Recently, I received a lovely note from Debby, a woman who appreciated the stories in my book, because she said they provide a glimpse into the lives of military families that few people ever see. Only 1 percent of Americans serve in the military, she says, so it's only natural that her world is not everyone's world. But she wishes it weren't so.
Debby sent me a few of the e-mails she has written while her husband has been deployed. I want to share one with you (with her permission!), because I was so touched by her words, which convey both great emotion and great restraint. I think the pictures she paints will give you another valuable glimpse into this world.
"184 days. Thatís how long itís been since our family all stood together in a cramped office at a National Guard armory to say goodbye to Bill as he headed off to war. It was one of the most devastating and emotional moments our family has ever experienced.
Before he left, Bill told us, ďRemember, each day that passes is one day closer to my coming home.Ē That thought has helped me find goodness and value in even the most challenging of days. Now, with six months down, we are officially halfway through this deployment adventure!
Billís mission has officially transitioned from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn. (Personally I think that sounds too much like a laundry detergent!) Bill and his troops are busier than ever managing the logistics for operations in Southern Iraq. Yet I am constantly having to explain that Billís unit has not pulled out and that troops are still there serving in harmís way.
On August 31, Bill experienced firsthand a highly classified maneuver -- Operation Commander Surprise. Secretly, I had been communicating with his unit to arrange a surprise party for his birthday. The kids and I shipped over party decorations, banners and balloons as well as drink mixes, homemade cookies, cakes and brownies, candy, dried fruit and nuts and other treats. With the help of a sneaky Executive Officer and First Sergeant, the mission was a complete success.
We use e-mail and Skype to communicate. I have noticed that Bill sometimes has a hard time transitioning from "Soldier" to "Dad" mode. During one call he actually barked, "AT EASE!" when the kids were excitedly talking at the same time. Mel and Doug both stopped in their tracks, looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Bill is an assistant scoutmaster in Dougís Boy Scout troop, and he was really missing the boys. So, I took my laptop to the meeting one night. We set up a Skype call and Bill interacted with the scouts, congratulating the new patrol leaders, moving his webcam around to give the boys a ďtourĒ of his CHU (containerized housing unit), fielding questions and watching a flag ceremony.
One thing that tears at my heart is that Bill has had to miss many "firsts" in our kidsí lives. I snap a photo or grab a video clip, but itís not the same. This past month was filled with many of these firsts. After eight years of Little League, Doug was tapped to be lead-off batter in a game (he hit a double!) and in the next game he got to pitch for the first time. Meanwhile, Mel went to her first high school dance. Much to her mortification, Bill considered having a video chat before the couple left for the evening. But Doug saved the day when he declared, "Donít worry, dad, I got your back!"
With humor and determination, our family continues to meet the challenge of deployment. None of this would be possible without the support of our family and friends. We appreciate all the kind words of encouragement, and all the packages you have sent to Bill. Each card, box and note brings him a little closer to home, if only for a moment. Thanks again for your support and prayers."