February 11, 2017: “I’m sorry I got your hopes up for being home on Valentine’s Day” – the text from my husband that morning in the midst of some chaos surrounding a school he’s attending for a month.
“It’s okay honey, we’ve gone through worse. There will be plenty of time for us when you get home.” I responded. When I put down my phone, I started to think about the first time we missed Valentine’s Day together.
We also missed Halloween, my birthday, Christmas, New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and the birth of our first daughter that deployment. It was my first time I wasn’t in my home state of Virginia – I ended up alone clear across the coast in California three short months after moving – I was lonely and even angry at times for all of these days missed. Fast forward over a decade later and I barely blink an eye. It’s not that these days don’t matter any longer, but there are other days that matter more. If only I knew then what I know now.
Dear Brand-New-To-This-Military-Life Natasha,
You’ve blindly followed the love of your life across the country as he returns to a career he loves almost as much as you. He will be deployed before you know it and more than half of your marriage will be spent apart, rather than together. Holidays, milestones, and momentous occasions will be celebrated either alone or with a group of new friends that you will cling to and love like they are your family. Because now they are. You are tied by a common thread to people you haven’t even met yet, and I know you don’t believe me now but there will be times you’ll actually want your husband to pull duty for a night just so you can have a girls’ night in with your new sisters. Crazy, right?!
It’s going to be easy to feel sad for the holidays you miss with your husband, but in time those pre-set dates on a calendar won’t even matter anymore. You see, in this life you’ll have your own unique holidays to look forward to. Your new holiday is the day he comes home. No Valentine’s Day can compare to the love you feel when you know his boots are on the ground in the US and out of harm’s way. You don’t need to look forward to one special day each year to celebrate the love of each other. This life is going to challenge you through separation, whether for a nine month long deployment or a one month school, but there is no doubt that every reunion will be cherished.
You’ll remember the way he grabs you in his arms when he steps off the white bus. You’ll remember the butterflies in your stomach as you’re waiting – looking at every face in the crowd – trying to find him as he’s coming off ship. Know that you don’t live off of a Hallmark calendar. Your new life’s timeline will be dictated by the military instead. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but I will tell you that it is worth every moment, missed or not.