I can finally sit down and blog about Tennessee and what has been going on in my life.
On the one hand I have just been constantly in motion… I still have not completely moved into my apartment which I moved boxes and furniture into about 3 weeks ago. On the other, I just haven’t been able to organize all those memories and thoughts. I tried a bunch of times, believe me. But I just continued to ramble on and on about every single detail and then I would inevitably start to miss him a lot and it would dispel any desire to continue.
Tennessee was amazing. It’s almost as if every time we're together, we learn more about each other and fall more in love. We were busy the entire time, I don’t think there was ever a day where we just had “nothing” scheduled, but that was ok with me, I loved doing regular things with him. We shopped for furniture and did paperwork. We unpacked and cleaned… (wow, did we clean!) We went grocery shopping for about five meals I wasn’t even able to cook due to getting home at 8 or 9 almost every night. We visited friends and went out to eat. We drove, we drove a LOT. We went and visited his family in Indiana. – Want to know what’s best about all those things? The “we.” :).
Sgt. And I also went to his ROTC activities. That part was interesting. I suppose an adjustment period is normal for everyone who comes home… I expected that, and I also expected that the transition from “deployed Army” to “ROTC Army” wouldn’t be the most fun thing he’s ever done… but what I didn’t expect was how hard it was going to be, for me.
The first day we did things for his ROTC stuff was easy, I just went up to the school with him and kind of tagged along as they did a weight and height assessment and then we went to supply to see if he needed anything from there. I met a couple of the cadre and instructors there, simple stuff. Day two he had a PT test early in the morning. He did better than I think he expected to and then a couple of hours later he had his ceremony as an induction into ROTC. As the morning went on I could see on his face that he was growing more impatient. I could tell he was becoming frustrated. All of the students practiced the ceremony preceedings first before the colonel came out. It was mediocre at best and Sgt. Didn’t look happy at all. The colonel finally came out and there were only a couple of family members and myself there to watch. He came over so I proudly stood up to introduce myself and who I was there to see. We chatted about Sgt. and he told me they were all excited to have him there. The ceremony came and went rather quickly and then Sgt. and I had to go to the supply room for one more thing…
They originally told him he would be able to wear his combat patch on his uniform. Since in ROTC they wear the same ACU’s he has worn for the last 6 years, it would have just remained where it always is, on his shoulder. However during the ceremony proceedings, while they had some time to wait around, a few of the senior ROTC cadets, who were also prior service, came over and told Sgt. that he was going to be asked to take them off. “We know it sucks man, we hated it too but we had to do it. We’re trying to get the rule changed but right now it is what it is.” Sgt. tried not to be too defensive and we went and got the ROTC patch that was to replace his combat patch before the two hour break we had before the next “mandatory fun” event we had. When we got in the car he finally let out some of his frustrations and it was obvious that he felt a little like a fish out of water. He being the fish, and the Army, his deployment, his platoon, who coincidently at that time was probably on patrol – they were the water. The combat patch was still on as we pulled out of the parking lot and he was venting to me about how angry it made him. I was upset about it to, I wasn’t sure why at the time, but for some reason… it just hurt. We were driving to get some coffee when he handed me the patch,
“Can you do it please”
I took the patch from him and my eyes started to well with tears. I didn’t want to. Not that I didn’t physically want to take the patch off and put the other one on, if anyone was going to do it other than him, I wanted to be the one… but I didn’t want him to have to take it off. He has spent almost 3 years of his life in that country fighting this war and earning those patches. Everything we went through, the up’s and down’s as a couple trying to thrive through a deployment, was represented in the simplest way, by a patch on his arm.
The mood in the car was solemn and you could feel the emotion in the air. I had paired tears running down my cheeks, he didn’t even want to watch or do it himself. I paused for a moment and looked at the patch, and then I took it off. The sound of the Velcro was very representative of my heart tearing in two. This all sounds very dramatic… but, it was. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is. Not really the fact that he couldn’t wear it anymore (we agreed he would keep his combat patch, along with his stripes in his pocket, so they are still with him) – just the fact of what it represented. A part of his life, of our life, was over right then. If there was ever a ceremony for transitioning from combat soldier to college student I think this one is pretty damn fitting.
I didn’t expect it to hurt the way it did. And maybe hurt is the wrong word, maybe the word is shock, but whatever it was, I was feeling it.
A large part of why it hurt me also, was because it hurt him. At that moment I believe he felt very much like something was being taken from him and he was a little worried about what he was trading it in for. He wants to go to school. He wants to become an officer and lead soldiers. He will, and he’ll be amazing at both – but another part of him wants to be back in Diyala, back on patrol, back with his guys. Not because he wants to leave me or leave home, not at all, but because… that’s what he does, and his guys are still there, he had to leave them and I don’t care who you are – leaving people you care about behind never feels good, even if it’s the right thing.
While we sat down for coffee, we talked a little about it, and I told him it made me cry. He then said, yet another of one of the sweetest and most meaningful things he has ever said - "Well, you earned that patch just as much as I did." I don't really agree with him on that, I think his job is much more difficult but the fact that it shows how much he appreciates what I did and how I handled his deployment meant the world to me.
The good thing about all this is as far as I can see that has been the most difficult of the readjustment period. I keep reminding him that it’s ok to not be in constant motion or constantly busy 24 hours a day. I also remind him that not a month ago, he was still there, so of course there are going to be some difficult periods of time getting used to all these changes at once, but we’ll do it together.
Other than constantly being busy, there were times when we just got to lay on the couch for a few minutes. Usually late at night. Or lay in bed and talk before falling asleep. One particular night he was holding my hand, then held it up and said something like “ya know, something awfully sparkly would look really good on that finger” – take that for what you will :). Some of my favorite times were when we were driving. The road trip to Tennessee was wonderful. Took two days, and we had some amazing conversations about our future together, future children, goals, dreams etc. We also had fun blasting the good songs… turning on the seat warmers and then waiting to see how long it took the other person to realize, and kissing each others hands while cruising down the highway. Life is really amazing with him next to me.
When the evening came for me to leave, it stunk. Nothing dramatic, not a lot of tears (although when I walked through security and turned to blow him a kiss they came), but also, not a lot of words. We just enjoyed being for the moment. While I was getting everything ready to load into the car, I heard him walk into the living room and say to his room mate “This part suuuuuuccccckkkksssss” – I KNOW what you mean my dear.
Ever since I’ve gotten home there’s just something missing. I don’t sleep as well at night, although I make it by. It’s not that I want someone there; it’s that I want HIM there. I’ve been buying a lot of knick knacks and decorative items for my place – but I’m pretty sure it’s just “void shopping” – ya know, that trying to fill something thing. I mean, it’s like it was after R&R, we’re fine… life goes on, we’re making it through, but we miss each other a lot. The bonus this time around is we get to talk on the phone whenever we want!! Which tends to be multiple times a day :). We’ve talked a lot about weddings and such the last few days. Day dreaming together I suppose. I could say I think he’s going to propose soon, and I could say I bet he waits another year – neither would surprise me and for once, I really really don’t want to know! This is one surprise I hope I don’t find out before it’s that moment. One would be amazing, the other would be just fine too :), I’m going to love the man no matter where he or I is in the world and no matter which stage of our relationship we’re in…. besides, I’m used to waiting for him anyway, right? :).
I’m so unbelievably excited about October, which is when I will be going back up there for the month, but also for the rest of our lives. Puts a huge dopey grin on my face just thinking about it.
Anyway, I’m glad I could finally tell you guys all about it and bring you up to speed! Things are good, Sgt. is good and enjoying school (and it seems like ROTC as well). It seems as though his deployment just sort of ended out of nowhere, but old habits are still dying hard. He left me a voicemail and I compulsively saved it because, that’s just what I do… nevermind the fact that I can call him right back. All in all though, we’re moving into this next phase just fine, not always gracefully, but just fine. And WE as a couple are doing fabulous!!
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