Guest Blog | Letters of War


BlogBrigade-AliyahMeehanBlogger Biography: My name is Aliyah Meehan. I have been a military spouse for over 13 years. It is the most intensely joyful, complex, rewarding and also painful experience of my life. I have three beautiful children. One that was “gifted” to me (a high schooler that we adopted nine years ago), and two that have been birthed to me who are 6 and 8. I have a nursing degree, a bachelor’s in business administration with a minor in healthcare management, and I am currently working on my MBA. I love to write, sing, dance, cook and host parties. I am an avid archer. I also like to go skydiving about once a year, and my husband and I have taken up sailing this past year. I currently own a company contracted to the state of California that provides early infant assessments and am the director of family engagement for www.Sandboxx.us , a military lifestyle app that converts digital media from the convenience of your phone into a physical letter to our beloved military members who are off the grid.

 

Years ago, we inherited a cedar chest from one of our adopted Marines. I did not think much of it. Honestly it was just another thing that I had no use for, but it was an interesting piece of furniture nonetheless.Naturally, as a military spouse I made it a point to give it a purpose, in order to justify dragging this thing around from move to move. I filled it with every deployment memorabilia that I would come across.

While doing so, I began to notice that through the years email began to dominate most of our communication. Something about the convenience of instantly being able to communicate the thoughts and feelings that overcome, or overwhelm you, when the love of your life is miles away, is a blessing and impossible to resist. However, out of habit l would still write. Even when he would insist that it was no longer a necessity, I would still write to him.

My husband is not the type that shows excitement easily, but the bounce in his voice when he would tell me he got a letter has always been addictive. I loved hearing his plans for the pictures, how he planned to keep some in his wallet versus the pictures he planned to pin to his wall. It was a brief moment of reprieve from the distance. I loved soaking in every bit of this happiness as he was holding something from home. A serendipitous moment for me — for a second it almost felt like he was much closer to home.

I am not sure how most families do it, but in our family we describe time by its location before, during or after deployments. My husband’s absence is only reason to plan the celebration of his return, and when he comes home, stretching time, slowing it down and filling it with a lifetime of memories is the most important order of the day. “Welcome home” is a moment where space, time and distance collide and produce a most surreal reality. It is the moment where our deepest thoughts and feelings are felt and conveyed within that long powerful grip of our initial embrace — his laughter finally echoing and booming down the hall, as if he never left, before he has to leave again.

Fast forward to several deployments later and we now have three beautiful children. Duty stations have come and gone, and the treasure chest has been moved more times to more houses than most people ever live in through the duration of two lifetimes. As I like to whisper to my children, “Adventure is what we do for a living, baby.”

It was not until our most recent move to the opposite coast that anyone really paid attention to the treasure chest. Truth be told, I was so busy battling the humid, fly-filled Carolina heat, helping hubby carry furniture into our new home, when I noticed the girls huddled in a corner of the garage going through the many contents of the aging cedar treasure chest.

My heart could not have been more delighted — our children marveling at prom corsages, the dried flower that I picked at his boot camp graduation for my hair, which he completely freaked about, because of course, it was government property. Our first car together, our first dogs, teenage pictures of us in our pre-World War II first base house were all in there.

However, the letters stole the show — 18- and 19-year-old mommy and daddy. Back when we were just Tim and Aliyah, teenagers madly in love, writing boot camp letters to Recruit Meehan and making the most incredible plans that turned out to be an even more incredible life.

I suppose I must have known this day would come, because I had already separated the risqué “love note stack” from the more “PG” love letters. It was endearing throughout. As we stopped and listened to our kids read some of the letters aloud, I felt every inch of the distance that these letters have traveled, only serving as fuel meant to rekindle our passion for one another till the end of time.

As our children continued to read our story, it became their story. The fiery flame of the young warrior (Tim) and the nurse (me) liquefied into a placid existence. The story solidified into the concrete joys of our first baby. A few deployments later we were on our third baby. Ultrasound photos with the nickname “Peanut” on the back, with holes where they were once pinned on his wall in Iraq.

The letters expressed our life more vividly than our own recollections. Every picture, every word and photographic angle so carefully selected. Each and every letter exuding the deepest sense of urgency to connect our little family to the best of our limited ability.

Chaotic as this life may seem, it is beautiful. We are not perfect, but this is our family, and in it we have created a deeply rooted culture of optimizing every moment for the savory appreciation of life and each other, through this adventure disguised as chaos. We survive the pain of distance by investing ourselves through letters and phone calls, emails and loving care packages — mailing bits and pieces of ourselves in hopes to build us emotionally, mentally and spiritually, in the absence of physical presence.

Sitting over the treasure chest with our not-so-little Peanut in my lap, we spent the next few hours laughing, sometimes crying, remembering and reliving magical moments captured and forever encased in words we once lovingly shared.

I am sure I could probably pull up emails of that same time in our lives at any time. However, personally, the romance in this kind of beautiful life can only be told and truly appreciated sitting on a dusty garage floor with my family, sifting through our aging cedar treasure chest and reading out loud our letters of war.

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