Thursday, March 24, 2011

Honor, Protect, Serve

It's been over 7 years since my husband exited the United States Army.  I was a military wife for 8 years and I believe once a military wife, you never forget and you are always part of the military family. Michael and I got married when we were 18 and Michael joined the Army to provide for our little family of 2.

18 and so young ready for our adventure. We just had no idea where this adventure was going to take us!

My husband was first assigned to the 300th Military Police company at Ft. Riley, Kansas straight out of basic training.  We lived there for 18  months before we had to move overseas to the country of Panama. While stationed in Panama, Michael completed one deployment and several schools. We lived in Panama for just at a year and then we were moved to Puerto Rico. While serving in Puerto Rico Michael was part of the several special teams that provided important necessary security details. He was gone very often and I will often say that it is so unfortunate that he missed out so much when the kids were babies and toddlers. After 2 years in Puerto Rico we then moved back to Ft. Riley, Kansas for a 2nd time where he ended back up as part of the 300th MP company again.

We had only been back in Kansas for about 5 months when 9/11 happened. I will never forget that day (as so many others). That day changed so many lives forever including the path our lives were getting ready to take.  By this time Michael was promoted to Staff Sergeant (SSG E6) and he was only 23 years old. He attended another school for 2 1/2 months returned back and was only back for about 3 1/2 months before he deployed on Operation Noble Eagle.

Haley welcoming Daddy home from Operation Noble Eagle in late September 2002. As a military wife there are times when you can not cry, you can not break, you can not succumb to the pressures, the sadness, and the fear.  The day Michael returned from Operational Noble Eagle was great! We were all so excited and just couldn't stop smiling. Almost 6 months prior was a different story. I remember dropping Michael off at his company around midnight and having to say our goodbyes. Cody was a 3 1/2 and he was crying when we left because I am sure he saw me upset but then he asked why I left daddy there. He kept telling me to go back and get him! He was crying so hard. The half of my heart I still had was completely broken. We went home and I finally fell to sleep after hours of crying. The next morning I picked myself up and we started to recover and survive, I knew if I stayed broken it wouldn't do any of us any good.

After returning in late September 2002 Michael went back to work and training as all soldiers do. The following March our world was getting ready to rock-n-roll again! We knew it was coming and BAM all of a sudden we were given a few weeks notice that Michael's unit would be heading to Iraq. My dad came out to help the kids and I move home with my parents during Michael's deployment. This time we were talking war, this changed the whole situation and I knew enough to know I needed support from my family. I was 24 years old with a 4 year old and a 2 1/2 year old.  The preparation for his departure was grueling they would give us a date and then it would be changed.

This was one of the hardest days of my life. We walked in and I just kept repeating in my head, hold it together, hold it together, hold it together. Michael had just been assigned as 3rd platoon Sergeant just weeks before they were slated to leave. 24 years old and responsible for about 32 other peoples lives.

My man and my babies the night before he left for Iraq.

Saying goodbye is not easy on anyone.

Believe it or not I held it together. I kept my tears down the back of my throat knowing if I didn't stay strong in front of him it would only bring him down. He needed to be strong, he was strong, he needed me to be strong.  I can still here the songs they played, I can see the pride in his face as he led his platoon out of the gymnasium and to the buses. My heart swelled with pride and broke with fear and sorrow.

Believe it or not I held it together really for several weeks before breaking down. It was like once I swallowed the fear and sadness I tried to keep it buried.

Welcome to the restroom - which funnel would you like?

Burn detail anyone? Did you know that human waste can be burned? Who wants this job? I bet you will be so appreciative the next time you go to the restroom and get to actually flush the toilet.

This picture is deceiving but this is where my husband slept almost the entire time he was in Iraq. This is inside a small trailer that you pull. Iraq in the summer, no AC, no windows, no moving air. Hot enough it made the water bottles in their humvees explode from the heat.

Bored after/between missions. Big shout out to Heath behind Mike! We all still keep in touch after all these years. -

Daily views during OIF1

(left) Michael (right) JC - JC is currently on his 5th deployment (I do believe it his 5th - God Bless him and his family!)

Michael and Heath doing the Army thing again.

3rd Platoon - 300th MP Company - RENEGADES!! - I am sure it was as hard if not harder to leave his Renegade family as it was all the times he left us.  The men and women that served with my husband are part of his family. They are his military family and although I don't understand the situations they were in (because I don't ever ask) I do understand that they understand him in ways that I do not. Our soldiers tend to not divulge a lot of details about missions, sorrow, or regret. However, those that lived the life, went into battle, stood to have each others backs (literally) understand one another. I am grateful for each and every one of the Renegades that served with my husband.

I meet some people that ask me how I don't want to know the details of battle. It isn't that I don't ever think about what my husband and our friends went through. It isn't that I don't care. I do care, I care more than he will probably ever know (although I think he has a good idea).

Our welcome home banner for Michael when he returned home to TN after we made one of the toughest decisions for him to exit the Army when his stop loss was lifted. (this is too long of a story to include but nonetheless we came to this decision).

My hero and my veteran! He continues to serve our country!

I want to salute all of our brave men and women that serve our country every single day! I want to give a standing ovation to the wives, husbands, parents, and children of our military men and women. I think people often forget that our military members volunteer to step up and serve each and every one of us. We are so blessed to live in a country that has a volunteer military.

My husband continues to serve our wonderful country but just in a different capacity now. The family we have built is similar to the military family we made through the years. I feel so blessed to have all these wonderful people in our lives!

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