WARNING: This post contains graphic images some readers may find confronting.
I smashed plates in the backyard once, while my husband watched on.
I was angry, so angry. Garth had just told me he was going back to Iraq for his second deployment with the Army. His first deployment was only a year before and he had been almost killed by a car bomb.
“Are you crazy”, “Don’t you love me?”, “How will I cope?” all crossed my mind. I had decided that smashing plates would be the best way to deal with the news. It helped, a little. So did some wine, then some tears, then the realisation the he was going and there was nothing I could do to stop him, and no amount of worry or fear could keep him any safer.
Three months later and there I was, on my own for the second time in as many years. Other people, especially non-military wives would often say – “I don’t know how you do it” or “I can’t cope if my husband is away even overnight” (insensitive to say the least).
But what choice did I have? It seemed pretty clear to me – I can be married to the most amazing, funny, selfless, dedicated, smart and handsome man I’ve ever met, whose job just happens to take to war zones for months on end; or I could not be married to him and be miserable. Deployments are hard, but not loving him would be harder.
I missed Garth terribly when he was away. I tried my best to keep busy. I had a new job – I was a nurse and was on-call often and had plenty of study to do. But the nights were lonely; it was hard not to be miserable at times. I really missed being in his arms and how he’d always tell me I was beautiful when we woke up in the morning. It was impossible not to worry, especially when he’d been hurt (in an IED attack) during his previous deployment in Iraq.
I lived in fear of getting the call. Once, a man with a very official sounding voice rang – “Is that Mrs Callender?” my heart started pounding a million miles per hour and I immediately felt nauseous. “Yes” I just managed to squeak out. He continued “I’m just calling to let you know I could get you the flights you wanted …” I was so nauseous I don’t know what else he said. It was the travel agent I had seen earlier in the day to book the mid-deployment holiday with my husband. I don’t think that travel agent had ever heard someone so thankful to hear about a flight. I was so relived I’m pretty sure I told him I loved him.
The friends I made during our time with the Army were like family. I was lucky enough to befriend a group of partners who were the strongest, most dedicated, passionate and intelligent group of women I have ever met. Some were wives, some were girlfriends, some mothers, some to become mothers later on, but all of us loved a solider.
We clicked immediately, our partners all working in the same area, and after only a short time we were the best of friends. We met for lunch, we went to dinner, we danced, we drank and we laughed. We named ourselves ‘The Village’, after reading an article about spouses that follow their partners around for work. That was us, moving constantly, having to make new friends, find new jobs and the worst part, finding a new hairdresser and bikini waxer. It was this village of strong women who helped me through every deployment, every month alone and all those days of worry.