It is now after midnight on 13 January 2012... This date holds one meaning to us, Kevin is officially retired from the army. Wow...I never thought I would say those words in less than ten years since I watched my husband sign the papers that led him into the army.
I wrote the above literally seconds after the clock turned to 12:00am. Today is now Monday, January 16 and it is the first moment I have been able to sit down and actually focus a bit. I was at a loss for words over the weekend as to what emotions and thoughts were running through me. And, to be honest, I am still at a loss over it all. Being medically retired from the army isn't like retiring on ones own. It isn't like just quitting a job. It isn't no longer being qualified because you have become lazy or addicted to drugs and wasted your time away. No, being medically retired from the army is honestly not an easy thing to do, yet after months and even more than a year of doctor appointments and briefings, the army decided that Kevin was no longer attainable because of the injuries he had sustained. Eight short years ago I watched him board a bus and head out to MEPS in Atlanta as everything I knew back them changed right before my naive eyes. Here it is, eight years and almost three months from the date he enlisted and within those years we have been through more than most will be of witness to in a lifetime. We have taken on more than one or a couple should, we have overcome more than anyone thought imaginable. My husband has literally lived in hell as he survived months in a war zone, on two separate occasions. He has not only lived in hell, he has been a witness to things that are worse than movies, he has had to do things and has seen things that still haunt him to this day, and will sadly always haunt him.
On many occasions I have stood there and listened to the horror stories that seem so surreal because as Americans we have a hard time imagining the truths of living in a hell such as Iraq. We struggle to see the outside world that exists away from the United States. We forget that even in our darkest of hours, we are still pretty blessed with just the sole fact of where we have been born. I have listened to my husband as he spoke of the reality of war and as he has told me numerous stories of the things he has had to do. Then I find myself consoling him because, no matter what he has had to do, he managed to bring his guys home. They my struggle with PTSD, TBI's, or some physical injuries, but they are home. I am not saying that every person he deployed with these two times made it back home, because they didn't and those men will ALWAYS hold a place in our hearts, just as their families will. They have never been forgotten and never will be. What I am saying is, the ones he led everyday into a fire fight, IED's, VBED's and much, more more, made it home to their families at the end.
As I write this I think of the question I have been asked too often... "Was it worth it". I struggle with an answer to this. How can I even begin to answer it? If I said "no" I would be lying, yet if I said "yes" I sound so heartless and bitter. Was it worth my husband being injured? Was it worth my family almost being torn apart? Was it worth all of the issues that are battled on a daily basis? Was it worth the fact that Kevin is permanently damaged or the fact that our children are growing up so much differently than most? Was it worth it for me to live life everyday watching the man that use to be so full of life battle demons every day and sadly, every night in his sleep? Was it worth all of this hell we have come to know and I suppose one could say "accept"? As crazy as this may sound, yes it was. What Kevin has done is something that selflessly less than 1% of our population can do and will do. It is people like him that keep the draft from tearing families apart. It is men (and women) such as my husband that should make every American stand tall and be proud to live in a country such as ours. It is the ones such as my husband that have earned the right to be titled as heroes... I look at my husband from the eyes of the woman I am today and could not be more proud of the man I married that has remained so full of strength and bravery. I could not be more proud of the man he is and all that he has sacrificed for not only me and our children, but for ones that don't even know him.
Even though I am proud of him, I do still find myself in a rage of emotions and anger because he has been so injured. I am 28 years old with a husband that is still in the first portion of 31. He should be enjoying life and living for the moments, not "scared" to sleep in fear of what the night terrors will bring or in panic while in unknown situations or constantly on the watch for threats or things that should not be present. I should not see him struggle to move around or be apart of things or even live life. So, does war make me angry? You bet your ass it does. It infuriates me that after acting so selflessly, so many are left broken into pieces that you may be able patch together briefly, yet you know they will always shatter within a matter of hours or if you're lucky days. I make every attempt to keep myself together during those bad days knowing that somewhere, there is a silver lining. And when I catch a glimpse of that lining, I run with it and enjoy every second I have because with the blink of an eye, that moment is over and I am left hoping for one more to shine through. Sometimes it takes weeks or more just to briefly catch that glimpse of "happiness" again.
People immediately assume that we should be thrilled that he has been medically retired. I mean, after all, there will be no more deployments or time away. I would take deployments all over again if it meant Kevin would return to me as the man he once was. Yet, we all know that is something that falls into a fairytale. One can dream, right? I am very relived that he will never deploy again. I am excited to look to the future knowing that holidays won't be spent alone and after eight years of not having my husband home for my birthday, in May I will finally have him home to celebrate it with me. So, yes, I am very thankful that he is home for good now, but it doesn't just make things better and it doesn't take away the pain. To those that may view me as anything except grateful from time to time, don't look at it that way. Instead, look at the smaller picture... Look at what war has left in my house. Look at the pieces that I am constantly battling to keep together. Look at the fact that things...everything... has changed in our house. Kevin is injured and there is nothing I can do. I can't wave a magic wand and make him better. There are things that time can't heal, there are things that are permanent.
With all the bad and all the struggles, we will get through it together. I can't put him back together as I so strongly try to do, but, I can tape up the pieces one by one and enjoy the moments that stay together while they do. When the tape dries out, I can slowly replace them with more and take life day by day, living for that moment we are in, holding on to every good one that we have, and live through any tough ones.
At the end of the day, this is our life and this is what we have been given. I am willing to take the bad to get the moments of good. As crazy as it may sound, those good moments can last me a lifetime. I hold on tight to the amazing glimpses of the old Kevin that like to shine through from time to time.
The past eight years has taught us more about life than many learn in 50. It has taught us the true definition of love, hurt, loneliness, bravery, and life. It has taught us what is worth fighting for and with, and what is just worth letting go. We have learned that it's the smaller things in life that can mean the most and that time is such a precious, precious thing to have. Tell the ones you love that you love them. There is no way to know when those words can never be uttered face to face again. Love the ones you are with and cherish the time you have.