Monday, May 28, 2012

Thank You Is Not Enough

Today is Memorial Day.
I guess the impending retirement for my husband is making me sentimental of all things military, or maybe I get this way every Memorial Day and don't realize it, but I am very grateful today.  I spent the day, just the girls and I as My Husband is currently out of town trying to find a new job, thinking over and over about all the people I know who have served.

I thought about my grandfather who served in World War II.  He fought under General Patton, and when his unit was over run by German forces, he was forced to play dead.  As if that wasn't enough, he had to be totally still and silent as someone ran a bayonet through him to be sure he was really gone.  He survived, though and came home with a Purple Heart for his trouble.

I thought about my own father, who served in Vietnam.  I called to ask him again what medals he received for his service, so that I could tell our girls about him.  I ask him to tell the the story one more time of how he received is own Purple Heart, the one he won't wear, though I know it well.  He was out on patrol, and a motor came in screaming in.  He started running for camp as fast as he possibly could.  It wasn't fast enough.  The munition exploded behind him and sent him flying.  He wound up with shrapnel in his legs and was awarded a Purple Heart.  He believes, though, that he isn't deserving.  It isn't that he wasn't injured, but he did nothing heroic, and he doesn't feel this his injury deserves the same award as the men and women who have lost arms, and legs.  He feels what he went through is nothing in comparison, and shouldn't be treated the same.  I respect that, though I respect the Purple Heart he was awarded as well.  He still has some of that shrapnel in his legs, and from time to time some works it way out.

I thought about my husband, who is trying his best to find a new position in this world.  I thought about how thankful I am he didn't take after my family, and end up with a Purple Heart of his own.  He has served so faithfully for the last 20 years, and I am so proud of all he has given in support of this nation.

I thought about a friend who lost her husband a few years ago, and how her life has changed.  I remembered him.  I remembered the phone call telling me that the crash we were all waiting to hear about was him.  His flight.  His helicopter.  Spending part of that night at her house, just standing there, all of us that could get there.  Not knowing what to do.  I remember mobilizing our moms group, and taking so much food every day she had to tell me to stop.  When I think of it all, my heart still breaks for her, and their children.

Other faces flash before my eyes.  People I knew of.  People My Husband knew.  People that left so much pain behind.

They gave all.

Great-full is not even enough of a word.  I doubt very seriously that there truly are words that would ever show the depth of my appreciation.  I try my best to use all the words I can to explain to my own children what today is about, not food, or beach trips.  Not grilling, or anything like that.  Today is about memories.  Today is about gratitude.  Today, is about thanks.  For without those brave men and women, we would not be the nation we are, imperfect though we may be, we are still great.  Without them, we wouldn't be at all.
So, thank you, to everyone who has ever donned the uniform and to those who were left behind when the ultimate price was paid for that freedom.  Thank you.  For all that we are, thank you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Don't Want Him to Go Quietly

My Husband's retirement is coming up very, very quickly.
We have been a little worried, and stressed, about getting our lives rolling, and generally looking toward building our future for a while.
There is one thing, though, from our present, soon to be our past, that really hurt me this week.
When he first found out that he hadn't made the last rank he needed, and was being forced to retire, My Husband was hurt.  He was angry.  I understand that.  This is actually a job he loves, and he is good at, and he is being forced to leave it.  While I am thrilled about no more deployments, or moves after we make our next one, leaving this life is hard.  This is all we have known together.  For the last 12 years, I have been a military fiance or wife.  My children have never known anything else.  They don't understand a civilian life, where Dad comes home every night for dinner.  They don't know a world where Mom and Dad are there for every birthday, holiday, or any special event they have.  This isn't their world.  At least, not so far.
Now, that this is all winding down, though, and we are transferring to a new life, I think we need to mark this very momentous occasion.  Normally, there would be a retirement ceremony where we could do just that.  However, going back to the point that My Husband was upset about his retirement, he refused one.
He simply said no.  Over and over again.  I ask.  Gently.  He refused.
He was ask at work, repeatedly.  He still refused.
He felt like he didn't accomplish everything that he wanted to in the time he was given.  He feels he had more to do, and more to give, and is hurt that he can't.  So, no ceremony.
Instead, there was supposed to be this beach barbecue, where he and someone else he worked with who is also retiring, were to have a simple going away party.  We could have seen him get the shadow box they are making for him.  It wouldn't have been a ceremony in uniform, but it would have been something.
Then, this week, he gets a text message, telling him that they are holding a going away party for not just the two retiring, but everyone leaving his department at work, even those just transferring out to new commands, at a local bar.  They are all lumped in together, and this is what they normally do for anyone transferring out.  No more.  No less.
I am hurt.  Truly hurt.  We get nothing.  It isn't even that I want acknowledgement of all we have gone through for us, but I want closure.  I want to see him retire.  I want to see him wear his uniform, all buttoned up and polished one more time, and I want our children to see that.  I want memories and pictures.
Instead, he will simply quietly go from being active duty, to retired.  All on paper.
No more.  No less.
I feel completely robbed.  I feel like my children have been robbed of something special, too.  I've demanded that he don the uniform for formal pictures with the family then, but that won't be the same.  Nothing will. I'll never get the chance to smile, with every once of pride I have, at him, with tears in my eyes, as they say all the traditional things they say at a retirement.  I'll never get to see my children get excited to really know that our time is over, in a very formal manor.
Its all gone, and there is nothing I can do about it.  I am a little bit heart broken.  Its a very sticky situation, too.  The last thing I want to do is make him feel worse.
For me, I guess it is just another of the many heartbreaks we have had to endure in this phase of our lives.  There are a lot of beautiful memories also, though.  As he moves without notice in to the next part, I suppose I'll just have to focus on those, scrap book all the home comings, and let that be that.  I'll move on from being a military wife, to hopefully a police wife, but you can believe that it won't be quiet.  I'm throwing my self a party, and I expect an award for survival from my friends.  Seriously.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Twenty Years On A Piece Of Paper

We are really winding down in the military phase of our transition to civilian life.  My Husband goes on terminal leave in four days.  That signifies the end of his time at work.  From that point until he is actually out of the military this summer, he has time to try to find a job, and get us moved, so that we can begin our lives all over again.
Today, though, he was able to complete one very monumental piece of the entire retirement process.  He picked up his DD214. This is the form that he will use for the rest of his life to identify his military service for anything and everything.  He as been working on it for a bit, ensuring that everything is correct from his records, etc.  He went in to pick it up, found a couple of small errors, like my name as usual, and had them corrected.  As soon as they were done, he was handed a piece of paper that means everything at the moment.  It may not seem big, but believe me, it is.  He called to tell me he had it.  It was kind of a sad moment.  "The last twenty years of my life, on one piece of paper" he said.
I know this has been hard on him.  Even though he has a very hard job, something that is full of the kind of stress you can not imagine unless you are there, and this is a hard life for us as a family, he loves what he does.  He is the kind of guy you want going into the military.  He is dedicated to his job.  He is a bit of a perfectionist when it matters.  He loves to fly.  He is fantastic at what he does, but, he has been in for 20 years, and even though his command wanted him to stay, even though they requested a waiver for him, because of all the military budget cuts, etc, he was forced to retire.
I was hurtful.  Even more so when you see some of the morons who are left in, who are allowed to move up because they kiss the right rear end, even though they don't know their own from a hole in the ground.
He moved on, though.  I think he made peace with the idea of retirement, as much as he can, once he saw how much we missed him, and began to focus on a life with his family.  Even being a police officer, which is what he wants to do, and being gone as much as they are, he will still get more time with us, than if he were to deploy for 8 months at a time again.  That really helps.
No matter what, though, this is a major move, and a major transition in his life.  He went into the military when he was 18, before he had even graduated from high school, under a delayed entry program.  This life is all he has know.  Now, at the age of 38, they reduced everything he has worked for, everything he has accomplished down to one piece of paper and handed it to him on his way out the door.
Its hard to live this life, but in many ways, it is harder to leave it.  I'm really not sure what all life will hold for our future.  I'm not even sure what state we are going to live in by this fall right now, but I do know that i have I hopes.  I hope he find a career that he loves as much as this one.  I hope he has another twenty years or more doing something else the he is so wonderful at, dedicated to, and that allows him to fulfill his potential like this one did.