At any given point in time, military spouses are sleeping alone. Some for just a few months. Some, forever.
The most difficult day I’ve had as a military spouse came a few months into a year-long scheduled deployment for my husband, Pat, to Afghanistan. I was informed by a friend that one of Pat’s closest friends, Rob, had been killed in action in Afghanistan.
Pat has impossibly high standards when it comes to people and even higher standards for Marines. Rob was one of the few people Pat not only respected professionally, but also enjoyed spending time with personally. Although this news would crush him, communication was sparse on Pat’s remote forward operating base, so I knew I had to tell him.
I requested emergency contact via email and he called me 12 hours later. Communication, especially via telephone, was a rarity for us, so his initial greeting was one of excitement. With a slight quiver in my voice I inquired if he had heard about Rob. He hadn’t. I then delivered the shattering news. He extracted all details I knew in a somewhat icy fashion and said he had to go.
That conversation is still raw to recall. I wish I didn’t have to tell him over the phone, that I could have offered him comfort in person as a wife should. I wish I could have stopped thinking about his own fate in a dangerous place, praying his life wouldn’t end the same way.
Pat wasn’t able to attend the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. Another Marine wife and I went together. The eulogy was given by Rob’s father, a general in the USMC.To this day, it is still one of the most inspiring speeches I’ve ever heard. Expecting to be a sobbing mess, I was shocked during the speech when I was instead enthused with unparalleled patriotism to be a Marine wife.
When Pat returned from Afghanistan, we went to Arlington together. As we approached Rob’s grave, walking down a long row of identical white head stones, I was shocked at how many of the deceased Pat knew. He spent a long moment having a silent conversation with Rob and said goodbye to his friend. I hugged him gently and cried for both of us.
There wasn’t much time to discuss the recent deployment, because he immediately started the training period for his next deployment set to leave in six months. He was offered his dream job of Scout Sniper Platoon Commander and, even though it meant coming home early from one deployment to train and go on another, he capitalized on it. He buried himself in work.