In the summer of 2009, Matt received his promotion to Captain and was re-assigned to the battalion level as the S-4. With this new job came a change in FRGs, as we now fell under HQ Company. I enjoyed the larger, more diverse group and quickly signed on as a key caller. As it was the summer, I was not working and therefore had lots of time. Coincidentally, I was looking for a new teaching job as I had left my previous school. My heart’s desire was to work on post, near our house, and enjoy the benefits of working in the DODEA system. Since I had already submitted my application, all that was left for me to do was wait. Needless to say, my days were filled with a lot of nothing.
Meanwhile, Matt’s summer was anything but slow. His hours continued to be long, especially while learning the new job. However, he had a much more amiable boss which was a breath of fresh air for both of us. One of his most interesting tasks as S4 was to gather supplies for a training exercise involving several units who practiced war-fighting tactics in a mock-up version of an Iraqi town.
I remember one weekend Matt came home with a shopping list of bizarre items necessary for this event - items such as long-hair wigs, plastic baby dolls, rugs, fake food, and tires. My mind couldn’t possibly understand this combination of supplies. However, Matt quickly explained that some of the units would take on the role of Iraqi townspeople, sheiks, and mayors to complete the experience for the units practicing their missions. Thus, he needed wigs to help these Infantry men with their high-and-tights look a little more like Arab men and women. He explained away the rest of the list as props that would be used in Iraqi homes which the soldiers would search for militant extremists and their weapons.
Since I was eager to help out (and cure my boredom), I accompanied Matt on his quest to find this curious mix of odds and ends. When Matt asked me where in Hinesville we could find wigs, I laughed and said, “How should I know?” Then, I got an inspired idea (or so I thought). In my jaunts around town, I remembered noticing a hair supply store. When I suggested we look there, Matt was not so sure. However, after searching Wal-Mart (where we looked for Halloween-esque wigs in mid-June), the Dollar Store (where all they had were pink wigs designed for little girls playing dress-up), and the PX (where the closet thing was a hair net), Matt finally gave in.
So we traipsed over to Liberty Square, looking for suitable hair pieces. When we entered the shop, we were overwhelmed with all the choices. All along the perimeter of the room sat mannequins with any and all kinds of color, cut, and style of wig. The only people in the store were African American women who eyed me and my red-headed husband quizzically (to say the least).
Matt and I looked around (trying to blend in), attempting to figure out first, how much they cost, and second, how to purchase them. Do you just take them off the mannequin and carry them up to the register? We had no idea!
Although Matt was ready to leave as soon as we came in, he eventually agreed to buy 2 or 3. Despite being more expensive than we thought, he didn’t want to waste more of the day driving to Savannah searching for wigs, nor did he want to return to work empty-handed.
When we found a saleswoman and explained why we needed them, she raised an eyebrow but quickly rang us up and sent us on our way. I died laughing all the way home while Matt, on the other hand, tried to resist his gag reflex. He was desperate to hand over the wigs to the “actors” as soon as possible. Apparently what I considered a fun part of his new job simply turned his stomach!
Not long after our shopping adventures, Matt was, of course, required to participate in the training exercise. This meant field time – how I dreaded it! Field time (at least in the Infantry) means Matt spends long weeks camped outside (often miles from post proper) with minimal, if any, phone calls home. Not being able to see or talk to my husband always makes me crazy. I hate it! Needless to say, field time isn’t my favorite part of Army life.
It turns out that virtually the entire summer Matt was in the field preparing for NTC and the next deployment. As the S4, he had to go early, prior to the rest of the battalion, to scope it out and lay the groundwork for the unit’s training there. So even though his battalion wouldn’t go until September, Matt had to go set up in July.
While I did not get to talk to Matt much while he was in the field, communication improved slightly when he went to Ft. Irwin (aka NTC Land). During our time apart, I struggled with worry and fear of the unknown. Since I wasn’t working and didn’t yet have a job prospect for the fall, I felt like I was getting a taste of what the next deployment would be like if I remained unemployed. I didn’t like it! I quickly fell into a pit, wrapped my whole life around what Matt was doing, and emotionally wilted…frequently. I knew this could not continue.
Thus, I began looking into graduate school. Matt encouraged me to pursue it, knowing it would help my frame of mind. While I did not really want to go back to school, I knew it would count towards renewing my teaching certificate and would give me some purpose to my days. I researched schools that offered the program I wanted, found out how long it would take me to complete, and what kind of financial aid I could receive as an Army wife. Soon I called the university, began the application process, and registered for the start of the New Year, after Matt would have already left for Iraq.
During this time, I also took a trip to see my parents. Although I missed having Matt with me, it was good to have a change of scene and spend time with my family. I was able to celebrate my mom’s birthday with her, in person, on the actual date (something that doesn’t happen frequently). I also went with my parents to a wedding for one of my dad’s golf buddies. I missed Matt a ton, but I knew missing him there was better than missing him at home by myself.
It was during this season of my life that the Lord showed me how to enjoy life even when I wasn’t with my husband. Prior to this (and sometimes even now), I fall into the trap of thinking we can’t be happy unless we’re together. This is simply not true. While we are certainly happier when we are together, that doesn’t mean we have to be miserable apart. Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b). He doesn’t say I will have a full life only when I’m with the one I love. If I believe that, I am once again putting my husband before God. I have to constantly shift my perspective and remember God is the only One who can meet all my needs. While my husband makes me happy, it is my Savior that makes me joyful. I must be careful not to confuse the two.
During that summer, I learned a little better how to trust God in spite of my worry and how to take charge of my life to make it meaningful. No one ever told me I had to stay at home, be miserable, and bemoan the fact that my husband was off training somewhere. Instead, I could make the choice to fill my time with visits to family, plans to continue my education, and consistent efforts to obtain a job. It’s a choice I had to make: whether or not I would trust God to meet my needs and have faith that He would do it. It’s a choice I still make, regardless of my circumstance. God promises me an abundant life – will I make the choice to obey Him and reap the reward?