Eight days. That is all we have left as an active duty family. The day after we will officially be a National Guard family. Talk about a change.
It seems weird. We have been waiting for this day for a while now and here it is just a week away.
I think back on the last 8.5 years and everything we have been through.
We started this journey in November 2005 when I dropped Ben off at the recruiting office in Lexington, Kentucky. We had one little 13 month old boy and no idea what we were getting ourselves into. It seems so strange thinking about life back then. We had been married a little over three years at that time and we knew life was going to seriously change. We were just not sure how.
We knew that it would take a while for Daniel and I to join Ben in Germany. We had no idea it would take 4.5 months and too many tears to get over there. Joining the Military right before Thanksgiving is not the best plan.
Once we made it over there, we were in for quite the adventure. Not only did we have to figure out what Military life was like (it was all new to me) but we had to figure out how to live in Germany. On top of all that I was pregnant.
Within a few months of getting to Germany we were getting ready to say goodbye to Ben for his first deployment. We assumed it would be a year. In the end it was 15 months and very difficult for us. Luckily there was an amazing support system of Military spouses and somehow we made it through. During those 15 months I really learned what it meant to be an Army wife. I knew how hard it was to be away from my husband. I knew how hard it was to be the only parent in the house. I gave birth without my husband next to me and somehow figured out how to be Mom and Dad to two very small children for a very long time.
It was then I thought things would get easier. That deployments would be easier. That because I made it through that, I could make it through anything. In some ways this is very true. Had I started my life as an Army wife with a more simple and shorter deployment, would I have had the strength to get through others? It is hard to say. It is hard to know if that 15 month deployment wore me down too much or made me stronger. I might not ever know.
After that deployment we ended up moving from Schweinfurt to Graf in Germany. That was such a nice change. It was then I learned that not all Military housing is the same. He didn’t change rank, we just moved and they totally upgraded us. We went from a 3rd floor stairwell apartment into a brand new 4 bedroom duplex. And even though it was a duplex, it didn’t feel like it. We hardly heard our neighbors.
At pretty much the 365 day mark after Ben got back from his deployment, he left again. He was going to Iraq a second time. This deployment ended up being 11 months. It also made it so we had to stay in Germany a little longer. This was frustrating because as amazing as Germany was, we were ready to go back to the US.
We moved back to the US in March of 2010 heading straight to Ft. Campbell on the KY/TN border. We decided we did not want to live on post here and found a rental. Ben got into his unit and I got pregnant with our 3rd child. Then we heard the news that his unit would be deploying at the end of that summer. Since he had just returned in November, he was able to stay back until at least then. I was due December 1st and it kept going back and forth as far as when he would leave. He ended up not going anywhere until February which gave us 15 months in between deployments.
When he returned from that 5.5 month deployment, we bought a house in Clarksville, Tennessee. At the time we didn’t know what our future would be with the Military but we knew we would be here until 2014 and we knew there was a good chance we could stay longer than that. Deciding whether to buy a house when you are in the Military can be a hard choice but we decided it was the best one for us.
It was in the time between our 3rd deployment and 4th that we decided it was time for Active Duty Army life to end for us. There were several different reasons for this. I honestly didn’t think we would have a 4th deployment. It kept going back and forth. At one point he was pulled from the list because he was getting out. Then, with two weeks to go, he was told he was deploying after all.
This crushed me. I am not sure if it was because I thought we were done with deployments, if I had just done too much in too short amount of time or if I was just tired with everything and it was the last thing I wanted to deal with. I don’t know but that 4th deployment was my hardest. Don’t get me wrong, they were all hard but the last one was pretty brutal on me emotionally.
Somehow time passed and we got through it. He came home a week before Christmas.
Since then we have been preparing for ETSing from the Army. He isn’t retiring. He isn’t getting medically discharged, he is just ETSing.
As I look at the past and the future, I know the last 8.5 years have changed me in a lot of ways. Somethings are easier for me to deal with and others are harder.
I am not sure what the National Guard life will be like. I am going into it without that many expectations. It will be so different from what we have been through the last 8.5 years but at the same time we will still be apart of the Army family. It will be a change and hopefully for the better.