Topic: Combat

When the Military Breaks Your Heart

Staff Blogger Cassie

I remember the day very clearly, when we took a chance and decided to build a house at Camp Lejeune. We were still in school and hadn’t officially received orders, but we had a good feeling. We picked out everything from siding to shutters, and tile to countertops. We would drive down from D.C. and visit the work in progress, and I even once stood on the foundation that would be our kitchen.

We never lived in the house, and we didn’t go to Lejuene (until now, of course). That was the first time the military truly broke my heart—when we received orders somewhere else. I was devastated.

A few weeks later, we were in California. Heartbreak set in again a few days later as the moving truck showed up in our driveway and the hubs kissed me goodbye to leave for workups at sea—for three weeks. I cried when I looked at the boxes the movers had left, completely overwhelmed. That was the beginning of the hardest thirty-six months of our lives. It was filled with sadness, death, wounded friends, and a whole lot of tears. The hubs was gone, training or deployed somewhere, for twenty-eight months of a three-year tour. I think one of the biggest blows came when three months into what was to be a six-month deployment, we found out he would be gone for thirteen months. I felt like someone had kicked me in the chest. It was hard to breathe. I have never seen my kids so devastated. We were pretty inconsolable there for a couple of weeks.

That’s when I learned the term, “I’m having an ‘I hate the military’ day.” I found that it made it easier to say it out loud—that I severely disliked what military life sometimes throws at us, and at our service members. It’s hard, and I know I’m not alone in my thoughts. I’m sure we have ALL had those days where something didn’t go as planned or a dream we had didn’t come true.

I wish I had some magic answer that would help you through your “I hate the military” days. I don’t. All I can tell you is what I did, and still do, to help myself and my kids.

We cry it out but only long enough to get it out. That night, when we found out that the hubs wasn’t coming home when we thought, I mustered the courage to tell the kids and we sobbed, the three of us on Frick’s bed. We cried until our eyes were puffy and our noses were clogged. BUT, we pulled ourselves together, splashed some cold water on our faces, and drove to the nearest ice cream shop. Nothing cures sadness like ice cream.

We take a trip. There is something about the open road that seems to make everything better, if only for a little while. Sometimes, the kids and I would pile in the car and drive to a park that was two hours away, when it would have been just as easy to walk to one up the street. The magic was in the escape.

I commiserate with my milspouse buddies. No one understands military heartbreak like your fellow milspouses. We whine over wine, and movies, and shopping. Hey, whatever gets you through the day.

We remind ourselves of the good times. I think about the smile on my kids’ faces when they see their daddy at homecoming or how AWESOME it is to date my hubs after he’s been away for a while. I browse through old photos and remember those happy days the military has given us—homecoming, family days, the Marine Corps ball, and my all-time favorite picture of my boys in full Kevlar and gas masks. That’s the good stuff.

I love our military life. I have lived places I never thought I’d live, and experienced things I never thought I’d have the chance to do. I have two, well-adjusted awesome boys who have done the same. I married the man of my dreams and um…he looks GOOD in uniform!

However, I also know that I’ll have many more days where I think it might be time to leave this life behind. When I do, I’ll be reminded of this,

“You never see bad days in a photo album, but it is those days that get us from one happy snapshot to the next.”—unknown

How do you make it through your tough days in the military?