I told him I would. I told him, if it was feasible and conducive to his job–his mission–I would follow him. We were only dating, but we had been talking about deployments and long-distant assignments after potentially getting married. And I responded. “I believe in family, first. So, if it’s possible and not harmful for your job, I will follow you. If you deployed, I would hold down the homefront and maintain a positive environment for our family. But, if you were ever assigned somewhere where we could follow you and it wouldn’t be bad for your military career, I’d follow you if you asked me to.”
I just never realized the cost that might come with that.
He did ask. And I did follow. I actually initiated the idea. He decided to change his MOS (military occupational specialty–his job in the Army) from Aviation to Acquisition Corps, just months shy of his deployment. Though it wouldn’t go into effect for a year and a half, the decision came with many changes. Huge changes.
Three months of school. Intense studying, long days of classes. I could have stayed home. It would come easy to me now–the separation, the learning to live without him. Because we are only just now hitting our stride of living together again. The deployment cycle lasts much longer than a year, and it would be no problem going to back to “before.” But, I couldn’t do that to he and I. I especially couldn’t do that to the girls. Not again. He missed his youngest girl’s first two months. Didn’t hold her for two months. And darling Elizabeth. No. Not again.
But, I looked at him in our bedroom a few months ago. Before the decision was irreversible. Before we put the house on the market and started undoing our home. “Do you want us to go? Or do you want us to stay? Because I will do whatever you need me to do.” And he wanted us to go. So we did.
We disassembled our home, found tenants. We had our furniture packed and we watched them load it on the truck. No place I’ve lived has ever felt like home. Until my Sundown home. But, I emptied it, cleaned it, and walked out the door. For him. After five years in one place, the longest I’ve been anywhere, I painfully said good-bye to dear, wonderful friends. Left a parish that felt like a family. And drove away from my real family. I hugged my father, tears rolling, held my mother. I pulled my sisters close. One more time. Then, I got in a car, despite their own tears, their own pain. And I drove away.
For my family. For my Soldier.
I thought it would be easy when I said I’d follow him. But nothing worth having is ever easy. And so I am in a new place, a new town. I know no one. My mother is no where near as accessible as she was before. My sisters are so far. My father…but, on we go. This is the life I signed up for. This fusion of human beings in this tiny apartment is my world. I must drive on for them. March forward for my Soldier. Family first. Even if that means walking away from family. Friends. A life.
Because I signed up for this life. The day I said I do to my Soldier, I said I do to a life of constant change of transiency. Upheaval. Separation. Crosses. Victories.
I’d do it again. I’ve seen more than I’d imagined in the last three years. Been through some tough times. But, if he asked me again, knowing the cost, I’d say yes in a moment. Not a second thought. Because behind that man, behind that amazing Soldier, I know is a place God called me to take. A tough, painful calling all its own. But, in all that pain, all that hardship, is joy. Peace. A burning desire to continue. To live this life.
To follow. Through following, we lead. Our examples are the legacy we leave behind. My mother kept us together as much as she could. She followed my father–her Soldier. And she left behind such a legacy, such an inspiration, I can only hope to live up to it. In her footsteps that she left for me to follow, in the wake of my Soldier, I lead my family. And we are together.