obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and would well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which he was about to enter…so help him God.

Now when you hear your son take that oath, it really touches you. We were so proud of him.

Sending our son to war in the beginning of the war on terrorism #armymom

Sending Our Son to War

When he received orders for Iraq, they were for February, 2003.

He and April had only been with the 4th ID at Ft. Hood since the middle of January. Remember all the fuss with Turkey about whether or not our troops could pass through there to enter Iraq? Well, this went on for several weeks so their deployment date kept changing.

saying good-bye to Alan at the airport in Killeen–or was it Austin?–Texas, 2003

We talked on the phone with him several times a week. He was packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. David and I flew out there the end of February for a weekend. Alan’s duffle bags, gas mask, chemical suit, etc. were all in the hall-we just had to walk around them. Alan was ready to go. Like he said, it was like practicing football week after week and waiting for your chance to play and prove what you could do.

He wanted to just go, do it, and come back. It was so hard to leave them at the airport that trip. It helped us so much to know that April was there for him.

I guess the worst part was the waiting for that call to say he was gone.

Our TV pretty much stayed on the news trying to hear something about when they would leave and what they would find when they got there. It was like, well, the sooner they leave, get there, do the job, then the sooner he can come home and things get back to normal.

Then the call came…

Sunday night, March 30. April stayed with him at the gym until early morning, then called us after he left. They had been together for 3 ½ months…that is a short honeymoon. She wanted to stay at Ft. Hood in their house. After all, his deployment was only for 4-6 months.

We anxiously waited for news, phone calls, and/or letters. Letters took 3-4 weeks each way at first.

Alan in Iraq, with the standard camera of the times…

I just kept thinking about what it must have been like for mothers during the previous wars when they did not hear anything for months or even years!

Every time the news said 4th ID was involved in an incident, then we were really glued to the TV and the internet. David found some internet sites with very up-to-date news and he checked them often day and night.

If we heard about a death or injury in the 4th ID, we were quite anxious, especially if the phone rang.

April had told us that she would call immediately if she ever had a report of injury or a condolence call. Now that was nerve-racking.

Then you hear “Three soldiers from the 4th ID were killed this morning in an IED attack near Tikrit.” That was where Alan was. With the news like it is now, we would hear of incidents right away, hours before families had been contacted. We would try to plan so one of us was near the phone until names were released.

David spent many nights sleeping on the floor in the den in front of the TV listening for news updates. There were days when I would leave for school (teaching middle school) and David (self-employed) would stay on the internet, in front of the TV, and by the phone to hear names released. Then he would call me at school to let me know that it was not Alan. Once that sank in, then we mourned for the families of the lost.

This went on for the whole year. Yes, that 4-6 month deployment turned into 12 months.

The first 7 months Alan did not have email or regular phone service. He could only call occasionally on a line relayed through a military station to a stateside military installation and then patched through to us. There was a bad voice delay and service was usually cut off suddenly.

April was great about calling us right after his calls to her. This was so comforting to know that at that moment, at least, he was safe. She would also email us copies of his letters-minus the mushy stuff- as soon as she got them. That was such a comfort for us- she was wonderful.

A family member, Major Jay Nelson, took the time to explain to Nonna how the whole structure of the Army works. 4th Infantry Division is divided into brigades, which are divided into battalions, which are divided into companies, and so on…

The first 6 months were extremely hard, but then David and I talked about our real feelings with each other. We knew God had blessed us with 2 wonderful children and a daughter-in-law who were all strong Christians.

We had reared Alan the best we could. He was doing his duty and what he wanted to do. We were secure in the fact that God could take care of him over there. We couldn’t, and no amount of our worrying could, but God could. And if God saw in His plan for Alan not to come home, Alan would be with Him, we would see him in eternity one day, and God would give us strength to handle it.

That is when we really turned our worrying over to God and really placed Alan in God’s hands.

We were still scared, but God helped us handle it. We could really tell a difference in our stress levels, still high, but lower than before, and easier to function every day.

It meant so much for our church family and friends to express concern for Alan, appreciation for his service for us as Americans, and your prayer support.

So many even sent him cards, letters, and/or packages. These meant as much to us as to him- and that was a lot! Alan really appreciated letters and packages from everyone. He especially appreciated hearing from those that were not family, as he just expected to hear from family.

I remember him mentioning when he called one time about how upsetting the news could be over there. When the troops would hear politicians against the war and saw polls against the war, it really hurt them to think that Americans back home were not behind them. They took it very much to heart.

The news mainly seemed to cover the bad things over there. Alan wished the news would show more of what was really happening. They never showed how much we were improving things for the Iraqi people, nor how appreciative the Iraqis were of our help.

His return was delayed for days too. He could not tell us exactly when he would leave Iraq.

Flights had to be secret for security reasons. It was another exciting time just waiting for him to let April know he was in “the States.” Finally, she called and said he was in Delaware.  Alan would be in Ft. Hood in a few hours.

Was that ever exciting!!!!

April called us when his plane flew over their house and touched down on the runway. Then she talked to us as she was driving to the gym. Then Alan called for just a minute when they walked in the house.

I can’t really describe the relief.

The tears flowed, revealing just how uptight we had been. Just talking to him and knowing that he was in his house, with April, and nobody was shooting at him or trying to blow him up was enough. Lots of people could not believe that we did not fly out there right away. But remember, they had only had 3 ½ months together and we did not want to intrude. We knew she was taking really good care of him for us.

No matter how you feel about the war on terror, please don’t hurt the soldiers and their families, even unintentionally, by what you say. Remember, these men and women volunteered to fight to protect our country. They are willing to give their lives if necessary to protect us.

We are so proud of Alan. They don’t make the decisions about where they are sent. It really hurts them and their families when people say we shouldn’t be there without adding “But I appreciate and support the troops.” Remember, they are fighting to protect us, here in Roanoke, from terrorism.

Fighting over there may prevent fighting in our front yards. Some have even given their lives for us. I appreciate every soldier, both now and in the past, and their families who wait at home.

We are proud of Alan and how he has chosen to live his life.

We will be here to support him and his family through it all. Thank you so much for your prayers and support. As Alan reminds us, please don’t forget to continue praying for those who are still in harm’s way, as well as their families.

To those families who have sacrificed loved ones and to all here today who have served in our Armed Forces, I want to say “Thank you” from the bottom of my heart.

Sending Our Son to War in the Beginning of the War on Terrorism

DaddyO and Nonna are now retired. They spend their time taking care of their puppy, visiting family, working word puzzles, reading, teaching Sunday School, visiting their 6 grandchildren, and all sorts of things. They have now been military parents for 15 years and have sent their son to Iraq twice and Afghanistan once.

Next Chapter: When Alan First Deployed: My New Friends at 911

 

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Nonna! I loved reading the story from a different perspective.

Next week the story continues of handling life alone in Texas, once my husband was gone to Iraq. A new installment of the Real Army Wives series goes up every Monday morning, sometimes even Sunday night! Thanks for following along!

To read last week’s chapter, click here.

 


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