Saturday, January 22, 2011

Our Army Life ... So Far

I honestly cannot remember when I first met my husband.  We were in the same 1st and 4th grade classes at Edison Elementary School in Gainesville, Texas, but attended the same Sunday School classes even before that.  Since we grew up together as children, it's just not possible to remember a first meeting.

From the 5th grade through high school, I attended school in a different city, following my teacher mom to where her job led us.  This separation allows me that "first meeting" memory when I met Nate again as a teenager. 

I had attended church with my grandmother (at her request; my mom and step-dad took us to a different church at the time).  Little did I know that my grandmother had arranged a meeting between my future husband and me. 

My husband entered the Army in June of 1993. I was there at his Commissioning Ceremony at West Point, just after graduation. We had been dating for five years at this point and were married in a beautiful military ceremony in July of 1994. Since then, we've travelled to Fort Hood, Fort Sill, Yongsan, South Korea, Fort Stewart, Fort Leavenworth, and now back to Fort Hood. We both grew up in Texas so the 8+ years we've spent at Fort Hood have been welcome.

Our two boys -- now ages eleven and almost-eight -- were born at Winn Army Community Hospital at Fort Stewart. Since my husband was also born in Georgia (before moving to Texas when he was just a toddler), I am proud to have a Family of all Georgia boys.

Our first experience with deployment was also at Fort Stewart, a six-month training deploying to Kuwait, just before the start of OIF.  It's funny that I remember the time when "deployment" was not a household word.

Two year-long deployments followed at Fort Hood, once with 4th Brigade, 4th ID and another with 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. We're gearing up for a fourth deployment soon, this time with 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. We've learned a lot through our separations and our time in the Army; much of it about group dynamics and how Families and FRGs can really support or really destroy each other. A few highlights from our education ...
A Family's strengths and weaknesses are both magnified during deployments.
FRGs can be really good or really bad ... but all are made up of humans.
Humans make mistakes but a vast majority of them have good intentions at heart.
We have also learned a lot about how to best reintegrate after a long separation; mostly through trial and error. We've done it really well and we've also done it really poorly.  Some lessons that stand out in my mind are ...
We must take it slowly. Like the stages of grief, the stages of reintegration cannot be rushed or skipped; it just simply takes time.

We understand that it's our responsibility to share with family and friends how they can best support us; they cannot be expected to just know.  We must communicate with our parents, siblings, friends, and everyone else in our support group of life to ensure that they know what we're experiencing and how they can help ... or not.  We must maintain constant communication with our children's teachers and coaches so they can also support the process as well.

We know that our kids will each take their own time to readjust to Dad being home again.  We must be patient and support them every step along the way. Just as we each have our own way of dealing with new situations in our lives, so, too, do our children.  And the really interesting part?  None of us do it the same.  We just have to be sure we take the time to understand each other and encourage each other along the way.
These may sound like simple lessons but each represents a long, hard road of discovery for us. We're still learning and will continue to find out more along the way. In the meantime, we live each day committed to enjoy our Army life, appreciate the love and support of those around us, and encourage each other each step along our Army path.

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