Dear Soldier,

You tell me not to worry about you and that you’re safe where you are — that’s cute.

If I didn’t worry about your safety I would worry about our relationship. You are in a country I would not be allowed to travel to even if I wanted to. I follow world news like I never have in the past. I pray every single day for you, and life has never felt quite as fragile as it does right now.

The days without you go by slowly, but the months feel even slower. How are you not home yet? Most of the time I am awake you are sleeping or at work. You don’t always have Internet, so I try to distract myself when I haven’t heard from you and do all I can to stay strong for you. In my old relationship if I had gone a day without hearing from my significant other but he was active on social media I would be angry. With you, though, it’s the biggest relief. It means you’re safe. I feel secure in our relationship, even from thousands of miles away or a few days of silence because I know you still care for me, as I do for you.

Even before we met I cried happy tears when I saw videos of soldiers’ homecomings. I still do, but now I just can’t wait until that is finally us. I wonder what it must feel like to have your soldier finally home; I don’t know if I can even handle that much excitement. The past 7 months that’s just been a dream of mine. Have you ever won the jackpot in the lottery? Your homecoming will be even more exciting than that. Most people never get to have a day filled with such pure joy and relief. I would choose having you home over any amount of wealth the world could offer.

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One of the hardest days of my life was saying goodbye.

I’ve learned that you can’t take time with someone for granted, and I know I’ll be able to appreciate you even more when you’re home again. Right now our love is hard and hurts my heart, but one day the word “deployment” won’t bring the same kind of anxiety and sadness. Instead, it will be something I can say we conquered — together.

I love you. Be careful with my heart and stay safe.

9 Months Without Sleep

3:46 AM. The harshly lit number blinded me from the iPhone sitting on my bedside table.

Another nightmare about the Army. I don’t want to think about it; I don’t want to worry anymore. I hate that someone I love is overseas and isn’t ever really safe.

My eyes water. I’m not sure if it’s from the bright light or my heart hurting. It doesn’t matter; I power through both and pick my phone up and begin to scroll. Anything to take my mind off worrying. There’s no way I can sleep after something shaking me up so much.

Instagram.

The last photo I posted was one of us. Missing my soldier. #deployedlove #ldr #ArmyStrong

My finger slips onto the first hashtag. I didn’t mean to click it, but now that I have I can’t stop scrolling. Tears start rolling down my cheek. There are thousands of couples reuniting with loved ones. Thousands more are just beginning their deployment journey. I’m not sure who my heart goes out to more — the people who just started the deployment or the people who are several months into it. The first couples are lucky because they have seen each other so recently, but they have a lot longer to go until they see one another again. The beginning of a deployment is really awful, sure, but the middle months are almost the worst. Time goes by slowly, and it gets to the point where it feels like forever ago you last held your loved one, but it also seems like it will take a lifetime to see them again. Both are hard. Deployments are a hard beast to fight.

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This was my favorite post on Instagram, and they had a video that made me SO happy. Check out @sadiebreann on Instagram to watch their beautiful reunion!

I close the Instagram app before I can think about it any longer.

Facebook. 

Puppies, like. Girls’ night out, like. Tiramisu, like.

It suddenly occurs to me that it’s insanely creepy to be “liking” photos at four in the morning. After all, my Facebook friends don’t know that I am at home trying to think of anything but him right now.

There’s a photo of a girl I vaguely know. She is sad because her boyfriend is out of town for the weekend. My face feels warm, and eyes fill once again.

I remember when I was in a previous long distance relationship and felt frustrated when friends would complain about not seeing their SO for a few weeks. That always tugged at my heart a bit, but talk about a new perspective with the military. I want to simultaneously tell the girl how lucky she is to have a boyfriend with a normal job and how short a weekend really is. I immediately feel guilty for minimizing this girl’s post. I don’t know what’s going on in her life; I don’t have any right to be judgmental.

Facebook isn’t helping either. I am clearly projecting my own feelings onto everyone except the puppies.

I close the app and then my eyes. I hope to drift back to sleep, but know it’s not in the cards for me yet. I can’t stop thinking about him. I wonder how long 4 months feels. I have been on the planet for 25 years now and can’t figure out what sixteen weeks feels like. I’ve done sixteen weeks 77 times, but the time frame suddenly feels so foreign. I can’t do 4 more months, I whimper to myself.

One thing I’ve learned to do when I feel helpless is list my options. Even if they suck, you almost always have some sort of choice in life.

Option 1: Break up with him. Nope, that’s definitely not what I want to do. This is hard, but I am more than halfway done and he’s incredibly special. Not even a realistic option.

Option 2: Stick it out. That’s all I can do. I want him home, but I can’t bring him here, that’s not on the table, so I’ll have to keep pushing toward the future I am so excited about.

I don’t feel any better, even though I had hoped that I would by tricking myself into thinking I was more in control of a tough situation than I actually am.

The darkness feels claustrophobic. I blind myself with my phone once again and click the big red YouTube logo. Cheery videos slowly fade into the darkness as the white noise begins to blend with my thoughts.

I finally drift back to sleep… 4:55 AM.

Symptoms Of A Deployment

Anyone who has been close to someone who is deployed understands the great sacrifice the entire family and loved ones are making along with their soldier. I can confidently say that I am not going to take time for granted the way I have with people in the past. I think everyone knows someone who is either deployed or close to a soldier, so I wanted to write something about the way it feels to have a significant other serving overseas.

Here are the symptoms that come along with a deployment:

Anxiousness: Getting a phone call from a random number doesn’t mean the same thing it did before your soldier went overseas. You hope it’s him calling from one of the phones in the barracks, but there’s always a fear in the back of your mind that it’s a stranger calling with bad news.

Irregular Heartbeat: Anytime you hear of something terrible that happened to soldiers in the area of the world where yours is your heart stops and sinks. When you find out it wasn’t him you feel an immediate sense of relief, followed by an intense sorrow for the loved ones who do have to deal with a sickening loss. You hurt for them. Then you pray for them. This thing that had a small impact on you has changed the lives of so many other people forever; losing a loved one too soon is a terrible tragedy that seems to be one thing that the heart can’t fully heal from.

Nausea: When you think about the conditions your soldier is working in, it makes you feel sick. The hatred toward Americans where he is serving is unreal, and you feel anxious knowing there’s a target on the one person you’d do anything to protects back. I don’t know that I would take a bullet for many people, but I would for him.

Sleeplessness: More nights than not you lie awake thinking about the person who is holding your heart halfway around the world. You worry and pray that God will keep them safe. Nighttime is the hardest part of a deployment. It seems so much longer than the bright daytime where you have dozens of distractions. The darkness is deeper than you remembered it being last year, and you feel alone in your big, cold queen size bed.

A New Sense of Patriotism: Your guy is fighting for our freedom. I have not proclaimed my love for this beautiful country nearly as much as I have this past year. The sacrifices thousands of people are making for me and my fellow US citizens are incredible. Soldiers endure terrifying, uncomfortable, and difficult conditions every single day for 9+ months to make sure we can keep the freedoms we have here in the United States.

Don’t you dare say that you hate this country if you live here; you have no right when there are people who are actually dying for it and for the freedoms we take for granted every single day. If you don’t love America there is no reason you need to stay here.

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Photo credit to my new Instagram friend clarkayyyy!

If you told me I could have one wish granted today it would be that I would have my soldier home and in my arms again. I wouldn’t trade that for all the riches in the world. Having that sense security in my relationship again is going to mean the world to me, and I absolutely can’t wait.

God. Bless. America.

This Love Is Ours

Today was one of the particularly hard days. Deployments aren’t fun for anyone, but I’ve really gained a new perspective to what people go through when their significant other goes away overseas.

I try to keep my composure as I drive to my favorite coffee shop to sit down and write. I flip through the radio stations until one sits well with me. The song finishes as I keep my eyes glued to the road; it’s the only thing I can do to not completely break down.

Taylor Swift’s “Ours” comes on and it’s words have a new meaning now than when it first came out. I want to change it, but my hands don’t seem to be cooperating with my brain. I notice the car in front of me has a tiny “Army Strong” sticker at the bottom left of the bumper. My eyes feel full.

When a Ford F-150 glides to a stop at the light next to me, I pull over, gripping the steering wheel with all the strength I have. I rest my head on it, and the tears feel like rain spilling into my lap.

I wonder why the world has to be so screwed up that innocent people need to try and fix all of the problems. I feel like the most selfish person in the world because my soldier has it a lot harder than I do and because I just want him home and suddenly don’t care about the rest of the world. My heart misses him, and I feel like I don’t remember what it’s like to have a hand to hold. This long distance has been the easiest I’ve done, in the sense that I don’t ever question where we stand with each other, but it’s also one of the most painful things in the world watching someone you love go somewhere you can’t keep him safe. Not knowing that everything will be okay is far worse than just missing him.

I sniffle, alone in my car, and realize I have to keep it together for myself and my significant other. I wipe my eyes and smudge the mascara further across my cheek. I shift the gear into “drive,” and muster up the courage to go into the warm, bright cafe after fixing my makeup again.

I force myself to smile when I finally order my coffee.

I’m tired of being strong; I never had the years of training that make someone “Army Strong,” and don’t feel like I fit in. Love is sometimes simple, but other times it’s feeling everything all at once.