The picture to the left is for "The General." You know who you are. Lt. Col. K. USMC stopped by again last night. He, the TIC and I had dinner at Chez D’FAC (Civilians: DFAC is armyspeak for Dining Facility aka Chow Hall) after I had introduced him to my Battalion Commander and they had a chance to exchange the secret Marine handshake. My battalion has many former Marines in it, and my Commander happens to be one of them. After dinner, we lit up cigars and continued to catch up. We talked a lot about our plans for when we got home. So far, these plans include but are not limited to: an expensive night at the Ritz with our wives, hunting trips, scuba diving, home improvement, kids, and other vacations to be determined later. We also talked about going back to our normal jobs and how weird it would be. He left soon after as I had to go on a raid later that night, but I digress.
As we discussed the frequency with which we were able to talk to our wives, I began to think of what a uniquely trying experience this must be for them. He and I have both been active duty before, but were single at the time. We both met our wives and got married after having joined the Reserves. When we were on active duty, the guys who were married had their wives living there at or near the post with them. Their wives all knew each other, and both the post and the unit were communities unto themselves. Now, he and I have been living in the civilian world 95% of the time, only disappearing for our monthly weekend and two weeks every summer. We put on a uniform, leave on Friday with our car packed full of gear, and return Sunday night, filthy, stinking like livestock, with a car full of filthy gear and empty paper coffee cups. I suppose they may have initially thought it was something of a man’s hobby, like fishing or hunting. There is never the day to day acclimation to military life that the spouses of our full-time brethren get. We are just civilians with an odd part-time job on the side - that doesn’t pay much.
Then one day, we get attacked. War breaks out, and we are wondering when we are going to get "the call." We knew from the beginning that this one was going to be long and encompass many countries. Our wives, meanwhile, are left to worry about a call that seemingly never comes. Almost three years go by. We start thinking that they have forgotten about us as we continue to train every month. Then, lulled into complacency and plans for the future, the call comes. A few weeks later, husbands are gone, and life goes on all around them as if nothing has changed. There has been no grand send off, no speech, no locking of the barracks or meeting of the wives club as there have been at active installations nation-wide. They are the often the only ones they know in their neighborhood with a deployed husband. Many people are sympathetic, but few, if any can relate.
Our wives (Lt. Col. K’s, 2LT C’s, and mine) know each other, and have become closer friends throughout this period. We are glad that they have each other. Although each unit has a family support group, I suppose that it is hard to bond with a bunch of people you have never met just because your husbands have been called up. This is particularly the case for many Reservists who drill far from home. 2LT C. and I used to drive 310 miles each way every month. They are handling it well, though, with all of the grace and class that drew us to them in the first place.