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My Soldier Is Leaving Me, Again: The Realities of Being an Army Wife

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UPDATE: Since publishing this post, I have been made aware by readers that my use of the word “deployment” is inaccurate. We had been using the word casually around the house to try to mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves and our three-year-old that my husband isn’t going to be around for a while. I now understand that this was not the appropriate word to use in my case, and for that I apologize. It was not my intention to offend any of my readers, but I thank you for your feedback and understanding.

In two short weeks, my husband Jake, a Captain in the Army Reserves, will be leaving our home again for a year. This will be the fourth time he has gone away for a long period of time. The good news: He’s not going overseas.

His first deployment was to Iraq for a year and a half. He then went on a six month state-side mission heading up a basic training program in Kentucky. After that he was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. And now he’s been accepted into Command and General Staff College, located in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where predominantly active duty Army soldiers, plus a handful of Navy, Air Force, and Reservists guys go and study different wartime strategies and theories and try to apply them to a variety of hypothetical wartime situations. It’s essentially a year of war gaming, if I understand it correctly, and it’s required of a select number of soldiers the military is grooming for advancement to the upper ranks — Lieutenant Colonels, Colonels, and Generals. Jake is a Major now, but his acceptance suggests the military sees him promoting beyond that rank.

It’s a great opportunity, one that is not open to the majority of Reservists, so it’s an indication that the Army has their eye on him for bigger and better things. And with this degree, he can roll over the credits upon graduation to apply toward a civilian MBA, if he so chooses.

The downside is that it means he’s leaving me and our two girls for a year. June is nearly four, and Katie is just six months old. He’s going to miss so much being away. June was a baby when Jake came home from Afghanistan, and she didn’t even recognize him upon his return. It was heartbreaking. Nor do we have any family around here, and we recently bought a new house on 15 acres, so it’s going to be hard on me, trying to man this place alone. (I expect the weeds to be thigh high this time next month.)

People have asked me why we don’t just go with him. It’s an option — plenty of soldiers bring their families with them while they go through the schooling, but when it gets right down to it, I don’t want to live at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for an entire year. It just doesn’t sound very fun. It sounds … hot and humid and stark. Leavenworth is home to the military prison (and, I think, a super maximum security prison). I’d much rather stay in my beautiful home on my beautiful property with all my stuff and be close to all my friends.

I knew what I was entering into when I married Jake. I knew he’d have to leave at some point. He even sat me down and explained it all to me before we got married, what a life with a soldier (even a part-time soldier) would entail. I listened closely to what he said, and even had my doubts for a spell about whether I could hack such a life, but in the end I decided I’d rather have a life with him — a life that entails long spells apart — than without him. I’ve never regretted this choice, but, man, is it a pain in my butt every handful of years! And with each deployment, the time apart just gets harder and harder.

Friends have also asked me why I don’t just say no and tell him he can’t go. It’s too disruptive to a family. But that would be like Jake telling me I can’t go earn an MBA … or take a trip overseas by myself, or disappear for few months to go finish writing a book. Limiting the other’s ability to advance personally or professionally is not the kind of marriage I want to be in. I want him to go as far as he can in whatever endeavor he attempts. Besides, I’m in this for the long haul — what’s a year apart here and there in the long run? In fact, in some respects, it’s kind of nice getting a break for marriage now and again. It gives you a chance to think about things, to appreciate each other and realize some things you’d like to do better or differently once you’re back together.

So Jake will be gone in two short weeks. June doesn’t really grasp what’s happening, though she knows Daddy is going away to “college.” Other than that, she doesn’t really give it much thought. I’ll be terribly sad to see him go, mostly because he misses a year (another year) with his children. But I’m also really happy and proud of Jake. And this experience will make our lives better in the long run.

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