An Army Wife's Life

Once upon a time I was a college student, then I was a teacher, and now I'm a mother. Technically, I'm currently a freelance writer... but really I am an ARMY WIFE. Expect to find... funny (at least to me) anecdotes, thoughts about la vida military, hopes, anxieties, dreams, commentaries on current events.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

In the Army, Now

So, in January of 2003 it all became official (see, we're gradually catching up). My husband filled out his application for OCS and got employers, friends, and professors to commit to writing his recommendations.

His physical was scheduled for later that month and, if all went well, he would be part of the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) by February.

DH (Dearest Husband) chose the DEP because he wanted to fulfill his commitment to his judge before entering the army.

I'm really happy that we had that time together for me to become more accustomed to the idea. Although I intellectually understood and admired his commitment to serving our country, I needed that time to "catch-up" emotionally. I don't think I really believed it was all happening until he scheduled his local Board of Review appointment.

I guess there is a part of me that always believed this would all just go away. I remember when we invaded Afghanistan--DH and I were in a local pub when the news came over the television. I thought at the time, "Well at least he is not there."

What would I do if he were? By the time DH went to his board of review, we had not yet invaded Iraq but it did seem inevitable. "Perhaps," I thought, "this will all be over by the time he actually is ready to serve." In retrospect, though, I knew that our military was committing to a longer operation.

Even greater than my concerns about specific operations were my fears about this total change in our lifestyle. I had never lived outside of the Northeast United States... would I manage, much less flourish, as the wife of an army officer?

Earlier I had been concerned about his ability as a relatively older recruit to adapt to the demands of Army life... was I, perhaps, too set in my ways to become the wife of an Army officer?

Although I was perhaps a little older than your average wife of a soon-to-be Basic Training Recruit, I also felt younger in some ways. I had gone from my parents' house, to a college dorm, back to my parents, and then to my fiance (who soon became my husband). I had never lived on my own. Was I up to this?

On the other side of things, would the growth I experienced during this year, and during later years, correspond to the growth my husband experienced training for the Army and possible deployment? Or would he return home to find that while I had remained the same he had grown in ways unimaginable to me?

I also began to worry that his friends and family might blame me for not stopping him. No one ever said a word to that effect. Perhaps they understood that there is no stopping my husband once he sets his mind to a task... or perhaps they were too polite.

Money came up as an issue but was not a major one. DH and I were living well within our means and had managed to save a bit. The children of middle class parents, we had both been drilled about the value of a dollar and the necessity of a balanced budget. Our gigantic student loans were already beginning to diminish. Besides, we began to plan my move back to the suburbs to be closer to my job and my family, a move that would result in a much cheaper rent. I might have even moved home and saved more except for the fact that I have developed a severe allergy to my childhood home. (Really. I swear.)

DH also was already part of a "Low Income Protection Plan" (LIPP) through Harvard Law, because of his clerkship, that would continue to help us with his loans during his early days as an enlisted man in the Army.

We would have less than our contemporaries but more than enough.

So, with all of this swirling in my head, I began to mentally and emotionally prepare for my husband's entry into the Army.

Within a month of his official entry into the DEP, all of our planning hit the proverbial speed bump. DH was playing squash with a friend when he collapsed. Limping home, he felt sure that this was a minor sports injury. The next day, however, he thought the pain was serious enough to take a trip to the doctor.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Uncle Sam Wants... My Husband?

During the months following September 11, 2001, my husband told me that he wanted to join the Army.

He began to download information about the process of becoming an officer--printing the application for Officer Candidate School, checking the physical standards for enlisting and for Officer Candidate School, and researching the Delayed Entry Program.

Having commited to a year at the law firm and a year with his judge, DH decided to sign-up for the Delayed Entry Program.

We had only been married for a few months and already we were discussing a year-long separation, with more to come. To be honest, although DH had said he was interested in the military during law school, I really thought he had let that goal go in favor of others.

The following year, DH began to tell his friends and family.

I think one of the first people he told besides me was his judge. His judge was incredibly supportive and introduced DH to a friend who teaches law at West Point. DH had a great deal of fun arranging a field trip to the NYC courthouse for the cadets.

Our friends were less enthusiastic about the idea but eventually came around.

This portion of the process was difficult for me. Despite my own anxieties about this new time in our lives, I wanted to be supportive of this very important decision DH had made. On top of that, I felt that I had to respond to everyone else's concerns. When speaking with DH, people would hold back. With me, they were more open in their responses.

In metro New York, the Military was seen as something our grandparents did. Before September 11, most New Yorkers did not think about the Army at all.

The reaction was surprised, confused, but mostly supportive. Actually, the responses were not altogether different from the ones I got when I announced that I wanted to be a teacher: "...but you are so smart, so educated; you could do so much more!"

Frankly, I think that is a bunch of hooey. Who do you want teaching your children and defending your country? Also, just for the record, the Armed Forces is more educated than the population at large.

One helpful friend offered to have his kneecaps broke for me. (Thanks, hon.) A number of the men divulged that they had always considered joining as well.

The toughest part was telling his family, though. Our parents are of the Vietnam generation and have some leftover bad feelings from that era.

DH is very persuasive, though, and everyone who initially set out to "talk some sense into him" was congratulating him by the end of the conversation.

Although DH's Grandfather was a Army Engineer Officer and always told exciting stories about WWII, he also said, "I'll buy you any suit but not an Army suit; I don't ever want to see you in uniform." So, we were most nervous about that conversation. Ultimately, however, he gave DH his blessing with the advice: "Get everything in writing."

Having shared his plans with his friends and family, DH was off to finalize his plans with the recruiter.