by Stefanie Guffey
I frequently think of the song from Rent “Seasons of Love.”The lyrics question, “How do you measure a year in the life?” The lyrics go on to suggest, “In daylights, in sunsets/ In midnights, in cups of coffee/ In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.” The song is catchy and I have always loved it, but I never really thought about how I measure a year. As a teacher I measure a year in courses, units, student achievement, and of course by summer break; however, as an Army wife I have a much different measuring stick. A year in military terms is measured depending on where my spouse is that year. If he is deployed overseas, then I measure the year by phone calls and missed milestones, which pass by at a snail’s pace. When he is home, I measure a year by priceless moments and memories that I will treasure forever that seem to fly by.
Dan returned home from Afghanistan roughly 11 months ago. Our time together has been amazing. We moved across the country from Fort Carson, Colorado to the Washington D.C. metro area. Dan left for two months to train in Texas, but he was home in time for the holidays. We are both in new jobs and enjoying our new surroundings. Of course we miss the place we grew to call home in Colorado, but the D.C. area brings the promise of more time together. For the first time in his military career Dan is working in a non-deployable position. We know that he will be stabilized in the U.S. for two years this time around. That makes our time together even more special because we aren’t preparing and going through the pre-deployment process. We are getting a taste of the civilian life.
When Dan returns home from an overseas assignment, like he did last year, the military gives us the opportunity to become newlyweds all over again. I love that feeling of butterflies and excitement; our love becomes renewed. However, we also have to renegotiate our roles in our household. This isn’t always easy, but Dan is certainly worth it. We relearn each other’s quirks and nuances, and we fall in love again. Going through this process for a third time can be exhausting, but how many people actually have the opportunity to fall in love with their spouse all over again? Dating my husband is truly exciting. I am so thankful to have him home.
This last year certainly hasn’t been measured by strife, or disappointment like years in the past. I have measured this last year by the smiles I have seen on my husband’s face. Nothing gives me more joy than seeing the ends of his mouth curl up and a smile emerge. I am sure this action doesn’t occur much when he is deployed, so seeing his outward sign of happiness truly fills me with joy. I am looking forward to the next year with Dan home, and I have a feeling this year will bring surprises that will be measured in a way we are unfamiliar with and excited to experience. It has been a fantastic year in the life!
March 2010 - Mountain Warrior Strong - I have been married for almost four years. However, I have only spent a year and a half with my husband. I required no pity, and no tears need be shed, for my mind and body are Mountain Warrior Strong, and I have one person to thank for that: Patty George. Patty is the greatest source of inspiration I have ever encountered. She is the wife of the 4/4 commander, Col. Randy George, and as the direction of our soldiers’ lives have been forever altered by war, she has altered the direction of the lives of the spouses waiting for their return.
Instead of allowing us to wallow in self pity and mope around our homes, Patty has driven us to become stronger, better women. How? She challenged us to climb. She said, “We needed a challenging goal to set our sights upon. We needed this goal to bring us together, to offer us a focus and a place to put our nervous energies, but we also needed this goal to help us feel a sense of kinship with our soldier fighting in Afghanistan. Our goal was right in front of us; we looked at it every day we lived in Colorado Springs and it was an absolutely perfect way to support our soldiers. We challenged ourselves to climb Pikes Peak."
Thirty-seven of us were motivated by Patty and her challenge and we took to the Peak. We climbed the thirteen miles to reach the summit at 14,110 feet. In addition, we raised $9,078 for Traumatic Brain Injury and Awareness. One Saturday, when any of us would have been lounging around, we took the challenge instead and climbed. Patty gave me a gift that day, the gift of victory. No one can ever take that climb away from me. I climbed Pikes Peak, and I have never been so proud of myself. When we reached the top, we thought it was the end of our journey, and the beginning the rest of the deployment. Little did we know, she had so much more in store.
A week after climbing Pikes Peak, Patty announced her next challenge to the spouses of the Mountain Warriors: the Denver Marathon. With this, my heart sank. I have never been a runner, and it certainly didn’t sound appealing. However, Patty persuaded the others and me to once again march through the pain in support of our husbands. A marathon or half-marathon is nothing compared to what the men and women of the military endure on a daily basis.
Before the training began, Patty decided to take us on a group tour of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base, more commonly known as NORAD. Deep within the mountain, we learned more about our military and how the military supports other countries while protecting our own. Not only did Patty want us to be physically in shape, she wanted to expand our knowledge as well, which is the mark of a fantastic leader.
Our marathon training kicked off, because we were to participate in the first division run ever held at Fort Carson. I cannot pretend to know how many soldiers ran in it, but I know how many spouses ran: twelve. I also know how many spouses fell out: zero. We ran for our husbands. 4/4 had very little representation the day of the brigade run because the brigade is currently deployed to Afghanistan. There were soldiers from other brigades all around, dressed in their PT’s (Physical Training Uniform). We stood out like sore thumbs in our bright yellow Rosie the Riveter shirts. All around us soldiers fell out and didn’t complete the four miles. I felt a sense of pride as I finished the run with the eleven other women I started with.
As we continue to train for this challenge, I have noticed changes in my mind and body. I have more self confidence than I have ever had and I know now that if I put my mind to something, I can succeed. My body is in the best shape it has ever been and I owe this all to Patty. Without her leadership and her dedication to the spouses of 4/4, I wouldn’t have achieved these wonderful things.
I have never met a commander’s wife who was so hands-on. Patty knows what she wants for the spouses of 4/4: she wants us to be Mountain Warrior Strong, and she has stopped at nothing to see this happen. As the deployment draws to an end, I consider myself blessed to have been in the presence of greatness. I am sure Patty will continue to be an inspiration to me, and to all the lives she encounters.
Dec. 2009 - Midtour Leave - The tears have been pouring down my eyes for about a week now. These aren’t tears of sadness, but tears of anticipation (if there is such a thing). My husband should be home for his midtour leave in just under two weeks. I don’t completely understand why I become so emotional leading up to this point. Last deployment, Dan came home for his midtour leave after nine months. I cried the whole day leading up to his coming home, and didn’t stop until he was in my arms. I guess more than anything the tears are a sign of emotional relief. When I see his face as he walks off the airplane, I just feel this unbelievable sense of relief. We have been planning these two weeks since he left six months ago. There is so much pressure on me to make sure the two weeks are enjoyable. I have been cleaning like a madwoman. I have scrubbed the walls, baseboards, floors, counters, etc. He is still roughly two weeks out, so I will have to do this all again, and he probably won’t notice that the house is clean. Time has ceased to progress. I feel as though I am losing my mind! I swear Dan’s return has been two weeks out - for the last month. I have been dreaming about my husband every night. I cannot wait until he is here! I am so incredibly excited!
The Scary Reality of my World - I recently attended our first brigade memorial. We honored three soldiers, with their loved ones present. I frequently wonder if anyone outside the military understands this part of my life. I have been to more memorials and funerals than my 90-year-old grandmother. I haven’t known all of the soldiers personally, but I don’t think that is required to honor their service to this country and to honor their lives. I attended this memorial with several spouses who had never been to one before. I ran down what to expect and how the ceremony proceeds. I gave them pointers to deal with emotions, such as take deep breaths, or if you can’t control your tears, bite the inside of your cheek. I had to take many deep breaths at this memorial. As a military spouse I sit in the pew and think, “Oh God, this situation could be reversed.” We all do that. We all think, “What if it were my husband?” I know it is a horrible thought. It is also unavoidable.
After the memorial I moped around all day. A friend asked me, “Aren’t you desensitized to these things yet?” How could someone suggest that? Isn’t that truly
Nov. 2009- Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Decision time has come, and this could be the biggest decision of Dan’s life. His obligation to the Army will be complete when he returns from Afghanistan, and we must choose whether or not to make a further commitment to the military. As his wife, I respect his wishes 100 percent, but this is not as simple as leaving one job for another; this is leaving life as we know it for the civilian world. The Army has provided us with not only an income, but with a way of living. The best friends I have ever made have been other army wives. They have seen me in my darkest hours and still love me. Together, we have watched and helped other friends deal with the fear that they may never see their husbands again. Experiencing these high levels of stress together has made these bonds unbreakable.
On the other side, I hate being away from my husband. When he returns next summer, we will celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary; however, we will have spent only 20 months of those 48 months together. The 28 months apart are months that we cannot get back; they are lost forever. How does one decide? Do we want to leave the safety and comfort that the Army provides? Can we possibly risk being separated again? I fear that we might make the wrong decision and then be stuck with that decision for the rest of our lives.
March 2010 - A True Sister - Throughout the past eight months, I’ve needed time with another Army wife - a true sister who actually understands what I’m going through at any given time. And come to think of it, a few have called on me, too. We’ve needed each other for many reasons throughout this deployment, from a shoulder to cry on after hearing about a soldier’s death, to traveling together to visit a new “Army baby” in the hospital. Each of these moments has been significant in my life, but one in particular stands out the most.
One fall evening, I attended a Family Readiness Group meeting, but one of my dearest Army wife friends was absent. She rarely misses events, but she wasn’t there that night. I called her immediately after the meeting ended. My heart pounded as the phone rang, because I knew something must be wrong. As soon as I heard her voice, I sighed in relief. Within seconds, she told me that her husband was alive. He was injured, though, which was scary enough. I asked her if she wanted me to come over and spend the night, and she replied with a quick, “yes, I would like that very much.” I was thankful for her response because I felt the need to be with her during such an emotional time.
I went home, threw my clothes and toiletries in a bag, and headed to one of the longest but sweetest nights of my life. After arriving at her house, several people came in and out, offering their love and support. I experienced first hand the bond that we share as military wives, a connection that is unlike any other. With one conversation, we can usually determine if the other person is truly okay or if she’s hiding something deeper within. My friend and I stayed awake until at least three in the morning, falling asleep while talking, praying, and holding hands. I will never forget that night as long as I live and I’m thankful that I could be there to support her, but she gave something to me, as well. I was given hope and inspiration as I watched her amazing strength, especially around her three children. Even in one of her darkest moments, she provided encouragement to others.
Deployments bring many challenges - big and small. However, it is comforting to go to bed each night and wake up each morning with the assurance that if I need anything at any time, I have several incredible women to call on who will “have by back,” no matter what circumstances I face while my husband is gone.
Dec. 2009 - I’ve been waiting in great anticipation for the month of November. It is the glorious month that Brandon comes home for a two-week break. I am delighted to say that plans have been made for family, friends, and quality alone time. He has worked tirelessly as a platoon leader, and I’ll be glad to see him resting, watching college football, bow hunting, and eating to gain back the twenty-seven pounds he’s lost! Surely my mother’s delicious southern cooking will help! This is his two weeks in the United States out of an entire year, so we plan to make every minute count!
As I reflect on the deployment as it comes to the halfway mark, I have feelings of joy and sorrow. Our unit, along with many others, has endured many trials, including the irreplaceable losses of sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers. My heart aches for these families, and it is my prayer that God would give them the needed strength for a lifetime of missing that special person. It is no question that times are tough both on the home front and abroad, from dwindling economies to inexcusable acts of violence. No matter what, our soldiers march on, dedicated to their purpose. It gives me great pride to know that we have a group of men and women willing to defend our great nation, no matter what it takes. I am confident that our soldiers’ hard work will make us a stronger nation, and for their sakes, let’s also keep marching on.
Let the countdown really begin! I am so glad to say that two months of our time apart are out of the way. One of my last conversations with Brandon was hilarious—he told me to stop sending so much food because the mice would get to it before he would! (They better not!) I have sent lots of snacks, such as tuna, beef jerky, fiber bars and peanut butter crackers. He really likes the “toys” I send more than anything, such as funny DVDs. His favorite gifts so far have been the football and the hammock. I am still waiting for a picture of him in the hammock—if he'll ever find a spot to hang it up! It is now a challenge for me to think of creative items to send that can fit into the flat-rate boxes. While I am sure I've gone a little overboard with package sending, finding the various items, writing a letter to place inside, and putting it all together is fun, and it makes me feel closer to him. I know that when he opens the packages, he feels a little piece of home