Itchin' to Go


In last night's episode of Army Wives, Trevor tears his ACL.  He comes out of the doctor's office on crutches and tells his wife that his injuries are serious enough that he won't be deploying with his unit in a few days.  And the scene was played absolutely perfectly: Roxy gets a huge smile and thinks it's great news, and Trevor's face falls as he hobbles away.

Now this was a moment I could relate to!

When my husband deployed to Iraq in 2004, his unit got the brilliant idea to leave on Valentine's Day.  How nice for all us wives, right?  So this year on Valentine's Day, as I was making dinner, I commented that I sure was happy that he wasn't deploying again.  And my husband got a sullen look on his face and said in the most bummed-out voice ever, "I'm not..."

Luckily I know my husband well enough to know what he meant deep down, but it never feels good to hear your husband say he wishes he were in Iraq instead of in your kitchen on Valentine's Day!

I think one of the hardest things I've had to try to explain to extended family members or civilian friends is that my husband doesn't dread deploying.  He looks forward to it.  He considers it his job and he likes doing his job.  He wants to be useful to the military, and he thinks he's most useful when he's working the hardest.  I am so proud of him for taking his job so seriously and for wanting to Be All That He Can Be.  I've just found it's really hard to explain to people that he's not necessarily happiest when he's in garrison, that he really is itching to go back, and that I don't mind it that he feels that way.

I don't mind that he feels that way.  That's a really hard one to explain.  But I had an epiphany after my husband had been gone about a month, when I realized that I had been looking at the Army all wrong.  I finally realized that deployment is the default position.

My father is a sales manager for Carrier. His employer pays him to sell big corporate air conditioning jobs. They don't pay him to sit in his office and get ready to sell these jobs, or to have his co-workers come in and pretend to be potential buyers so he can run through a would-be scenario. His job is to actually do the selling. In the same way, my husband's job is to actually be a soldier, not just to train to be one. Going to CMTC and gunnery and training exercises is a vital part of my husband's preparation, but his actual job is to be in Iraq (or Afghanistan or Timbuktu or wherever the heck else they send him).  He works for our Department of Defense, and when they need him, they call him.  We don't just get to hang out in Army towns and collect BAH for 20 years without actually having to do the hard job.

I was able to gather strength to face 20 years in the Army when I started looking at this as the way it's supposed to be. My husband is supposed to be in Iraq because that's what his job is, just as a firefighter is supposed to fight fires or a teacher is supposed to teach. Many times I'd heard the word "soldier" used as a verb, and all of a sudden it made sense.  A soldier is supposed to soldier.

Roxy just saw for the first time that her husband really and truly is a soldier.  It doesn't mean they don't love us and it doesn't mean it doesn't still sting a little sometimes, but if you're like me, you married your spouse for all the qualities that make him or her a good servicemember.  I can't weed out the soldier from my husband.  And I'm really glad that they showed this on Army Wives.  Soldiers love their families, but they love being soldiers too.

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