I've been needing to find the time to update for days, even weeks, now, but just haven't been able to find those few extra minutes to do it. This week is full of a lot of different emotions, and I'm feeling really frazzled by all of them.
When Jesse enlisted in 2007, we both knew the very reality of him going to Iraq or Afghanistan and how quickly it could be. Instead, he was sent to South Korea, where he spent 2.5 years, most of which was very happily spent with us together as a family. When he received orders back to America in the late spring of 2010, we immediately contacted his gaining unit to find out the deployment schedule. Much to our dismay, but not really our surprise, we learned that his gaining unit in Fort Polk had a scheduled year-long deployment to Iraq beginning in January of 2011. We prepared ourselves mentally for the deployment, and began to sort through the various emotions that come with that kind of news. When we arrived at Fort Polk and he began inprocessing in September 2010, his orders still stated that he would be going to the deploying unit… until a few days later, when they suddenly switched him out to another unit. This unit, his current unit, had just gotten back from Iraq in May 2010, and had no future deployments on the calendar at this point in time. We were elated, absolutely thrilled with the news. I knew that while he was so obviously happy that he would get to spend yet another guaranteed year with his daughter (and little did we know, our son!), he was also dealing with the soldier side of his emotions. At this point, he'd been in 3 years and had yet to see any of the action for which he joined. I can't fully understand those emotions, and I don't think anyone could until they were in the situation, which so few people ever actually are. He knew it was his duty to go, but how could he say he was unhappy about spending even more uninterrupted time with his family? We dealt with the feelings, and moved on. Just a few months later, in January 2011, just days after coming back to Fort Polk from Christmas vacation in South Carolina, he was propositioned to volunteer for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan with one of the brother companies in the brigade. While my immediate reaction was, "are you freaking kidding me? There's no way I'm going to encourage that", we went on to discuss it in depth, and given the timing, we agreed that it would be a good, sound move for our family. He volunteered along with many of his buddies, and we began preparing ourselves yet again. As the days and weeks went by, his buddies slowly drained out of his own company into the deploying company, but still Jesse sat there, waiting and waiting to move to the new unit. Weeks went by, and he was the only guy left that had volunteered that was still just waiting. He questioned his NCOs about it, to which they replied, "give it time, you'll go, it just takes time to get everyone there." The waiting continued. The real emotional rollercoaster started when one day they would tell him they were full of his rank and wouldn't need him anymore, to literally the very next day, being told that he was "absolutely going" since he hadn't deployed yet. The flip flopping happened for weeks, day after day. When we hadn't heard anything about it for a few weeks, he questioned his superiors again, when they told him that he could switch to the deploying unit in as little as 12 hours with absolutely no warning, and that he wouldn't be clear until they actually left for Afghanistan in August. That meant, we had to mentally prepare ourselves for something that could very well happen, just as likely as it wasn't going to happen, for the next 4 months, after we'd already been in limbo for the past 4 months.
As August grew closer, I began to breathe a little easier, while still not allowing my guard to be let down. It is August 10th, and the company has left for deployment. My husband sits safely beside me, without talks of a deployment in his future at all. It's certainly a mixture of emotions, most of which are overshadowed by my absolute thankfulness that he is here, not there. I've been up and down, and cried so many tears, and let me feelings get the best of me too much over the last 8 months, as we sat in limbo, having no idea what the next year held for us. Why is that I don't feel like I can breathe any easier at all?
My brother, the one who used to attend and help coordinate anti-war rallies, is deploying to Afghanistan very soon, dangerously soon. Of my three siblings, he is by far the one I am closest to. We grew up together, much more than I grew up with the other two siblings because we are much closer in age. We fight like cats and dogs, still name call even as adults, but he can make me laugh almost as fast as my own husband. He's one of my very best friends. I'm having a hard time dealing with his leaving, as is the rest of my family. It's hard in any case, no doubt, but no one in our family ever suspected he would be one to join the Army. I can't really imagine what my mom and dad are going through this weekend, as they work through their very own set of emotions, which are completely foreign to me. Sending your brother, or even your own husband, off to war is one thing, but your child? I can't even think about the possibility because it hurts too much. Of my parents' four children, two have gotten uncomfortably close to enlisting themselves, while the third actually went the whole nine yards and sits now, waiting to enter that war-torn country, as his company's medic. I only hope the next year flies quickly and safely for him. It helps knowing that he seems entirely pumped to go on this adventure, and I think he will have one of the most powerful experiences in his lifetime.
As Jesse grows very closely to the 12 month mark until he ETSes (ends his service) from the military, we have begun to weigh all of our options a little heavier, and look at the various possibilities with a much stronger eye. While our families lecture us on how dumb it is to leave the Army now, and how awful the economy is, we try to reassure ourselves and block out the negativity. Unfortunately, after months and years of hearing the same old drivel, they've appeared to have invaded our own thought processes. We are confident that we would be able to find some kind of work once he gets out, but I can't shake the terrifying thought of the health insurance battle I know that we will face. We still have a considerable amount of debt, including our car, and that's keeping us from running full speed ahead into the civilian world. Fortunately, a large chunk of that will be gone by the time his ETS actually comes, but not enough to really put my mind at ease. We're both working toward our degrees, albeit at a snail's pace, and neither will likely be done by that point.
Is reenlistment really an option at this point? Did I really just admit that to someone other than myself and Jesse? The thought makes my queasy. Jesse has been in four years now, all without a deployment, and if he gets out, he would be "safe". Granted, he would still have 3 years of Inactive Ready Reserves, where he could technically deploy at any time, but the likelihood of that is fairly small. The puzzle pieces of getting out aren't coming together quite as perfectly as they were at one time, and I don't quite know what I need to make them fit together again. He won't know what his reenlistment options even are until at least October 1st, but I'm hoping for one of two things. I hope that either the options they present are completely not worth reenlisting, making the choice to get out as easy as it was a few months ago. Or if that doesn't happen, I hope he is presented with something that is super wonderfully "where do I sign?"awesome which would make the decision to stay in quite a bit easier. I don't know want his options to be middle-of-the-road, good or bad. One way or the other, something black and white. We need this decision to be as easy as it can be.