After AIT reality

After basic training came AIT, I think that stands for Advanced Individual Training. What it meant all in all, my honey was going to be gone for 9 months straight since they did AIT right after basic training without any visit or break in between. He had very little access to phones, was locked down in his barracks, couldn’t have a cell phone.. it was very annoying as they treat the guys in AIT like idiots, much like what he got at basic.

After 9 agonizing months for him, he finally got to come home. We were so proud of him, he looked so amazing. The class A’s were stunning, and the BDU’s were sweet! Yay uniform fetish! LOL. Our son was so proud of his father and was so happy to have his dad home. During that whole time, my son and I were a continual, tight, unit and did not have any family coming over to help us.

About a month later, Todd gets the call that he needs to go to Soldier Readiness Processing and get ready to be shipped to Iraq. This was in 04-05.
Of course my honey (lets name him CSF for Chemical Super Freak), picked a dangerous MOS and he went over as a gunner and a driver and helped blow up weapons caches.
Not fun for me!!! Talk about something that sucks!

It wasn’t a surprise he got fast forwarded to Iraq, as he joined during a time of war. He did it on purpose, he did not want to serve in some protected role. He wanted to be out there, with his .50 Cal, taking care of his guys and being vigilant and trying to keep our country safe. I was so proud of him. He did not join the guard to just get the benefits, wear the uniform, and not do anything in return.

I had a talk with our son, (let’s dub him CSF Jr. since he is a chip off of the block of CSF) about CSF’s timeline for deployment and what we could do to help him on the homefront and how we would be Team MamaCSF. This got him smiling as he is a can-do, thoughtful cute little guy. Back then he was 6.
I was working full-time, which means a bit over full-time, more like 50 hours a week. We have an old fixer-upper of a home, which we love. However, it needs care. LOL. So I always had something to do. Between taking care of our son, my job, the house, and the senior citizen dog we had back then, I was leveraged for time.

Unlike the fun and laid-back atmosphere of deployment that the media portrayed the war to be back then,CSF was not able to get on a computer daily. I was lucky to get an email from him bi-weekly. Download speeds were from another era gone by and accessibility was down. Heck, he barely could get to a phone. I think he called once every week and a half. Not enough for me to feel good.
I got smart though, I looked at the map of Iraq to see where he is and I showed mini CSF so he could learn more about world culture. I would look at the ATM debit card log and see the city where he was at. Kind of like “where’s waldo.”

One week there was more than the normal amount of bloodshed and I was worrying in overtime. CSF said,”Look at the color of the T-shirts under the uniform. If they are beige, then they are our guys. If not, its either Marines, Navy, or Air Force.” I know it sounds sick, but I felt better when I wouldn’t see beige shirts in the photos.

One day I saw CSF Jr. look upset as he is a bright cookie and was watching the news and they were talking about the area where his father was. I told him that his father would be safe, he is going to come home to us, and we had to pray for him every day. I told him no more news, as it makes us upset and we don’t need that.
So I took the calendar, wrote down CSF’s date to return, and daily we would cross off a day. I also planned a monthly weekend get away for us, just to help break up the monotony of the deployment. We had some fun adventures. We would go shopping and buy stuff that we could ship to his dad. ***If you call the Post Office and tell them you are Military, they will send you free shipping boxes, tape, etc. for free. Just an FYI for you.

Well, the year went by, he came home safe and all was well.

Sadly, the fourth of July he got to be a part of, was still pretty recent from when he returned as when the sounds of the fireworks went off, his hands were shaking really bad and it was all he could do to light our son’s sparkler.
I noticed a bit of anxiety from the war. Freaking war. Made me cry, I tried to hide it from them both. I thought, here he is home with us, on a day of liberation and independence. A day of celebrating for Americans and my poor husband can’t even light a sparkler due to the hit on his nerves for the past year of hostile fire.

His pupils were so huge, his heart was pounding, and his jaw was tightly clenched.
I grabbed his arm, said hey honey..lets go inside and get a drink. I hugged him, asked him if he was ok as I didn’t want to call him out in front of everyone.
It helped. I know he saw some catastrophic shit over there, he never would tell me all that he saw. I told him that in time, he needed to talk about it or it would fester and cause him some issues.

I noticed him withdrawing a bit from us and he would go work in the study more than he used to. Part of it was he had a lot of stuff to catch up on, but honestly, I think he just needed to decompress away from us. It hurt my feelings at first, but then I really started to analyze what he was doing versus what he had experienced and talked to mini CSF about what to expect from his father after experiencing war.
It helped out a lot.

Within a few months after his return, CSF started to act like himself again. We really had fun incorporating him back into our weekly routine that we had developed when it was Team MamaCSF Jr. I noticed that is a huge area that our guys need help on. Some of them feel left out when they come back, that we can manage great without them, so what do we need them for? So I sat down with him and told him what Mini CSF and I were up to. We gelled, it worked out great and we had so much fun showing him what he did to the house. Our family was reunited again, and had gotten back into its usual dynamics between husband and wife, father and son. 🙂

The Beginning

I wasn’t aware in 1994 that I would ever be a military wife. When I met my husband, he had always been civic-minded and very patriotic. He was a Chemistry and Physics teacher that had recently retired to get into working the chemical industry. Our family was in a car, enjoying a leisurely Sunday drive a few days after 9/11 happened.

My husband commented,”Here I am enjoying my freedom with my family, while our guys are dying in Iraq. I just feel like I need to do my part to keep that evil from invading our land and possibly hurting you or our son.” He said he was thinking about joining the military to do his part. He asked me what I thought and I said he needed to do what he felt he had to do, and it was his choice and that I support him no matter what. Thus began his research into joining the National Guard.

A couple of weeks pass and he had a meeting set up with a recruiter.
He came home all excited from the meeting with the recruiter about the various benefits. With his classic sick sense of humor, he said, “Ooh they have death benefits so if I get killed, you will get $250,000.” I said,”Very funny, but that would actually screw me out of some income as I expect you to at least live ’til 78 and what you would make as a chemist times 45 years of earning would definitely surpass that 250K. Plus, you are a much-needed fixture in our lives. I couldn’t imagine it without you.”

Did I mention he was only 34 at the time, without much cartilage or cushioning in the knee joints? Our son was maybe 6 at the time when his father left to go to basic training. Proudly, my 34-year-old husband kicked the butt of half the cheese-eating high school kids when it came to running and PT. He was so proud to tell me of his various accomplishments during the training. Plus, having been a high-school teacher, he was used to the tempers, testosterone, etc. that the younger privates were dealing with and the mind games the drill sergeants were using. It still sucked, but he made it through and his graduation was one of the proudest events for him.
He looked amazing in his Class A’s. Damn, I love a man in uniform.