I know, without even speaking to her, that most nights she puts her 2 year old to bed alone because her husband flies at night. I know, upon shaking her hand, that she hasn’t seen her parents or friends in the States in over a year. I know, well before introductions, just by the look on her face, what she sacrifices everyday. I barely know her yet her life story is much the same as mine. Upon our first coffee or get together we already have an unspoken bond. A fast and true friendship. An understanding of the challenges we each face, the stress, sorrow, confusion, excitement and true devotion we all experience. Those of you who don’t live our lives may think it seems cliche. Shows like Army Wives and Over There dramatize and trivialize the struggles and bonds we face.
It’s Thursday, Girl’s Night. This week we gathered at a common meeting room in an apartment building enjoying homemade sangria and stuffed mushrooms. We are all friends, even if we have just met. We pour over each other’s scrapbooks, laughing and regaling what feel like past lives. Snapshots of faraway travel, first years of marriage, friends and family. The conversation is loud, animated, loving. The sharing of stories, supplies, and snacks creates a din of happiness and contentment.
We make our own contentment as military wives. We cook dinners for women we’ve never met who just returned home from the hospital after giving birth 9,000 miles from their loved ones. We bake cookies for troops who’ve worked 14 hour shifts for the past 2 weeks. We pray together for the family whose husband gets deployed AGAIN! We understand the feelings of homesickness, loneliness, frustration and isolation. But we live the only way we know how. Strong and together!
You read about it in the papers and watch it on CNN but our lives are real and hit all too close to home. A few of us gathered early to prep the food for tonight’s party. It didn’t take long to learn that our friend Beth’s husband’s best friend was killed in Iraq this week. Her husband’s been TDY (the military’s version of the business trip) for a month and we knew she needed some girl time. Beth was joining us tonight and we were glad to have her there to help distract her. At the end of the night, after a phone call to her devastated husband, Beth decided to drive 3 hours to meet him instead of making him wait to come home tomorrow morning. While realizing she had nothing with her to stay the night in the south of Korea, Tami was upstairs, like a flash of lightning, to her apartment for some saline solution and an extra toothbrush. 12 hugs later Beth was on her way to pick Tony up and we were left standing in the room without words. Beth could be any of us, driving 3 hours in the dark on foreign roads with only a spare toothbrush to be with her mourning husband. I feel lucky to have mine laying next to me as I write this post at 2 AM.
That’s who we are. We hug you even if we’ve only just met. We run for spare toothbrushes for an unexpected road trip. We drive 3 hours in the dark because we know how desperately we need to be with our husbands when we can. We sit, for hours, at a table filled with memories, laughing and crying. We are a team, a family, a chain of links in the well-oiled military machine. Most of all, we are friends.