Military wives know: The minute your husband deploys, everything goes wrong. My husband left for Baghdad on October 13, 2006, our 10-month wedding anniversary. After our last kiss goodbye, I peeled myself out of his arms and forced my legs to carry my body towards the truck I was to drive home away from my other half. It was a gigantic feat. For all I knew, I would never see my husband alive again.
Within 24 hours I'd found my mother-in-law unconscious; they almost lost her twice in the emergency room. Within 48 hours I'd accidentally backed my husband's truck into a parked vehicle. Within 72 hours I was stranded in the parking lot with a flat tire and a dead battery. If the first three days away from my husband were any indication of the next 362, I wasn't sure how I'd make it through the year.
The First Call
Though I eagerly awaited my husband's first call from "the sandbox," a knot was forming in my stomach. He'd already learned of his mother's near-death experience seconds before he boarded the plane to Kuwait. Now I'd have to tell him about the damage I'd done to the truck, his most prized possession. He's going to kill me, I thought. It would be best not to tell him, but I can't keep a secret.
Surprisingly, my husband reacted calmly. He made sure I'd contacted our insurance company, then reassured me of his love. I fell asleep that night feeling a bit more at ease. It was the first in a series of God-ordained growth opportunities in our marriage that occurred during our time apart.
To keep myself busy and sane while my husband was gone, I enrolled in a few online college courses. I also took on several freelance writing projects. Between the extra combat pay my husband was receiving, and the extra money my writing was bringing in, we paid off a sizeable debt consolidation loan. After we'd conquered the loan, we saved up for a down payment on a house.
Buying a House Alone
Purchasing a house without my husband by my side was stressful, but it gave us a goal to work toward together. My husband spent much of his free time searching local MLS listings online. He'd call me with the numbers and I'd visit the houses with a realtor, often talking with him on his Iraqi cell phone at the same time. Eventually, we found the perfect house. My husband did what he could to complete his portion of the paperwork from halfway around the world; the rest I completed with my power of attorney.
But the stress from purchasing a house was often the least of our worries. Many times our phone conversations would end abruptly. I'd have to trust that my husband wouldn't hang up on me without saying goodbye; he must have lost the connection. I'd also have to trust that God was taking care of my husband, carrying him through until the next time we were able to speak.
Fear of Drifting Apart
Before he left for Iraq, our relationship had its share of tension. Scared of losing my husband, I cried constantly. In preparation for war, he was shutting down emotionally and having a hard time handling my deluge of emotions. Because we didn't understand where the other was coming from, we did a great job of fueling each other's misery. I was sure we would drift apart during his time away.
But God did great things in our marriage through the deployment, which, after an extension, ended up amounting to 15 months. He used our first few months apart, during which we rarely were able to communicate, to deepen our love and commitment to each other. And as the deployment progressed, we were able to communicate more often–at one point, almost daily. Thanks to his cell phone, I was able to talk to my husband while he was out on supply missions and during detainee guards. It helped me understand what he was going through a little better. Though we longed to see each other face-to-face, the time we spent "just talking" was priceless.
My husband is transitioning out of the Army. He will soon spend several months away at a law enforcement academy, home only on the weekends. While we're not looking forward to the time apart, we know we can accomplish anything after enduring a deployment to Iraq. And we know the God that brought us closer together through a miserable separation will also bless us through this shorter time apart.