Saturday, September 10, 2011

Closing One Chapter as Another One Opens

We started this morning off like every other morning... Wake up, get the girls up and ready, then off to the bus. Following this, at 645 in the morning, I headed upstairs to finish getting ready and Kevin off to Nic's room to wake him and get him dressed. Once we were all ready around 715, we loaded up in the XTerra and headed to Fort Bliss to meet with Kevin's PEBLO (Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer). The PEBLO is the one responsible for processing the documents and Service Members case, making sure all appointments are scheduled and kept, counseling the soldiers, and providing answers or resources to the soldier and soldiers family when going through the Medical Evaluation Board for a Medical Discharge. The meeting this morning consisted of us going over all that has been done over this past year, the reasons Kev is unfit for duty, and for him to sign everything for it to finally be sent to Fort Lewis. Yes... you read right! We are finally at the step that we have been waiting on for months now. The NARSUM (Narrative Summary) is now complete and is being sent to Fort Lewis, along with medical records for the Board to review everything and give him his retirement rating. With the condition Kev is in from deployments, he will be retired, we are just not sure on the percentage yet. 

Once his packet is back with his rating, he has the choice to either accept the percentage or appeal the decision from the Board. Neither of us see appealing becoming a part in this. Following this step, the VA Claims Process is started along with other things, as the transition is heavily started. After next week, Kevin should go on Terminal Leave within eight weeks (give or take some days, after all, we know how the Army works). After his Terminal Leave ends, he will be retired from the Army. Retired....

Retired.... That doesn't even look right at this point in our lives and there really aren't words to express the thoughts rapidly running through my mind right now. I am honestly not sure if there ever will be either. It all just seems so surreal. I have taken many steps back and tried to look at everything from outside of the box, yet I can't quite place anything. I am 28 and my husband is one week shy of turning 31 and he will be medically retired from the Army due to injuries sustained while in combat. My husband, who has fought in the middle of war more than once, who has permanent damages from these deployments, will be retired by the end of this year. 

While he is still young, combat has taken so much away from him...and us. All five of us. During the 2006-2007 rotation in Mosul, Iraq; Kevin was lead or tail gunner. He was a NCO (non-commissioned officer). He was a true leader and hero. He left here the man I had fallen in love with and returned a complete stranger. He came home with not only physical injuries from multiple IED attacks, mortars, rockets, fire fights; but full of mental injuries as well. He came home a man that I had to learn and discover things that I never imagined I would. His eyes have never sparkled like they did before he left. His smile is not the same, bright and innocent smile. His laugh isn't full and from the heart as it use to be. His face has aged, his hands have aged.  His thoughts are not that of the majority of people his age. He has seen more, witnessed  more, acted on more, smelled more, and heard more than more than 99% of the United States has. Yet, even through all these changes, he is still my husband and the man I madly love.

So, here we are, after eight years of living this life and everything that we know is about to change. While we were once young adults, barely out of our teens, learning and adjusting to the military life; so innocent in many ways. We walked into this lifestyle not knowing what to expect and we are leaving it with more experience than most our age, wiser beyond our age, with open eyes knowing the realities of war and of life. We are closing a chapter in our lives in order to begin a new one, unaware of what the future holds or how we will transition into a life without all the rules and restrictions of the army life. We are facing a world we know very little of, yet, we are fully welcoming it all. 

Over the next few weeks and couple of months we are going to try to make this transition as smooth as we possibly can, while we discover a whole new world. One that people don't live walking on eggshells or knowing how harsh reality really is because they have never seen really anything outside of their normal day to day life. I have no idea how we will fall back into the lives of others because we have done far more than others our age, especially Kevin going overseas and fighting in a war. We know and we have seen how quickly life can be ripped right from under our feet. We know firsthand how short life truly is. 

There are days that we cannot wait to get past the army life and start anew. There are days that we are both terrified to leave the life we have come to know, understand, and in many ways love. There have been days that Kevin has questioned the reasons behind choosing this life. Yet, there are not days of regret. Without the Army, we would have missed out on so many things. We never would have traveled the world. We never would have learned how strong our love and marriage truly is. The Army, this life, the people, the missions, PCS's, deployments, FTX's, NTC's, TDY's, and everything else have shown us how strong we are not only as individuals, but also as a couple and family.

To all of you that have remained by our sides through this crazy roller coaster of a life, thank you! As hard as it is going to be to bid this chapter goodbye, we know that there is something bigger and better on the other side and we also know that many of you will remain in our lives and always in our hearts!

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