When Gunner left it was supposed to be 15 months. Thank goodness it wasn't!!!!
When Gunner left, I worked one day a week, and kept Junior home with me.
I didn't go to the gym that much although I did pay for a membership.
Then he left.
You can look at a deployment as a time to wallow in self-pity (and don't worry I did my fair share of that!) or a time to do something with your life. The time will pass regardless of what you do with it, so my mantra this deployment was to make some changes and make OUR lives better because of it.
I set out on the quest to get my teacher certification. I chose the hardest road because it allowed me to put my time and effort into completing half of my MEd. It was hard, it was overwhelming most of the time, but the benefits outweighed the costs. I don't like to do anything half-ass (except cut my grass), so I went forward full speed.
I took graduate classes all summer, got a job as a second grade teacher on post, and kept on going. I took graduate courses in the fall, and am in one now. I have more this summer.
I went back to the gym. I got a trainer. I completed 3 -5k's and 1-10K.
I lost 25 pounds.
I raised our three children, albeit on fast food and oatmeal some days.
I continued working my 1 day a week job.
I sucked at sending packages and letters to Gunner, but he understood and loved me. (Plus he could read the blog and hear all about overflowing toilets and sick children, probably more than he or anyone else wanted to!)
I spent time with my family and with my friends.
Although Junior has only spent 14 months with his dad, out of three years, he knows who his dad is. He can also tell you that when Daddy comes home, that Daddy will change all the diapers. Yea!
I made a lot of new friends that Gunner has yet to meet, but he has heard a lot about. The girls learned to swim, went to camp, participated in Girl Scouts, and grew, grew, grew.
Junior is nothing like the baby he left.
I doubted my strength at times, but now that I am HOURS (that's right people HOURS!!!!) from the end, I know that I was stronger than I thought. Hindsight is 20/20 after all.
So I managed to keep three kids alive, the house is still standing, there is food to microwave, and I am going to see the most amazing guy in a bit.
Seriously people, these reunions are better than wedding days. (When I was at the mall, I saw a girl getting her makeup done, and we talked while the lady rung me up. She was marrying a guy in the navy at 4 o'clock today. She asked me if it was all worth it, and all I could say was "you have no idea how much".)
So my next post better be me leaving to get this Soldier of mine....
P.S. And he did call and they were in St. Paul, Minnesota. They bypassed Germany and Ireland and landed in Amsterdam. I doubt I would let that many Soldiers off the plane in a place like that!
The wind is blowing like crazy, so my curly fro might be a mess!
I still need to shower. In the middle of making the bed. Still cleaning house. Need to vacuum out car, not sure when though. Ran to Kohl's to get an outfit, my friend Mel met me there and talked me into wedge heels. I'm sure by tomorrow I will have a broken ankle.
Banners are up.
Went to the Gap to get a pair of long and leans, and was TWO sizes smaller! Woohoo! Got waterproof mascara. I never wear makeup.
Had my wedding ring cleaned and eyed those titanium bands for Gunner.
My mom took the kids to Explore UT, without a stroller for Junior. He's going to be exhausted. Still so much to do, like lay out the clothes for the kiddos, shower, clean some more, and, and, and......
Still no word from Gunner which I find strange, but my friend Abbey's husband is on the same flight and she hasn't heard from him either. That phone call from Germany or Ireland is always reassuring.
I will be able to make it to my class....probably the entire class.
I have a span of about 3 hours that he MIGHT be home. He hasn't called, so I am hoping he calls from Germany or Ireland or somewhere to let me know what is going on.
I can be patient. I can be patient. What's a few hours when I have waited this long???? It's actually a lot.
Oh well, I have class, cleaning, need to find something to wear, charge the camera, blog, facebook (yeah I am starting to think that should be a verb in this house! That's how I knew Gunner was out of Iraq because he put it on FB. Geez). I'm sure I can think of a few million other things to do, and just in case I have a pile of papers to grade! Fun times!
Gunner actually called me this morning from his FOB and told me he was waiting on a helicopter to BIAP. He called me tonight from BIAP and they were boarding to head to Kuwait.
Not much long and I'll have homecoming #4 to tell!!!!
I started getting nervous tonight. I don't know what to wear. I still need to clean out the car. I have to work the next two days, and then he will be here. Not too much OPSEC since they publish his arrival time on the website.
So I am still here, still waiting, but tonight I put out the trash cans for the last time this deployment. I don't know if I can believe that he will be home....soon.....
The third deployment was by far the hardest for me.
As my father still battled cancer, I watched him go from the strongest man I had known, to someone who depended on people for help. Not something that was easy for him. I was glad that I was able to be there though. Gunner left for Iraq in December 2005 and I was 12 weeks pregnant with Junior.
We didn't find out the sex, and trying to have him pin down a name for this baby with him only calling every week or 10 days was next to impossible. And some of the names he suggested, I wondered if he got the baby name books that I sent or if he was creating names out of arabic letters.
My dad passed away when I was about 7 months pregnant, two small kids who were devastated, and my husband halfway around the world. Junior was a bright point though, and he kept me busy, along with my obsession with cloth diapers. I used to dream about them too. My husband thought I was strange? Whatever, like after this many years he is supposed to understand me.
Gunner was set to return in November 2006, but his flight kept getting delayed, and so he finally came back right at the year mark. They were all shooting to make it to December so that they could be tax free for the year. Anything to keep you busy I guess.
This deployment was exceptionally hard with everything that happened, and the things that Gunner saw. I was really nervous about him finally coming home, and how he would react, especially to a son he didn't know. When he used to call, he would tell me that he "loved that little boy even though he didn't know him". It was heartbreaking.
The evening that he was set to arrive, I was so nervous. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was worried. How much had he changed? How would he handle being the dad to 3? (No worries, he turned out okay!) We hung up banners, got everyone dressed, and headed out to the gym.
His flight was supposed to be home at 10ish, and they were running a tight schedule. At least it wasn't too late this time, since Junior was 5 months old and I didn't want to disturb his already screwy schedule.
My main focus was to let the girls see their dad, and then be able to hand him his son. My MIL had other ideas, and held on to him till I decided he needed to nurse through all the excitement. She wanted to give him his son, but after taking care of him for 5 months alone, I wanted to do it. Probably petty, but I had my heart set on it.
I was so busy watching the kids, taking care of Junior, that the guys were showing up before I knew it. We were in the same gym as before, with the same smoke machine, a DJ, Vietnam vets lining the walkway, and tons and tons of people. I probably remember the least about this return because I was soooooo tired and worn down. What I do have handy is pictures. (Click on the picture to enlarge) (I know I have curly hair, but I never realize just how curly until I see it in pictures.)
Another 12 month deployment, our first to Iraq. (Our, like I actually went there or something!)
We had just moved to Texas when Gunner was set to deploy to Iraq. Em was 5 and Abs had just turned 2. About 4 months after Gunner left, my dad's cancer returned. We survived the deployment, and finally got word that Gunner would be returning soon.
I was actually active in our dysfunctional FRG, which ended up being a HUGE mistake, but that's a whole other story in itself. Anyway, I worked on banners and decorating the motorpool. Anything to help pass the time till he came home.
My parents kept the girls overnight the night before he arrived so I could madly clean the house. Gunner's flight was supposed to arrive at 2:30 am, so we went to the gym at 1:30 in the morning thinking that we would be arriving early. We got there and the gym was packed. Guess no one wanted to sleep and take the chance of missing their Soldier.
There was a Soldier who was left behind because a brain tumor was found, and he was the MC at the ceremony. There was music being played, kids dancing, and people everywhere. We waited.....and waited....and waited.......
At 5:00 in the morning they finally told us that the buses were leaving the airport. The crowd started screaming--me, not so much. I was exhausted. About 15 minutes later, the buses started driving by the gym. I remember my heart stopping and the tears coming. An older lady next to me, put her arm around me, hugged me and said "It's been a long year hasn't it honey". She had no idea.
Once the buses arrived, there was still no sign of our Soldiers. The MC kept having us scream, and scream, and scream. Me, still not screaming, I'm not a loud person. Gunner later told us that they thought famous people kept on walking in because the gym kept going crazy, they had no idea it was all for them. Finally the music started blaring, the smoke machine went crazy, and the strobe light was flashing. In line, our Soldiers ran in one after another, with the families getting louder and louder.
Once all the Soldiers had entered, the guy in charge (whatever he was called), called them to attention, right faced those good looking guys and the National Anthem was sung. (I really should drag out all the pics I have of these homecomings) Of course the only way for the deployment to end was the big man in charge to yell out "1-2-3" and all the families to yell "dismissed!". We searched and searched for Gunner, but he was nowhere.
Then we saw someone walking towards us. I recognized him right away, but I guess he thought that we didn't and he ripped his kevlar off. The girls attacked him, I got a hug and a quick kiss and then Em and Abs took off with him again. Our hero was home.....
The TAKS is tomorrow and I've been pulled from my room to help administer it. Should be interesting I guess. I hope my students behave for the sub!
Tonight was supposed to be my last training session, but my trainer booked someone else , who just happened to be my friend Mel. Mel gave me her spot after some discussion and me trying to talk to the head trainer, who is about as bright as a box of rocks. I'm just ready for training to be over so I can go when I want to and not during the peak times and have to wait for daycare. I can't wait till Gunner is home and things like this are just a little bit easier. Em hates to go to the gym because all the little kids flock around her and she doesn't want to be bothered.
Since tomorrow is the TAKS, I cannot miss school, and when I picked up Junior they told me he had a low temperature of about 99. Let's hope it's nothing serious. Poor little guy.
Still no word from Gunner, so I imagine he is busy being moved around while the Army tries to figure things out. I sure miss that guy. Just having him here in the same house will make everything seem easier, even if it really isn't. Does that make sense?
Since our 4th homecoming is around the corner, I have been reminiscing about the first three. It's amazing how all of them have been so different over the years as we have added to our family and gotten older.
The first time Gunner deployed, it was December 15th, 1995. Our first anniversary was two days later and he was headed to Bosnia. We were stationed in Germany, and had spent the previous 7 months that we were there, with him being gone for 2 months at a time. We had no kids, I had an internship with the State of Florida in their International Trade and Development Division, and I was back in school working on my MBA. I remember when he left they assured us that Clinton was only going to have the troops in Bosnia for a year, and so this would be his only deployment, and we wouldn't even have to face a year separation while he was in Korea....so they said. Now 14 years later, there are still troops there.
Gunner spent Christmas Day camped out in the snow next to a hotel. Morale was low and the CO located Christmas trees and made it mandatory that they decorate them for a contest. Gunner's platoon created green duct tape ornaments and hung pictures of their family on the tree that was also decorated in chem lights. It kept them busy. While the hotel was overflowing with the press, they at least managed to get them to cook them a nice Christmas dinner. One of the reporters was nice enough to share his phone with the guys and allow them to call home.
Fast forward a year later, and I was eagerly awaiting Gunner's return. They said that once we received the final phone call, we would have at least 5 hours till we were able to meet them. I waited to clean, shower and get ready for his return. As luck would have it, they called and said we had 30 minutes till we could pick them up. I showered, threw on my cute homecoming outfit, and then ran to a friend's house to help her get her son dressed so we could head on over there.
We waited and waited, and finally they started playing Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" (kind of a weird selection if you ask me) and in they marched in formation. I couldn't tell Gunner apart from all the rest of the Soldiers, but I waited patiently and when they were dismissed he ran over and grabbed me. We were young, in love, and finally back together.
I remember on the way home looking at him with disbelief that he was actually in my car. He looked older, tired, and relieved to be back home.
And in keeping with military traditions, 10 months later bouncing baby girl Em came along. Life was good.
Everyone I know is waiting for the dates of our Soldiers return.
I at least have a date for when he will fly to Kuwait. It's a start. Once he gets there we should know more.
All I know is that it is possible I have one more trash day. Possible. Probable? This is the Army, who the heck knows.
I called this morning to check on the girls who spent the night with my mom. Em couldn't get on the phone fast enough to tell me that Abs had worn her shirt to bed, and horror of horrors, Abs had licked it. I assured her that we could wash it, and she asked if we could wash it twice to make sure. Abs just wanted to tell me that she loved me, she would never mention the licked shirt.
While Junior and I were waiting for Dora to come on, we watched the tail end of Wonder Pets. I wanted to shoot the duck that talks in baby talk. Even Junior was less than impressed with the show. Please tell me that people don't really let their kids watch that stuff, it's awful!
I am feeling brave, so I might have to venture to the grocery store with Junior. I'll be armed with snacks this time. I was down 22 pounds this morning, even after my small piece of lemon meringue pie. I still can't breathe well enough to run, but hopefully soon.
Gunner said he mailed some boxes home since he couldn't fit it all in his gear. He's hoping to beat the boxes home. When he spent a year in Bosnia, back in '95-'96, we were in Germany so we had access to MPS. I loved it.....until he decided to send almost everything back via MPS. I went to the post office, and the guy got a dolly and loaded over 20 boxes into my little nissan and sent me packing. The next day there was more and the next day more. I was surprised he returned with a bag or anything, seemed like he had mailed it all home. Those were good times...
We have survived four year long deployments--one to Bosnia and three to Iraq. We have been married for almost 17 years and have three children--Em, Abs, and Junior. Gunner is currently deployed for the 5th time to Afghanistan. We are fast approaching the year mark, and then we will focus on the prize--retirement!