Today, Mark left for his second deployment to Afghanistan. It’s hard to believe. While the feelings are familiar, they are harder the second time – because you know EXACTLY how they are going to feel. You anticipate them, but then feel knocked down anyway. You blame yourself for feeling sad and emotional, because you did know what was coming. Couldn’t you have then prepared yourself properly? Couldn’t you have successfully guarded yourself against those “wimpy” emotions? What did I do wrong to feel this way…again?
I found myself tearing up easier this time, and I was tempted to not fight them as I’d done before. He was also more gruff than the first time. We had a smattering of lighthearted moments, but for the most part, things were serious.
After dropping off his bags on post and closing out his apartment, we went back on post to the brigade headquarters. Others were already there, and it was more fragmented than I had imagined. For the first deployment, there were only about 25 soldiers leaving, and we were all gathered in the same place. It felt more family-like. But this time, groups of families and friends just stood by their cars throughout the parking lot, and some even said goodbye right away.
I waited by my car while Mark got issued his weapon, which took about 30 minutes. I had the irrational fear that he wouldn’t be allowed back at the car, without having a goodbye, and I was so glad to see him walking back. He messed around with his weapon and we took a few pictures, but mostly we were distant. However, I was able to draw him close as I read Psalm 91 aloud, my right arm holding him to my side. It was a tender moment and important to me that we prayed “the soldier’s Psalm,” but it took ALL my strength to keep my voice steady.
He hung out at the car for about 20 minutes, and then he said he needed to go. It was still about half an hour before they were going to make all the families leave, and I felt a little upset that I was being told to go earlier. But I knew it would make things harder for both of us if I protested, so after he put on his backpack, I hugged him tightly. I said, “You be safe over there,” which he brushed off by saying, “I’ll be FINE.” We kissed, I hugged him again, we said “I love you,” and I tried to hang on for just a few more seconds…but he firmly pulled away and picked up his weapon.
“All right, gotta go,” he said sternly, and began walking away.
“Call when you can!” I said after him, my voice starting to wobble.
He looked back and raised his hand in acknowledgement as he marched on. Battling tears, I got in my car and happened to catch a couple more glimpses of him as I drove away.
And with that, he was gone. Our second deployment had begun.
How does your first deployment goodbye compare to your second, or third…or fourth? *Hugs* to all of you going through deployment right now, too. We are all in this together!