There are times in the military lifestyle when you honestly forget that you are part of the military community. When your partner is home living the Garrison life, you get into a groove of normal living. Yes he comes home in a uniform and there are green socks and PTs literally every where in the house, but things seem normal. You appreciate what the Army gives you, and for a moment you forget about the hardships that come with this life.
That is until orders come down. Orders that turn your world upside down and backwards.
Granted people may say, “You knew what you were getting into when you became a military family.” To an extent this is true. We knew that there were going to be hardships and tough decisions ahead of us. However, that doesn’t make things like a deployment any easier.
There has been talk of a deployment to Afghanistan for Tom’s unit for some time now. There was never anything solid or set in stone. We just knew that a deployment was going to occur in the fall.
It was all talk, plus Tom’s contract is ending in a year. This meant that he should be in the window of not going because he would not get back before his out date. You see the Army has rules about you exiting the military. You have to be stateside for so many months and do an out-processing program before you leave. And then this doesn’t even factor in the terminal leave (similar to vacation time in other jobs) that you have accrued and can take off your contract.
Early this summer, the list came out for who had deployment orders.
Tom’s name was on the list.
My heart sank.
This meant that soon after having George, I would lose him for about 4-6 months before he would return.
We both were frustrated and disappointed.
For those getting out, there was a date that was set that you had to have an end date after that date in order to be on. Sounds confusing, but if your contract ended before the end of August 2015, in theory you should not be on this deployment. Tom’s out date is July 9th, 2015.
Tom was the only one that had a date prior to this deadline that was still on the list.
Did I not understand how calendars work?
When he approached the leadership, he was told, “Oh well we know you will do the right thing for the unit and extend.” Or they acted surprised that his out date was within the year time frame, like they had never heard it before.
Now if you know Tom in person, or have gotten any inkling of his personality via this blog, he is not shy with his feelings. He is very upfront about how he feels and where he sits with people and situations. He has been very honest for months that he will not be re-enlisting or extending.
The other thing I don’t understand is why they would have him on the list knowing that he would not complete the whole deployment. They would have to send him back early to begin his out-processing. Tom’s position is a pretty integral part of the communication line, to which his exit during a deployment could have some pretty negative ramifications to the unit’s effectiveness. They would have to train someone else mid-deployment to do that job. Why don’t they do that now before they even leave?
Stubbornness and inefficiency at it’s best. This goes to show you that some leaders are completely clueless and care more about themselves than their soldiers. Unfortunately, this is all that he has dealt with under this current leadership. (I do want to say that when we first got here, his leadership was phenomenal. So I do know that not everyone in the military is like this!)
Well the weeks went by and more conversations were had.
And maybe a week or two before they went on summer block leave, Tom’s name was removed from the list. Permanently.
Can I get an amen? !?!?
It’s not that he was trying to get out of a deployment or neglect his duty. If Tom had to go, he would have gone and rocked it out like he always does. We had begun to accept the fact that this was just another thing in our life we would have to deal with. We had started making plans for the worst, but continued to hope for a different outcome. That’s just how it goes sometimes, and we knew that.
We tried being reasonable and practical about it. However, that doesn’t change how we felt about the situation.
The whole thing was just rotten. It did not seem like the right circumstances. And it always seems to be the people who are not supposed to be there who are the ones who find themselves in trouble. (or this is at least what my scatter-preggo-brain was telling me)
Tom has served in the Army for 2.5 years now, it will be 3.5 by the time he is done. This may not seem like a long time, but he did not intend to make a career out of this. He joined because he felt like it was the right thing at the time, and he wanted to give back to his country. He went to the outskirts and remote ends of Afghanistan once already. And let’s be honest, 3.5 years is a good chunk of time out of a family’s life.
A deployment was not something that we needed to experience again if at all possible. Well really, I am not sure any family needs that experience, but that’s the life.
The Army has given us a lot, and I am so proud of what Tom has accomplished while serving. But to be frank, we are ready to move back to civilian life and be in a more permanent situation and to choose where we live among other things.
It came down to a realization from his unit that Tom would not be extending his contract no matter how many times his leadership would ask. He does have a really good first sergeant that had been looking out for him during this process and made sure the Army did the right thing. Eventually, because of Army protocol, his name had to be taken off the manifest.
So another lesson in just wait in the Army and orders may change….and then change again.
And by golly they might just up and change them one more time just for the giggles. I swear there are people in Washington that just move paperwork around like inserting random words into a mad-lib game to see how obnoxious they can make things. Who knows, this could change again…
There are definitely moments that I feel guilty that we have skated through this, and that I wont be experiencing the deployment with the other families that I have come to know. It is a shared experience that I just can’t really explain, but it’s like I am not aware of it anymore or just that lucky girl who’s husband isn’t going so what does she know. Like somehow it makes me less of an Army wife, which I know is the most ridiculous thing ever to feel because 1) the deployment has nothing to do with me and my status 2) We have been through a deployment before and 3) oh yes it’s not about me.
But I digress.
I remember how I felt through the first deployment, and I only know that those feelings would be exponentially higher/more intense with George on my hip. I know I would never wish someone else to feel that way if they didn’t have to and would be cheering right along with them knowing their soldier would be staying stateside. Each solider has their own service and gift to give. I am fortunate that Tom has gotten through his mostly unscathed, which is something I do not take lightly. And I am eternally grateful to our friends and many others in this nation who do continue to serve and complete these tours. This experience we have had these past few years as a military family has changed us, and I know that we will continue to support our troops long after we leave Ft. Campbell.
Our time is ending though, and it is the right thing for us. We are headed for a new chapter in the Whitener tale.
So what is on the plate for now?
Well Tom is still scheduled to be here until July of next year. He is looking into some job programs that may shorten his contract, so there is an option that we may head back to Missouri much sooner than that.
Right now his job consists of supporting the unit and ensuring the communication is ready for deployment and trainings. Once the deployment occurs, he will be working with new Joes (new soldiers to the unit fresh from basic) to get acclimated to the unit by doing ranges and other trainings until the unit returns from overseas. Tom is really good at training, so I know he will enjoy passing along his practical knowledge during this time.
As for me, ever since we heard the news about the deployment in the early spring, I have been searching for a job in Missouri. We knew that if Tom did go, it would be best for me to move closer to home for additional support with George. I am continuing that search for the perfect fit right now. Knowing that we are going to be there permanently allows me to be a lot more selective on my search for the time being, so hopefully my dream job situation happens in the next year. Let me tell you, job searching in general is stressful, but add in doing it pregnant…keep praying for me here! Potentially, I could move before Tom does, so there is still a lot of unknown in our future.
We are really just taking it one day at a time and processing information as it comes in. It does make it really difficult to plan things. All these changes and possibilities are one big reason why George’s nursery still isn’t set up. We know everything will come together in due time and happen the way it is supposed to.
Right now we are just happy that long distance due to a deployment is not on our horizon!