This Military Monday showcases the life of a military family while their loved one was deployed over seas in Afghanistan back in 2010. If you have a story to share about Growing Up Military, let me know.
Many days, she’s come home to an empty house. Boxes line the kitchen floor. Some are stuffed with unwrapped presents, others with everyday necessities. Laundry baskets wrap around the kitchen counter – another reminder of something that must be done. Pictures with magnets glued on the back are stuck haphazardly across the fridge. Some are bent from being packed so many times, but the important ones are inside cracked, plastic casings.
She heads up to her room, not even bothering to stop to look for food. It’s just her. Her mom is out at a meeting. Her brother is at wrestling.
She drops her school bag on the cluttered floor. Her bedroom is sky blue. Only once before has she painted a bedroom.
Cardboard boxes litter her room from the last move – four years ago. There are items not discovered tucked away inside. She doesn’t bother to search for them anymore. In another couple months, she’ll be gone again.
Five things are hung in her room – each with a single nail. She was taught not to use nails. Why use them when the pictures won’t be up for that long? She doesn’t trust nails. She hasn’t for years.
She’s eighteen. She should be out living life. Instead, she works so she can have money to spend on certain things. She waits around after school to pick up her brother. Her life has become “responsibility.” She makes dinner when she knows her mom can’t. She puts her brother’s and her clothes in the wash. She carpools her brother and his friends to different activities.
She tries to be tough. She just misses her dad. She should be used to it by now. As much as she loves him, she loves her country. She knows that he is out there protecting her. She also knows that he is one out of many protecting the country’s freedom – our amendments.
It’s a lifestyle that she both loves and hates. She loves how she is able to go on base. The sense of family is extremely strong. She hates that she has to leave everything behind after three years. She hates that for as long as she can remember he’s been gone. Sure, he’ll be here on weekends, but almost always he’s working. Yet, he always finds time to do stuff with her brother and her.
It’s five. Time for her to go pick up her brother.
He walks out carrying his shoes in his hand. He feels exhausted. This year has been tough. He has had more responsibilities. Everything his dad did before, he now does. If he can show that he can handle this, it proves that he has the ability to have more similar responsibilities. It’s been difficult having to move around and make new friends.
The lifestyle he lives is harder than the “civilian life” his friends have. He’s tough – he can handle it. His favorite part about it is being able to say that his dad is in the military. He is able to go places other people can’t. He collapses in the car – waiting for the ride home.
“Half my heart is in Afghanistan,” is written on the sticker on the back of the car. Her mom can understand that now. He’s her other half. Her partner. Her best friend. She never knew what it was like to be a single parent. Now she does, and she wonders how they do it. It’s harder because her children are teenagers. Maybe it would have been easier if her children were younger. This is their first Christmas without him. He’s missed anniversaries, but never Christmas.
Her mom’s proud of what he’s given up. “That he’s made so many sacrifices and given up so much,” her mom once said. Her mom makes sacrifices, too. Every time they move, it feels like their lives start over again. It gets tiring.
Her mom would have never dreamed of going to the places that she has gone if it weren’t for the military life. Out of all of the tours that they have done, this one in Columbia is her favorite. Her mom loves how Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and all the little islands are close.
They are a close-knit family—they miss him. It’s always been the four of them. That has never changed throughout the five moves. They know that if one of them is ever in trouble, the others will stand up for him or her – be there for each other. They’ll miss him at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just not as much as he’ll miss them.