Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saying Goodbye

J and East the night he left
Saying goodbye is never easy.  Whether it is for a night, a week, a month, a year...goodbyes are all the same, and in my eyes, they're never fun or ever easy.  This past October, J and his battalion conducted their field exercises in preparation for this deployment.  They were scheduled to be gone 2-3 plus weeks depending on how quickly they passed all their "tests" out there.  I remember taking him to base that Sunday morning at 3am and crying the whole way home because I didn't want him to be gone 2-3 weeks!!  Luckily he was only gone 13 days, but when he got home, you would have thought he had been gone an entire deployment! 
When we were preparing for this deployment, I really didn't know how this particular night was going to go.  A couple of our close friends in Gulfport offered to go with us, more or less to offer support for me.  They offered to drive me back after J left and just be there and provide a shoulder for me to cry on.  I debated their offers and while I thought at times I might need that and want that there, I decided that this was something I needed to do by myself.  When we took Josh to base to drop him off, it needed to be just me, Josh, and Easton.  As hard as it was, that was the right decision.
This is a night I remember like it was yesterday.  We left Heather and Ryan's house around 10:40, as J was required to be at base around midnight.  Heather and Ryan lived about 30 minutes from base, and we wanted to allot enough time for J to get his stuff (all 20,000 bags they had to take) unpacked and loaded onto the trucks and then some time for us to say goodbye.  The drive to base seemed like it toke forever.  It was such a strange feeling.  Time seemed to be going so slow and so fast at the same time.  Easton screamed the almost the whole way which probably made it seem even longer.  Luckily, he finally gave out, and the rest of the ride, Josh and I simply held hands.  We didn't speak much.  We just sat there.  We finally made it to base, he got all of his bags out of the car, tagged and loaded on the truck and came back to the car.  Luckily, we got about 15 minutes together before he would finally have to leave.  I don't remember much of what we said in those 15 minutes.  I remember a lot of "I love yous," "I'll miss you more than you'll ever knows," and "Stay safes" were exchanged, but those 15 minutes were the fastest in my life.  I wanted them to last forever.  I wanted him to just put the car back in drive and drive us back to Heather and Ryan's and us just go back to bed.  I knew that couldn't happened, but I hoped it would.  The dreaded time finally came.  He had to go.  We exchanged a kiss, some sappy words, and then we both got out of the car.  We hugged harder than we probably ever had before.  He picked me up, took me in his arms, and told me everything would be ok.  He told me we would make it through it and that he would be home as quickly as he could.  I remember in those moments, I wanted to hold him forever.  I didn't want him to put me down, and when he finally did, I couldn't let go of him.  I didn't want to let go of him.  Once I let go, he would leave, and I wouldn't know exactly when I could see him again.  He finally broke free from my grip and told me he had to go.  He didn't have a choice.  I knew that, but I wanted to keep him in my arms and keep him safe.  Once he left, I would lose control, and I wasn't ready for that!  We said one last goodbye and he walked away.  I stood at the car door for a moment and just watched him walk away.  I finally made myself get back in the car, but for the longest time, I couldn't go anywhere.  At this point, I wasn't crying, it was almost like I was frozen.  J was finally out of sight and that was when I lost it.  I just started crying, and when I say crying, I mean full on bluddery crying.  I was to the point I was struggling to breath at points.  I called one of my best friends to talk to calm down.  She finally calmed me down and I forced myself to leave base.  Our friend, Jenny, had offered for me to come by on my way back to Heather and Ryan's just to talk.  I sat there for about an hour and finally willed myself to leave.  I wasn't sure I was ready to go back and go to bed by myself and realize that he was really gone and wasn't coming back. 
But it couldn't just be that easy.  J texted me on the way and told me they had pushed their time back by 18 hours.....18 more hours.  It was so hard to sit there throughout the next hours and know that he was less than 30 minutes from me, yet I couldn't go see him.  But that changed.  That next morning, J called and said that he needed me to bring him lunch.  While I was so excited to see him again, I was dreading having to say that long goodbye again.  We got ready, drove to base, and for one last time, I got to see my husband.  We got to talk for about 30 minutes, but then that dreaded time came again.  I have to say, saying goodbye wasn't quite as hard this time, but I honestly think I was just numb to the whole situation.  He got to keep his phone with him the rest of the day, and we texted every chance we got.  Most didn't say anything more that the normal sappy stuff, but we wanted that to be the last things we got to say to each other!  Around 6 that night, the final texts started coming.  They were loading the plane, they would be taking off soon, and then he would be gone. 
It was the longest days of my life.  I was drained, I was emotionally "out of it."  My husband had finally left.  People kept telling me "Oh, it's really not that hard.....I could do it...." and all I wanted to say to them was "I will gladly let you take my place...."  I can honestly say, this was one of the hardest days of my life.  But looking back, I can say I am also proud of how far we have come and how much stronger I have become!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reorganizing and Predeployment

So, in my head, I saw this blog going one way.  I figured once I got home, I would settle into life, and everything would be grand.  But nothing is ever as easy as it seems.  Things have been crazy since we got home and the blog constantly get neglected.  I either need to feed Easton or put him down for a nap, I need to do school work, write a paper, do laundry, wash bottles, the list could go on and on, and by the end of the day, I just want to curl up, skype with Josh and then go to bed.  Doesn't leave much time for blogging.  But I realized, I wanted to remember this stuff.  People might not care to read about our "boring" days, but once Josh got home, I wanted to be able to look back and remember exactly what all happened during this challenging time of our lives.  I read somewhere the other day, even when he gets home, a deployment will be with you for the rest of your life.  I feel that this is so true.  No matter what, we are always going to remember this time and have this time with us.  I found this site ( Dear Deployment, I hate you) the other day, and really enjoyed reading it.  It was a very candid look at deployment...the good, the bad, the ugly, and it covered a lot of topics that people don't discuss or tell someone who is preparing for their first deployment.  A lot of stuff on this site has helped me not feel so alone and made me realize a lot of people have these same emotions about deployment that I do.  Then I realized I wanted to get everything about this deployment down.  Right before Josh was leaving, I opted not to write about my feelings going through everything about predeployment because I thought people would just think I was losing it for being so emotional over it.  But then I realized that I wanted to "share" my story and get everything written down....who knows, maybe someone in a similar situation as me will come across this blog and it will help them feel better but if that doesn't happen, I can look back and realize that I can make it through a deployment, I can look back and see how far I have come from the day that Josh left until now. 
So, I wanted to back track just a bit.  I want to restart my story at the very beginning.  I am going to work hard to catch up and get everything as up-to-date as soon as possible.  But here is my deployment story from the very beginning.  

From the very beginning of our time in Gulfport, we knew that a deployment was coming.  September, October, November, December were great.  Friends would ask me how I was "preparing" and I was honest...I was almost in a state of denial.  I didn't want to think about him leaving.  I didn't want to think that I wouldn't see my husband for over half a year....out of sight, out of mind, right?!  It might not have been the best way to start preparing, but I wanted to enjoy every moment that I could and I knew constantly thinking about it would hender me from doing so.  We went home for Christmas, and got tons of new stuff for our apartment (mostly kitchen stuff)  When we got home, we quickly started placing everything into our kitchen and it hit me....we would be packing everything up in less than a month.  I planned on coming back to NC to spend J's deployment with my family and friends around.  Well, we went through a couple weeks and I tried my best to keep the deployment as far from my mind as possible.  The week before the "D" day, things really started to get real.  At first, we were under the impression that Josh would be leaving out on a Wednesday, 10 days away.  We were moving that Saturday, and we had to start packing.  For me, I kept wanting to delay packing as long as possible.  When I finally started packing things, I knew it would be "real" and I wasn't ready for that reality yet.  Well, the date kept changing.  It went from the first, to the seventh, and it was finally announced that they would leave on Sunday.  Talk about a whirlwind couple of days that we would have.....
Well, Friday night, our friends in Gulfport hosted a going away party for us.  This was the first time we had told anyone the day had gotten moved up.  It was the first time I had really said it, too.  My husband was going to be leaving in less than 48 hours and I wouldn't get to see him for over half a about emotions that were going up and down.  We had a great time Friday night, hung out with all of our friends for what would be our last time.  It really took our minds off of everything.  But the next day, our moving day, loomed.  In trying to avoid packing, we still had a lot to do before people came to help us move out Saturday morning.  We were just going to get up early Saturday morning and get started around 6.  But with anxiety and nerves, I couldn't sleep.  I remember waking up at 2:00am and just starting to pack.  I wanted to do something.  I didn't just want to sit around.  I didn't just want to think about what was coming.  We finally got packed, got everything moved from our apartment into a storage unit, and went to stay with some of our friends Saturday night.
24 hours left together......crazy thoughts.  Saturday night, J spent the early evening packings all his bags and getting everything together.  I went ahead and got Easton to bed and fell asleep myself.  Josh finally came to bed, and I don't remember much, I just remember us fighting.  For both of us, the reality was hitting and nerves and emotions were flying all over the place.  How do you say goodbye to someone you love so much?  We were both dreading the next 24 hours and honestly, being our first deployment, really didn't know what all was to come and what all we would be feeling. 
Sunday morning, we decided we wanted our day to be as normal as possible.  We got up like normal, got up, and went to church.  I was excited to get to go to our church in Gulfport one more time, but I was also dreading it because the fact it was our last time.  We knew people would come up and want to say goodbye and as much as I wanted that, if people were constantly doing that, I knew I would lose it....
Our preacher, Andy, made the announcement that Josh would be leaving that night and to keep our family close in prayer...and I lost it.  Huge was finally here.  I couldn't hide from it anymore....Our sweet friends and fellow church members continued to come up to us throughout the morning to wish us well and tell us we were loved and would be thought about often.  After church, we went back, put Easton down for a nap, and took naps ourselves.  J and the group were leaving late at night, and we knew we both needed the rest.  Sunday night, we went to dinner with our friends, Chris and Jenny.  We ate and hung out with them every Sunday night, and we wanted to keep things normal.  Josh said tearful goodbyes to them, and we went on our way.  We only had a few short hours left before he would be leaving and I wanted every last second with him that I could.  We went back to the house we were staying at and just sat together.  We didn't really say much, we just sat in each others arms and cuddled.  We watched Easton sleep for a bit and we just wanted to be caught up in the moment.  Many words weren't needed, just to be together was the best feeling in the world.  Then the dreaded time was finally time to take J to base and say goodbye.....

Coming up:  Saying Goodbye...