By Marykate Usina | firstname.lastname@example.org
It was 3 a.m., the cusp of a new day when my phone rang, flashing a six-digit military number across my screen. A number I loved and hated seeing because there are two voices that could be on the other end: Daniel, or his buddy, Brandon. If it were the latter, Daniel wouldn’t be coming home.
When I answered, Daniel answered back and relief washed over me. Until he said, “I hit an I.E.D yesterday.” He only had three weeks left in Afghanistan before he could come home.
I was silent. The last time I saw him — the seven days we had together while he was on mid-deployment rest and recuperation leave — was whizzing through my mind. If he had been killed, those would be the only moments I would have to hold onto for the rest of my life.
I signed up for the Army and all that comes with it the day I fell in love with my best friend, my hero, my soldier. Regardless if I was aware of what was included in that, I am in love and when you love someone, you are in it for the good, the bad, and unfortunately, the bring-you-to-your-knees-moments of pure fear and frustration.
As an Army girlfriend or wife, you mentally train yourself to be prepared for these conversations, for news such as this in order to be strong for your soldier. But the words weren’t coming and my mental strength was crashing down brick by brick on top of me.
I was fumbling over my own thoughts, trying to spit out some sort of a sentence. My tongue was swollen from my teeth clamping down on it to keep myself from crying. I didn’t want him to worry about me; he had enough going on already.
“Are you missing anything?” I spit out, immediately regretting the words I had chosen.
Daniel went on to tell me that he was OK. He suffered a concussion, and will continue to suffer from hearing loss for the rest of his life. I was thankful, but still fearful for the last three weeks of his deployment.
We were the lucky ones, in a sense. We made it out almost entirely unscathed. We still struggle, though. We deal with his experiences during deployment every night when we fall asleep, when he wakes up in pure terror, reliving each explosion every time he dreams. But at least he’s here to dream. Others unfortunately were not as lucky.
I am not the only girl with a significant other in the military. I am not the only woman left behind when they are summoned for war. This is just one story out of the hundreds of thousands, and most of them don’t end as well as mine. The strength we carry in ourselves, in one another and in our soldiers, is a strength you will never know you have until you are forced to find it within yourself.