Wednesday blows. Monday, for all its problems, at least offers the prospect of a fresh start; and Friday we love, of course. But Wednesday? Vile. Squatting between what you hoped to have accomplished by now and what you might eke out if you haul ass for the rest of the week, Wednesday points to where you come up short. It’s a captious narc of a day. Wednesday, you suck.
A brisk walk might help morale. Very brisk. It’s 18 degrees on West Point. Ah, morale. A critical element in the military. They say it’s high—we’ve almost captured another card in the terror deck! They say it’s slipping—as the war drags on, emotions are strained. Which to believe?
Both, I guess, but today I’m concerned about the slipping.
I wander the academy graveyard in the cold. There are big monuments, crazy, attention-grabbing crypts. But I’m most drawn to the modest, standard-issue white headstones. In rows, they’ve got a curiously dental look. In some places, they curve like a crooked smile of pride. In others, they suggest the straight-lined maw of the machine, gulping down lives.
It’s been reported that at least a dozen troops have committed suicide since the war on terror began. It’s been reported that that’s a conservative number.
No one has reported corresponding numbers for the people left at home.
Dealing with deployment is some funky shit. I was surprised by its strange emotional wallop. The dread loneliness mixed with aversion to people; the frantic need for ritual to stabilize your life, as if you could right yourself from the outside in. The constant, high-pitched generator hum in your brain that gets louder when you watch CNN, see yet another country music video with troops in it, or drive past a funeral procession.
And, somewhere, buried way down deep, deeper than it dwells in peacetime, that nagging voice: What If? What, what if, what if.
When I was home alone, I surfed the Web for support, but the type offered online was strictly of the Shlock and Awww variety. Cringe-inducing stories. Saccharine songs. If I was really down, I could order a Beanie Baby bear made just for the military wife. (“Oft left behind. … NEVER forgotten.”)
Let me tell you something. When my husband was gone, I didn’t need a Military Wife teddy bear; I needed a Military Wife shot glass.
If not for some fortuitous timing, my husband would still be in Baghdad. (That his former unit still is and he isn’t creates considerable officer’s guilt.) Because of the guilt, it’s not an ideal scenario, but I’ll take what I can get.
I pray every day for the people in this war (on both sides). Not just for the troops and their loved ones who are suffering the basic deployment bummer, but for those who, despite their best effort, are losing their grip. Those for whom the Army’s cry to “man up” isn’t quite taking.
More than a dozen suicides …
My husband’s deployment wasn’t too, too hard on me, but due to other, unrelated circumstances in my past, I know what it’s like to believe life is not worth it anymore, that packing it in is the best possible option. (If it helps my credibility, I know how it feels to put your head in an oven. That metal rack is surprisingly cold.) But I also know that the black dread passes, impossible though it may seem when it’s on you.
I don’t care which side of the deployment equation you’re on—the one on the ground or the one left behind. I don’t care if you’re enlisted or commissioned, a Coastie or a Guardsman, a man, a woman, or if you see yourself as a sorry excuse for one or the other. I only care that if you need it, this message gets to you.
Maybe it will reach you through your girl, who knows that you’re not OK but you’re too committed to cop to it. Maybe it will come via a friend. It might reach your inbox later today, and it might get printed out and delivered to the APO in a month. But whenever and however is alright with me. I believe in the power of this technology to transmit hope as much as I believe in the power of prayer to imbue its strength. And I believe in my heart that you will be OK.
Just hang on. Hang on. It will be Friday soon enough.