The Shield

Apparently, I do my job too well.

As a spouse getting ready to see her husband off on a year-long deployment and getting ready to guide her family through whatever the upcoming year may hold, I saw it as my job to be a shield.

I shielded my children from a large portion of what their daddy was doing and the dangers that he faced (they were 2 and 5 for the bulk of this last deployment). I shielded my husband from the majority of the pain we felt when it came time to say goodbye because I knew that he would much rather stay with us and exposing him to all of our pain would only compound his. I shielded him from a large majority of the mundane, irritating crap that went on while he was gone…at least until the storm had blown over and I was able to give him a calm, unemotional, censored recap of the events. I shielded myself from the reality of what saying goodbye could mean.

We made it through the deployment and he’s been home now for about 7 months. He was getting ready to head out on another TDY trip recently and we were getting ready to take him to the airport. I explained to him that, no, we would not be going into the airport to see him off and he gave me the “sad face”.

Why not?”, he asks.

Do you not remember the LAST time we had to say goodbye to you? I would much rather not have a repeat performance, thankyouverymuch.”, I replied.

He looked at me, blankly. He had no clue.


Rewind 24 months. The scene is set in one of the hangars on post – the “Wind Tunnel” as it is affectionately known. The cast includes about 200 soldiers and their families, including ours. All are in various states of melancholy or denial, depending on your poison. It is down to minutes now before they are due to assemble their rucksacks and get information for one last brief briefing (how’s that for redundant?) before they leave us.

Our car is parked on the west end of the “Wind Tunnel”. (remember this – it’s important later) WE are standing about as far to the east in the “Wind Tunnel” as humanly possible. (remember this too) Odd how it works out like that. It comes time for us to say our goodbyes and the reality of what this goodbye means comes crashing down on my sweet (almost) 5 year old daughter. She is truly a “daddy’s girl” and the thought of having to say goodbye to him for a YEAR is heartbreaking to her. And she clings to him like a cat stuck in a tree.

There are tears – lots of tears. And then, pragmatic thing that I am, I decide it is time for us to leave. We’ve drawn this out as far as it needs to be (and probably beyond) and now it is time to go. We’re done. Stick a fork in us and call us dinner. We’re done.

I literally peel my child off of her father, throw her over my shoulder (ala “fireman’s carry”), take the boy in the other hand and start walking toward the car. Remember how I told you earlier that WE were on the east side and the car is on the west side? Yeah. The “Wind Tunnel” is not short, nor is it empty. I have to schlep my now-howling almost 5-year old daughter who is slung over my shoulder like a 50-pound sack of dog food across this football field sized hangar that is FULL of other families saying goodbye and trying desperately to hang on to some semblance of self-control.

It. Was. Awful.

As we walked, it was like a wave of sorrow rippled across the hangar. People who had been managing to hold back their tears lost the battle as this little red-headed girl with VERY large lungs howled, “IWANTMYDADDYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!” all the way across that damn hangar. It was pitiful. By the time I got to the car, we were both covered in tears, snot, and sweat. It was ugly.

My husband never realized how awful it was. After I peeled her off of him, he did not realize or hear what was going on as we left the building. He had no clue until I told him this just the other day.

I was blown away.

I guess I did my job well.


Anonymous said...

About 1/2 way through your post, I knew where you were going and by the time you got to your car, I was covered with tears. Thank goodness for Zyrtec or I'd probably be covered in snot too.

Barb said...

And while it's better that he didn't have to deal with it then, it's good to fess it up now. You are one strong lady, and I am in awe :-)

DL Sly said...

I feel your pain in more ways than I care to relate -- or relive.


Homefront Six said...

It's funny, now. At the time it wasn't but now that I look back on it, it's almost comical.

And the fact that MacGyver really did not realize the trauma that was involved was mind-boggling. Though it does explain why he insisted we go with him into the airport to see him off after R&R.

I thought he was just a sadist.

BillT said...

I thought he was just a sadist.

Nope, all of us guys get clueless at the airfield. It's a defense mechanism that allows *us* to get on the plane without crying...

Good job, ShieldWoman!

Jen said...

And THAT is why it is "The Rule" that only Mom and Dad go to the drop off point/airport/wherever. He says good bye to the kids at home, and I take him. I don't sit around waiting with him, I merely drop him off, give him a hug and say, "See ya soon."

And THEN I go find an empty place to park, fall apart, mop up and go home to the kids.

He still has no idea. We DO do our jobs well!

Frankly Opinionated said...

Pau, you have such a knack for taking something sad and injecting humor into it. "Tears, sweat and snot". That is toooooo goooood. Ol' Dude here loves you mil family sorts. You deal with more stress, bull and criticism in a day than suburbia housewives do in a year. When I visit the local Ranger school here, I gravitate towards the husband and wife sorts, more than the single guys. God Bless America and God Bless You!
nuf sed

liberal army wife said...

My DH didn't realize that I fell apart after leaving him at the deployment camp (he was NG) until I blogged about it. He told me later that I didn't seem terribly upset when I drove off to go to the airport... It surprised him to read how I got there...

I remember seeing the children desperately clinging to their deploying parent.. and my heart just breaking for them and their remaining parent.

congratulations on the "cover up".


ParatroopRN said...

I was Airborne, part of the Rapid Deployment Force, and a Drill Sergeant. I saw so many goodbyes (I was single until drill sergeant academy,) that I knew what was going on even if the men didn't. (I'm old Army, women didn't deploy with my MOS's.) I am proud of you and all those who shield our men and women who must at times leave their families to do violence or simply show the flag for the US of A. You are always in my prayers, along with today's warriors.

Enjoy your summer! You are always welcome in our home if you pass through Halifax County, Virginia.

Alan Briley, RN

Balancing Act said...

I have to say that being a part of the military by means of employment or marriage takes incredible courage. To fight for our freedom and those left behind to "shield" us (as well as their own children) is something I can't even begin to imagine. I currently have a co-worker who is on leave to do his second tour of duty. He has two small boys as do I and I can't even begin to imagine having to say good-bye for any length of time. Concept of time is hard for young ones.

WING WIFE said...

Love your writing--and the idea of "The Shield". I remember that shield. Mine protected him from distractions when my guy was off and flying. Didn't want to mess with the steely eyed cool.

I always wondered why the gremlins of household life operated freely when he was not there--broken car, punctured artery, broken arms, water heater/dishwasher/refrigerator break downs or explosions all when Handy Andy wasn't at hand.


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