August 16, 2011

End of the Road

"Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect."  — Margaret Mitchell

There were no phone calls. There were no officers stopping by with long-winded explanations. There was no elaborate discharge ceremony with salutes and guns. Somehow, I thought there would be something. But there was nothing but a letter. Just a letter, arriving on a Saturday- a single sheet of paper typed with faded-looking ink that read, "You are discharged from the Army National Guard." A failed PT test, and here we are. At the end.

Just like that. 

Instantly, I felt like everything was gone. I can't begin to even describe how far reaching the military is in even a Guard family (let alone, active duty, I'm sure.) It was like a huge part of my identity vanished in an instant- it honestly feels like a death. One of the pieces is obviously my military blogging identity. Suddenly, I wonder if I am kicked out of the club- basically, the only club I've really felt I belonged to, and the biggest source of friendship for me. (By the way- thank you, Kris, for emailing me sweet encouragement as you deal with your husband's deployment. Gosh, you humbled me tonight!) But I'm not struggling with my husband's retirement or his end of contract- this is something unexpected, unwanted, and unbelievable. 

I feel like Sky has lost some of his identity too. I have never known him as not being a soldier. I have never known how to feel completely at rest, because I knew they could call him for anything at any minute. Deployments and separations were an accepted part of our future. It was something that could give me pride, knowing that my husband had been to war. "He is a soldier" is now "he was." Was. Is a veteran. Was a soldier.

Just like that. 

I mourn the things I'm losing. When we weren't making ends meet before, I sit in disbelief wondering how on earth we'll make it without his drill pay every month. Watching TV and 'fancy' phones are long gone- now I'm back to an old one- ironically, the one that used to beep when a boy in Afghanistan was talking to me. I used to think I was 'poor' before, but I have a feeling it was just the tip of the iceberg then. People who have more probably can't understand, but being poor is really isolating, and it's hard for even an introvert like me to accept it. I've missed one of my closest friend's wedding and another close friend's birthday this summer, because I couldn't afford to go. (Kim and Dena- I'm so sorry.) When I can't afford to use extra gas money to take Millie to the park, other activity seems really out of the question. So we stay home. She doesn't seem to know what she's missing yet- but I know.

What I'm really missing is the future we had planned. It's unreal how much centered on the military. If we could work out all our marriage issues, we planned to possibly try for a baby after he came home from the next deployment. We talked about using the money he'd earn overseas to try and get a better car to fit our family, and to open a bank account for Millie's future. We even discussed the possibility of taking a trip to England- my lifelong dream. We talked about using the VA home loans to get a place of our own. Because he'd have to extend his contract to deploy (because his time would have been up around the same month he would leave), it meant enough time in service that he could transfer his GI bill to me- I could have finally been able to go to school. All of that is gone.

Just like that. 

No shopping at the PX after flashing our military IDs at the base gate. No dressing up for batllion balls. No switching over from ACUs to multicam. No asking the store for a military discount. No washing uniforms after a long weekend at drill. No hunts for military scholarships. No excitement at the possibility of a bonus for Sky finding a new recruit. Instead, we spend hours scouring the internet- he searches for a better paying job, and I search for a part time job that somehow could fit in between his work hours and caring for Millie. In the meantime, I put away photos, pens with the National Guard logo, everything and anything that reminds me of the Army. I spent an hour just clicking 'hide' on all the Facebook pages I've liked as a military spouse. The reminders are a bit heartbreaking already.

And what are we supposed to do with all of it? His piles of uniforms. All the patches and pins and medals. His beret, his PC. The photo of us from the ball, with my grey dress and his class A jacket that he wore when he married me. A military prayer book that was made to fit in his ACUs pocket. The wine glass from the ball with his unit's crest. His dog tags. His pairs of boots that walked on foreign roads, narrowly escaping roadside bombs at times. I don't even know if I want the reminders now. Because it's gone.

Just like that. 

33 kind comments from you:

Poekitten said...

Oh, I am so sorry! I know that it must be so hard. We had a scare where it looked like DH was going to be out of the Navy and it was enough to have my stress level through the roof...I can't imagine it happening. I wish I was close by to give you a hug and to have tea (or coffee) and talk about it (or not) in person. And You're still apart of the milspouse community! Once you're here, you don't get to leave...it might be a little bit like the mafia:)

ines said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ines said...

i'm so sorry this is happening to you and your family. i'm sorry. letting you know that i'm here for you...actually, i know i can speak on behalf of all the milspouses (because you will always be one no matter what), that we are here for you.

Skinnie Piggie said...

Oh lady... once a military wife, always a military wife. If people stop being your "bloggy friend" that is their complete loss, and absolutely ridiculous. I am so sorry this is happening to you all at once! I can't believe it. Maybe you can find a job that Millie can go with... I know a couple of milspouses that work for small/local baby and children boutiques and they bring their daughters to work with them! (since I know childcare is ridiculously expensive). Praying for you.

Lisa said...

Oh wow. That's so harsh, and I don't know what to say. But I agree-- once a milspouse, always a milspouse!

You guys will come through this, but I am so sorry it happened to you!

Lady Rynn said...

Honey, I'm so sorry. I know its the phrase on all our lips and it doesn't fix this new phase in your life. But as they all have pointed out we're all here for you and you will always be apart of our lives & the MilSpouse community. I'm sending a really big hug from Utah. You, Sky and Millie will be in my prayers as you make this adjustment and I will pray that job opportunities will come quickly! I'm here for you, day and night.

Paulena B. said...

I am so sorry! WOW! I had no idea that was even a possibility. Once a MIL Spouse always a MIL Spouse.

Chantal said...

I can imagine the pain you're feeling of separating from the military. I've thought about it a lot when my husband mentions getting out. It's all I've known since I was 15 years old - it's a terrifying prospect. I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts!

Beckie said...

:( I'm keeping you in my prayers. You've had it really rough lately and I think about you a lot. And no, you won't be getting kicked out of the "club." Being military spouses, past or present, means sticking together. That's why I love this community so much and I'm sure one of the reasons you do too...nobody will be going anywhere just because this happened. We have your back more than ever girly :)

Deanna said...

My heart breaks for you. I can't even fathom what a huge life crushing moment this is for you- to see all of those dreams gone. I want to say that maybe this isn't the end, but just the beginning of something amazing for you and Sky, but I don't want to sound placating- and I don't think you're ready to hear that. So I'm just going to say I'm sorry. I can't feel your depth of pain, but I see it and hurt for you. And I'm praying for that "something amazing" to find you soon.

Mrs. Muffins said...

That's so hard to read. My husband was close to being done recently and the thought of him not being a Marine anymore... me not being a Marine wife... it all was so hard. When he got out the first time, off active duty, things got really bad for us. Looking back now, I think there were a lot of things we did wrong. That's why now that I'm quitting work, I'm doing all sorts of crazy things to save money. I've been very, very poor in my life (homeless even) so it scares me anytime I feel like we're headed that direction. I wish you guys the best. You're still in the club, as far as I'm concerned! xx

annoyed army wife said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. I can feel your emotion in this post and it just tears at my heart. I wish there was something I could say that would make your hurt go away, but I know there's not. Just know we love you for who you inside, not the labels placed upon you. We aren't going to leave you because a label has changed. I'll be thinking of your family.

Steph said...

I had no idea they could just get fired for failing a PT test. You are still you regardless of what your husband does. You still are a deployment survivor and a Veteran's wife.

Alana said...

I'm sorry for what you're going through--but like everyone said, you are still the same in our eyes! I read your blog because I love your writing, your photos, just you! Not one bit of it has to do with the military. It's just a title; and you're way more than that.

I know this is a really hard time for y'all and you'll have to adjust in so many ways, but try to think of the good things about it! Sky won't be taken from you at a moment's notice; he won't be in danger, far far away. He won't miss huge chunks of Millie's life. You won't have to plan your life and future children around the Army.

I'm excited to see what the future brings for you! Yes, it's not what you envisioned, but now it can be ANYTHING you want it to be!

Fort Living Room said...

I don't have any words for you. I don't even know you. My heart goes out to you and your family.

Mrs.B said...

I'm so sorry. I wish nothing but the best for you guys and I pray that it will all work out.

Mrs. H said...

My mother-in-law always says, "there's a season for everything."
Being a military wife isn't about flashing your ID to go to the commissary or PX or even when he's in his uniform, but being willing to withstand the season of serving.

My prayers will always be with your family and seriously, if you need ANYTHING, let me know :) (Don't be shy to ask!)

Mel said...

Milspouse is just a label, certainly not a determining factor in friendship. Mend your heart, focus on your family and we'll still be here for you!

Clearbluewater3 said...

You belong. You will always belong. I love your military posts but your role as a military spouse is the least interesting thing about you. You are an amazing writing, an even better mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a wordsmith, an aspiring journalist, so many things. I love all the other things about you as much as I love the military parts of you. Which don't vanish.

Jennifer said...

You'll always be a military spouse just like your husband will always be a soldier. It's a mindset that only a small few have and you can't turn it off like a light switch. I'm sorry to hear that this was so unexpected.

Melissa Jaine said...

Sweetheart, I'm so sorry. Nothing much else to say except I am thinking of you and praying that things work out better than you and Sky could imagine. I know our 'cyber-friendship' has only just begun, but it will continue wherever you end up and whatever you do.
Lots of love to you both and Millie
Melissa
x

Ashley D. said...

Erika, I am so, so sorry! I have no words and I cannot possibly understand what you are going through, so I won't try. You are a brave soul. I know you and Sky will figure it out, but for now I will say a prayer for you and please know that I am here. Just here if you need anything.

The New "Normal" said...

You will always, ALWAYS, be part of this community. You've survive deployment and all that military life brings you so you've earned it for life. You have touched so many people with your beautiful writing and heartfelt honesty, now it is our turn to support you in this. And from the looks of the comments, you certainly don't lack for supporters! I pray for blessings upon your family and strength during this time-don't lose faith.
Many hugs and much love to you and your family...

jamila said...

you're such a strong woman, erika, and you'll get through this. no one can ever take your memories and experiences from you. it's been so inspiring reading you these past few months, and if you ever want to talk about poetry or good books or anything at all you can always send me an email or something. sending so, so, so much love your way.

Brittany Sommer said...

Oh sweety! I have been so busy I didn't even know what you were asking for so many prayers for but trust when I say, I am praying for you now <3

beka said...

i'm sorry.
a shock like that --and the loss of such a huge part of your identity-- i'm sorry you have to go through that. :\
i'll be praying for you guys! <3

Kaylee said...

Oh Ms. Erika, I feel that many people wish they could reach out and hug you through the computer screen. But for now, words will just have to do. And even then, I don't know what words to say. My feelings resonate with many of the above ladies. I'll be praying for your family, as you attempt to work through the emotions and feelings that this will bring.

Live*Laugh*Love said...

Hey I am your newest follower :) would be so happy if you could follow me back as well thanks so much, have a great day!!

Tara

TrueBeautyFromAshes said...

I am so sorry Erika.... This has to be so extremely rough. I too know how it feels to lose something my friend. :( I am praying for you and your family. Hopefully something wonderful opens up soon!

A Boring Girl said...

Being a military spouse does not define who you are. You were a great writer and blogger before you even knew who Sky was. If your followers can't see that than "f" them. But from what iv read no one cares about that at all, like me they enjoy your writing not about the occupation your husband has. You are still you, still Erika a really great writer. Definitely thinking of You, Sky, and Amelia during this tough time. I hope great huge amazing doors open for your family. Love you mucho!

vintch said...

oh bless your heart, sweet friend. i can't know what you're going through, but i can feel your pain in your writing and can tell the depths of your sadness. the sun will rise again, and you will again feel centered and defined. take this time to be sad, let the loss of the military rush over you and really take it into your bones. then, let it go and pass. like many of life's hurdles, it will. praying for you xoxo

H. said...

my heart goes out to you and your family! I am so sorry. Like many others have said, once a military wife always a military wife. my family will be praying for yours.

A Creed and A Psalm said...

like everyone has said, once in the club, always in. You and Sky will always be a part of the military!! I wonder if there is any way he could join another branch possibly? I'm not sure how all of that works, but maybe it could be done? Or maybe get a civilian position on base? I will be praying some opportunities and peace come your way (and a job that will allow Millie to be with you! Maybe work at a Child Development Center?) Thoughts and love and hugs!!!

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