Although we are all united by the common bond of loving a soldier, most of us entered into this life by way of immensely different paths. We come from all around the country (all around the world, really), from all different situations, for all different reasons, and with completely different goals, ideas, and expectations of our Army lives. Our soldiers are in different divisions, brigades, battalions and companies. They have different rank and different military occupation specialties and different duty stations and different war stories. There are limitless ways in which our stories, our paths, are diverse. But aside from our common bond of loving soldiers, we all have at least one common goal as well: to be the lucky ones.
I’ve never had very good luck, in any aspect of my life. I’m accident and catastrophe prone. If there’s a two inch patch of ice on a mile long path of sidewalk, I’ll find it and slip on it and bust my butt. If I plan an outdoor event of any kind, a monsoon or blizzard will inevitably ruin it, regardless of how clear the forecast is. If it’s shatter proof, I’ll find a way to break it. If it’s spill proof, I’ll not only find a way to spill it, but also ruin your brand new carpet in the process. In my life, if it can go wrong, it will. That’s just how it is.
So when I fell in love with a soldier, I didn’t have very high hopes for my Army wife life. Let’s be honest, there is so much that can go wrong in this life that we live, so much that can happen. That knowledge terrified me. I was certain my bad luck would follow The Hubs to Iraq, that there was no way he would make it home safe and in one piece. And even if he did, I was sure that the stress of his deployment would prove too much for our brand new marriage; that it would fall apart before we even had a chance to make it work.
I did not expect the fact that my husband was 7,000 miles away from home to bring us closer together. I did not expect his deployment to end early, or for him to make it home without having had so much as a “close call.” I did not expect the blog that I started to keep myself from going insane while he was gone to become a source of inspiration for military spouses around the world. I did not expect our family’s deployment story to become an actual book. But that’s exactly what happened.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to do a book signing at a local military appreciation event. It was a high school football game at which the players wore jerseys with the names of fallen soldiers from the area on the backs, and the families of those soldiers were honored at a ceremony during the game. I was flattered to be included. The night, however, didn’t exactly go as planned. Less than five minutes after I got my table set up, it started storming. (Refer to earlier in this post, when I said that whenever I plan an outdoor event of any kind, a monsoon or blizzard will inevitably ruin it.)
My business manager (who also happens to be my best friend) and I packed up and sought cover under a canopy tent, which covered dozens of tables and chairs half filled with people. As we sat, wet and defeated, waiting for the storm to clear up enough to make a mad dash to the car, I couldn’t help but think how my bad luck had once again ruined what should have been an amazing night. How unlucky could I get?
The rain, which was desperately needed but very ill-timed, was in no hurry to let up. Unless we wanted to get soaked to the bone and chance ruining the boxful of books we’d brought with us, we were stuck. We talked for a bit, then settled into the silence often brought about by smartphones. (Angry Birds, anyone?) It was in that silence that I was reminded just how lucky I really am. As it turned out, we were camped out in the tent for the families of the fallen soldiers being honored at the night’s event. We were seated directly behind the mothers of two of those soldiers, who were sharing their stories of how their sons had been killed in action: how they found out, what happened in the days and weeks that followed, how they’re coping.
As I listened to them with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I looked around at the dozens of other families gathered in the tent; the families of our fallen heroes, each with their own tragic tale to tell. The more I listened to them talk, the heavier the weight of the guilt resting on my chest became. Once it became too much to bear, I decided to brave the storm and make my way to the car and head for home. Soaking wet, exhausted, and beyond humbled, I fell asleep that night thinking about the incredible families I’d had the privilege of spending my evening with, and about how easily I could have been at that football game under much different circumstances.
I realized that, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter how many times I fall down the stairs and wind up on crutches (only once this year- so far), how many times I lock my keys in the car (too often to count), or that in a month’s time, I found a dead bat on my living room floor and a chipmunk swimming in my toilet. It doesn’t matter how often I lose things, break things, or find myself in impossible situations that most people only ever see on TV or in movies. It doesn’t matter that I’m an accident prone catastrophe magnet. What matters is, when it comes right down to it, I’ve been blessed with a gift that far too many others have been denied. What matters is this: I am one of the lucky ones.