I have been told more than once that “you should write a book.” Frankly, I am flattered by these overtures of interest in my writings, as I sometimes fear that only I am interested in reading my epistles. However, I realize that I am still extremely young and have loads of life experience ahead of me, and to attempt such a work at this time would be almost presumptuous. I have only experienced the tip of the iceberg, so how can I write about the rest of the boulder knowledgeably?
But today, I ran across a book entitled A Year of Absence: Six Women’s Stories of Courage, Hope, and Love by Jessica Redmond. Nearly every review on Amazon.com is glowing, and there are Army wives who say that everything written about in that book is very true-to-life. It got me to thinking, What would I write if I were to publish my experiences with deployment and the military? I just might start off the book like this:
An Army truck idling. Camouflage. Salutes. Black stenciled block lettering. Last-minute family photos. A mother’s tears. Restless combat boots. Hands clutching one another. A mockingly-blue sky. Sergeants shouting orders. Sleek, clean weapons. Rucksacks.
One last kiss.
Everyone handles deployment day a little differently, yet the emotional process is the same. The time creeps by yet goes so fast. There is excitement, yet subdued anxiety. There are so many things to say, yet not enough time to say them…so there is silence. We hang onto every moment, searing into our brain the feeling of his hand holding ours. At our last meal together, we drink in his presence and hardly taste the food. As he is preparing his weapons and bags at the site of departure, we watch his every move so as not to forget anything about him. When we hug him, we put our face into his shirt and breathe deeply, so as not to forget his smell. When it comes time for him to load up, the goodbye is not the long and drawn-out romantic process that is portrayed in the movies. All the beautiful things we meant to say melt into oblivion as we quickly hug and kiss him, tell him to be careful, and most importantly, reiterate for the thousandth time that we love him. As he climbs into the vehicle, we watch as his body and weapon – which is essentially part of his body now – disappear behind tinted glass, and our throat hurts from choking back tears. We promised we would not cry, and while he can still see us, we are smiling. That is how we want him to remember us: the strong woman he loves, who will greet him with a smile upon his return. He will come back, and we are counting down the days.
Thus, deployment begins.
Who knows what I would actually write…that is only what came to me tonight. Looking back on deployment day, there were so many little elements to the process, which I described in the first paragraph. It’s like replaying a well-known movie in my head, except it really happened. Right before he got into the vehicle, he turned around and looked at me, and it was like he was saying, I want to say goodbye one more time. I wanted that too, so I ran across the parking lot, clutching my camouflage purse, and gave him one last hug and kiss. Quite unromantically and un-movie-like, the only soundtrack was a large, sand-colored Army truck idling in the background. But I wouldn’t trade that moment for anything.
And ironically, ever since deployment day, I have been imagining what homecoming will be like. Again, I have words that, in an ideal world, would flow romantically from my mouth upon seeing him for the first time. But instead of set myself up for false expectations, I turn to another movie: We Were Soldiers. You know how LTC Hal Moore comes back, knocks on the door of his home after returning from Vietnam, and his wife opens it. They had been married for awhile, but even then they could not find the words to describe how they were feeling in that blessed moment. Their eyes, smiles, and hugs spoke more than words could convey, and that’s how life actually works.