October 15, 2005 -- it was a warm, beautiful blue-skyed day, and it was awful! We had gone out to eat the night before, and everyone but me got food poisoning. Mike spent the whole night fighting nausea, while all three of the girls...well, they didn't fight it. I got very little sleep that night, between cleaning up after the girls and finishing the packing Mike felt too sick to do himself. In the morning, we took Mike to a gym on Fort Campbell, and the girls laid like rag- dolls on the grass outside while Mike finished all the final deployment paperwork. We waited around for hours, first outside, then sitting on bleachers inside. There were thousands of people milling around, and then finally the speeches started. They went on and on and on...through lunch-time, then through nap-time... Then there was the final formation, with Mike lost amid the thousands of soldiers all standing in long, neat lines and rows. They filed onto buses as we watched, and then drove away. By the time we got back to our car, I was crying so hard I couldn't see to put on the girls' seatbelts. Yeah, it was horrible.
Before that first deployment, I was emotional for weeks in advance. I had lists of all the things that had to be done before Mike left, and he had to teach me important things like how to work the lawn mower, how to use the gas grill, how to edge the lawn, when to change the air filters and how to start the gas fireplace. I had to go to FRG (Family Readiness Group) meetings, and fill out (in triplicate!) a stack of paperwork which I affectionately call "Death paperwork". (Form after form full of information on me, my mental and medical history, my closest friends and family, and who I'd want with me in an emergency...) I was overwhelmed, and I cried a lot.
Fast forward three years to November 23, 2008.
We went to a different restaurant this time, and no one got sick. I didn't make any lists, and Mike packed all of his own stuff. He asked me if I plan to re-seed the lawn this spring, told me which tool to use when I'm ready to prep the bathtub to re-caulk it, and he wanted to teach me how to use his chop saw so I can cut up his pile of scrap wood, but I declined. :) I haven't been to an FRG meeting since 2005. I'm kind of off the FRG radar, and happy to be! (Mike has been borrowed and loaned back and forth so often these last few months between companies that I'm not on any company's FRG list.) I didn't have to fill out any paperwork, either!
I never really had time or opportunity to count how many weeks or days were left before he left, either. First they told us he would be leaving just before Christmas. Then it was December 12. No, wait, make that December 6. The next day it changed to November 24. A week later, it became November 21. Until the Tuesday before, when it got switched to November 23. We got the call in the afternoon of the 21st with the final drop-off time for Sunday...0130. (For you non-military people, that's 1:30...in the morning.) Never a dull moment in the Army!
Mike spent most of Saturday packing, and we put the kids to bed as usual, then woke everyone up after midnight and loaded up the van. We got to the airfield half an hour early, but things were already in motion. Mike dropped off his bags, and we found a parking space. Everyone got out of the van (bundled up in our warmest jammies and a coat), we had someone take a picture of the six of us freezing together, then everyone gave Daddy a hug and got back in the nice warm van. We said goodbye, and headed home! No one even cried! (Well, no one except for Isaak. He didn't want to get back in his carseat quite yet. He was ready to go exploring!) That was it...short, simple and uncomplicated. (Update: Mike called this afternoon from Anchorage, AK. There WAS a send-off ceremony after all...2 1/2 hours after we left! Sure glad we didn't stick around for that!)
I've done a lot of thinking during these past few weeks about the differences I am seeing in myself and in our family this time around. This community, being so close to an Army base, is extremely supportive of our soldiers and their families. Our own community, by which I mean our neighbors, friends, and church family, is even more specific in their support of our soldier and our family. It is wonderful to have their support, but we had their support during the last deployment too. Nothing has changed there. Mike went to Iraq last time and was assigned to a huge post, we emailed and IMed almost daily, and he came home early for training. This time, he'll be in Afghanistan on a small airbase, we have no idea what the communication network will be like, and he will most likely be gone for just over a year. Everything has changed this time. Most importantly, my attitude has changed.
My Father is in charge. It's that simple. God IS in control! There is nothing that I can change or prevent by worrying, or crying, or by making lists. :) We have known since Mike got home from Iraq that he would be leaving this winter for Afghanistan, so I have had over two years to work on changing my attitude. Yesterday was the test. I was completely taken by surprise by my emotional breakdown at the send-off last time, so I wondered all this week when the storm would hit. At what point during this send-off would I break down and cry uncontrollably? How badly was I about to embarrass myself? :)
The storm never broke. I sent my husband, my best friend, off to war proudly and with a smile on my face, and with only a slight tremble in my voice. :) My Father IS in charge. My heart IS at peace. How simple!