March 9, 2011

The Uniform

(This is reprinted from my article published on Homefront United Network yesterday. They are a military spouse and family support community, and I have been writing for them weekly. Go check them out! Also- thank you to everyone for all the great comments!)

He doesn’t put it on often, although it always seems to be in bits and pieces around our house. And being in the National Guard, he only needs it occasionally. Once a month, though, it comes off a hanger: a hat with perfect creases, a pair of dirtied boots, t-shirt, socks, and this- his uniform. 

I remember when the green tough box arrived at the post office that hot summer day. It had been sent home just weeks before he would be back. I lugged it up the stairs, and pulled out one ACU after another. There was a pair of winter boots. There was a fleece jacket with his name tape still attached. He had a quilt, neatly folded, from a church group who handmade blankets for his platoon. All of it had a musty smell of sand and sweat. I remember breathing it in, and wondering if that was how Afghanistan smelled to him every day.

One by one, I gathered an armful of uniforms, and trudged to the bathroom. They were so filthy with the dirt and grime that they needed to be soaked before they could go into the washing machine. I ran warm water into the rub, and watched as it slowly rose above the huge pile of clothes. I sat and wondered if every military spouse had the same emotions as I did as I went through that box. There was a kind of somberness to it all, as if I were entrusted with a deep secret. I thought to myself how strange it was to be washing the sand of war from his things.

When he puts it on for drill, I can’t help but think he’s handsome. After all, there is something to the cliché of women swooning to men in uniform. I can’t quite fully be comfortable, though. I think back to that moment. I see the water swirling around and smell the earthiness again, and all the memories of deployment come rushing back. 

I sometimes wonder what people think a National Guard spouse feels- after all, we don’t live on a base, and we don’t see our spouses in PT gear every morning or uniforms when they arrive home at night. Instead, we only see that uniform on for drill weekends and deployments. The weekends are bearable for most of us. The two weeks of training once a year can be tough, but manageable. That isn’t all there is to it, however. They go to war, too.

And every time he wears his uniform, I remember. 


10 kind comments from you:

annoyed army wife said...

Such a beautiful and thought-provoking piece. Thanks for sharing this. The uniform is such an ingrained part of our family. When OccDoc puts on a button down dress shirt with a colorful tie, I get glimpses of what 'civilian' life might be like. I guess it's kind of like reverse to the uniform.

Steph said...

What a great post! Every time my hubby goes to drill too, I remember. I remember deployment but I also remember how proud of him I am.

Erin said...

This is a great piece! I also feel like people forget that reservist deploy too.

Thanks for sharing. :)

Anonymous said...


Neidy said...

Definitely the same emotions!
One thing I'll never forget: his dirt stained hands after he got back from Afghanistan. That's truly something that will be impossible to erase from my mind.
♥ great piece!

Kaylee said...

This is lovely. I remember getting my husband's box from deployment and the flood of emotions that ran through me. Great article!

Beka said...

"the sand of war".....

very well written. makes me feel the somberness of it too.

Mowenackie said...

For a year after my husband came back from his first deployment, the uniform meant he was leaving me - even if it were only for a drill weekend. I picked a fight, once a month, like clockwork. The emotions associated with seeing that uniform were just so powerful.

Renee said...

What a wonderful posting! I'm a National Guard spouse and I feel the exact same way. I LOVE seeing my husband in uniform (he was active Army for 12 years prior..out for 10 while we got our kids raised and now NG for 3). When it comes to deployment...there is no difference. War/deployment (life & death) does not discriminate based on your military branch).

It was so surreal when my husbands boxes started arriving a few weeks ago. Each box meant we were closer to end of the year apart.

Dr. Army Wife said...

This is beautiful. As a reserve spouse, I fully appreciate what you are saying about National Guard/Reserve. Sometimes I wonder if it is more difficult when you aren't used to the military as much.

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