This guest post is from Sarah M. Like me, she’s a Navy wife but something else we have in common is we were both in the same grade and grew up in the small town of Footloose, USA. She’s one of my few former classmates who knows about my blog besides Sarah K. who we also grew up with.
Below is a picture of me and Sarah in a yearly Christmas play our grammar school had. We were in the 1st grade and seeing as how we grew up in the town of Footloose, there were several spottings of Kevin Bacon. He joined us on stage for a kick ass rockin’ rendition of The First Noel.
To be honest, Kevin Bacon could be kind of a pain in the ass since he would always pop up whenever a camera was around. Here’s me and Sarah in our 2nd grade class photo. Yes, I know I have some kind of mullet thing going on and I’m wearing red overalls which makes me look like a giant tampon but I’ll just blame it on my mom.
She picked out my clothes when I was younger and loved to keep my hair super short. Even back then I would say if I ever have a daughter, I will always keep her hair long. That’s pretty much the only promise I’ve kept when it comes to having kids.
From Elle~ I’ve been married to my husband for over 16 years and have been a military wife for 15 of those years. I’m not gonna lie, being a military wife can be very difficult. I think we’ve moved about 9 times in the past 15 years and it has been so hard to keep in contact with the friends I’ve made wherever we’ve lived.
One thing I noticed from the beginning was that I’m not really considered the “typical” military spouse. Sarah M. started an amazing Facebook group called Unconventional Military Spouse as well as a Facebook page of the same name. Since I’ve usually felt out of place with the other wives, UMS has made me see that I’m not alone in the way I think about things. If you’re a military spouse and would like to join, the group page, which is the first one I listed, is more active if you’re looking for interaction among the spouses.
I promised myself that I would never talk about religion or politics on this here blog but one thing I will say is that I want our troops home, safe and sound. In January 2003, my husband was stationed in Bremerton, WA but we were living in Seattle since we knew he would be gone so much. When he left in January for a 6 month deployment to go the Middle East, I was terrified.
He was never in the line of fire but you just never know what can happen. The war in Iraq started that March and it tore me up. While there’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever that I support the troops, I didn’t support the war or the administration at the time. My husband’s deployment was extended for over 9 months and it was so hard.
While I had the other wives to turn to, I didn’t really because of my thoughts about the war. I would get emails from the Ombudsman that would say we (officer wives) need to stand strong against the people who didn’t support what was happening in Iraq. I felt completely alone in my feelings and didn’t have any family near me.
When I was 8 months pregnant and we were living in D.C., my husband came home from work and told me there’s a good chance that he was going to be sent to Afghanistan by the end of the month. You can only imagine my reaction.
I was in shock because by this time he was no longer being deployed and had a desk job. He ended up not going because he broke his foot 6 years ago and was still having problems with it so they sent one of his coworkers over there 2 weeks later.
We have a really good friend, Jay, who was sent there a few months ago and my heart jumps into my throat whenever I hear news that something has happened with any of the troops in Afghanistan. His wife is the sweetest and they have a 3-year-old son. I’m always thinking of Jay and his family every day and hope he comes home soon.
A few days ago, I heard some news that kept me awake most of the night. It brought back all the emotion I felt 4 years ago while my husband was deployed to Iraq for the second time. By all accounts, that one was supposed to be a less intense deployment than the first, and for him it was.
He was serving at a small base on the coast; a quiet assignment compared to his first tour when he was assigned to the Green Zone in 2003. That trip was full of daily evacuations to the bunkers and frequent trips “outside the wire” into the most dangerous part of Iraq during a time that saw some of the heaviest street fighting of the war.
This deployment in 2007 was more like a cushy desk job in comparison, so although I worried, it wasn’t the low-lying terror that spouses feel when they know their loved one’s life is in constant jeopardy.
My husband called me during his second deployment to tell me that 3 of his fellow agents had been killed by an IED in Balad. One of the agents, Dave Wieger, was assigned to the same base that we were and my husband knew him well. I had never met him but because my husband wasn’t able to, it seemed right that I attend the memorial service.
At this point, you’re probably more clued into how heavy this was going to be than I was at the time. In the days leading up to it I gave little thought to what Dave’s memorial service would mean to me. I didn’t know the guy. I was there to represent my husband. Who was away. At war.
I suppose you can imagine what I was headed into, and maybe I got an inkling as I walked from my house on base with my friend and fellow milspouse, Jennifer, to the chapel where the service was being held. We walked because we knew it would be well attended, and as we came around the corner to see the busy parking lot and the uniformed honor guard members at the door, I was surprised to feel a nervous flutter in my belly. I said so to Jennifer and she said she was a little nervous too.
I think that when I was signing the guest book, surrounded by unfamiliar uniformed military members and law enforcement officers, full on anxiety set in. I really don’t remember a lot about the service for this great guy who I’d never met. I was pretty focused the whole time on the poster sized photo that was sitting on an easel in the front of the sanctuary.
It was a picture of Dave in his desert gear-sand colored helmet, shades, beard
growing in and a desert-camo pack strapped over his tan shirt. He looked like my husband. He looked like every one of our friends who had ever sent a picture of themselves back from Iraq.
The service was heartfelt and tragic; it introduced Dave to me as someone who was cut down in his prime and as a person who would have gone on to make the world a better place to live in. And then the video started. You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hFaQ7LmZkI
I think it was the music that really got me. I bawled like a little baby. Like my heart was broken. Like I knew him. Of course we all know I wasn’t crying over him. I probably hadn’t cried since my husband left. I was crying because I was worrying about my husband’s safety, and I was tired of being a single mom, and I was just really fucking angry that I was unwillingly being a part of a war that I didn’t support.
When it was time to leave the chapel and go into the reception, I had to walk past the giant poster-sized picture of Dave, and I felt like a kid. I really didn’t want to get close to it. Suddenly I was 7 years old and I was afraid to walk past a dark room for fear that something inside it might spring to life. So, I did what every kid learns to do when they’re scared but they don’t want to give in to sheer terror. I just didn’t look at the scary thing.
And that’s when I saw the boots sitting at the base of the easel. Yup, THOSE boots. The sand colored combat boots. The same ones that a few months ago were lined up against the wall in my hallway, ready to be packed into deployment bags. Shit. And there went the waterworks all over again.
I thought I’d straightened myself up enough to at least offer my condolences to the family. Sigh. As it was I never even managed to offer my condolences to them. Jennifer and I took a short cut to the courtyard to give me time to get myself back together, and by the time we made it back into the reception the family had made their own escape into the fresh air.
We meandered through the reception; I mainly had my red and puffy eyes on the
exit. Finding none of Dave’s family’s hands to shake, Jennifer and I decided that it was probably time for us to walk back to my house. Between us and the door was the detachment commander. He wasn’t a guy who was well-known for eloquence, but what he said to me snapped me right back to reality.
His wife gave me a hug and the “I know what you’re crying about” look, and then she probably wished she could melt into the floor as her husband shook my hand and told me his story…about when he got the phone call that Dave was dead. He started off by saying that when he got the phone call, he thought of me. Because, he said, they didn’t tell him who was dead. He thought of me and of all the other families of all of his troops that were over there. Well. There you go.
I didn’t know what to say then and frankly, I don’t know what to say about that now. He was clearly, awkwardly, trying to identify with what I could be experiencing. I thought it was ridiculous and insulting at the time, but the years have softened my perspective and I can acknowledge that he really was, in all likelihood, just trying to be nice.
In the months and years that followed, my husband returned safely from Iraq, the detachment named a street on Travis AFB after Dave; it’s called “Wiege Way”, and until we moved from there, I put flowers and flags next to the sign. Especially on November 1st, when he died, and on May 15, Dave’s birthday. Memorial day, Veteran’s day, and I think on the first year I put something out for Christmas.
I’m really not sure why I took on this sort of personal tribute for this guy. He had people in the office who were helping to memorialize him. It made me feel like I was doing something to remind people that he was gone. Somehow, by putting out nice new flags after the old ones had become worn, I guess I hoped the people driving by noticed and knew that he was still gone. Just like all the other troops who have been killed in Iraq.
Which brings me to what kept me awake the other night:
From Mrs. Wieger (Dave’s Mom),
We just received the most amazing call from OSI at Andrews AFB ~the
man that planned the IED attack on the hummer that killed David, Nate and Tom was caught and sitting in an Iraqi jail! They found him and special forces went in to get him! OSI never gave up looking for him! I wanted family and friends to know…..
And there it is. This brings the whole war close to home for me in a way that even sending my husband off with his deployment bags stuffed full of hand written notes and toys that our daughter smuggled in while his back was turned never did. I was lucky. My husband came back safe.
I thought about what could happen while he was gone, but I didn’t dwell on it. Ultimately, my family has been lucky. My husband, his brother, and their dad have all had careers in the military and everyone is OK. Everyone has come back safe.
But Dave didn’t. My first reaction was that I was thrilled that the perpetrator was caught! I have to admit that I can see why people WANT to see a punishment given that is as vicious as the crime. I WANT to know that the person responsible suffers the way that the families who lost a loved one suffered that day and every day since. He planned the attack and he killed my husband’s fellow agents and he’s going to PAY…
But really, those thoughts and feelings are new to me. I’ve never felt this kind of anger and the desire for justice like this and I really don’t know what to do with it. For now, I suppose I just wait and see. This experience has pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me think about what revenge could look like.
I still don’t know what I feel about this. I feel different nearly every time I think about it, and I imagine that it could take another 4 years for me to really understand what this means for me and my own perception of war. For now, though, it’s enough to know that Dave’s mom feels some relief knowing that the person who was responsible for her son’s death will be held accountable.