Aug 10, 2009

A slice of life from an Army wife

I am reproducing this in it's entirety, and hoping that is not a problem. It is written by Georgie Hanlin, who's husband is deployed in Afghanistan for the sixth time.

Six times. I can't imagine the strength she has, or the commitment he has. Thank you both, and come home soon.

When my husband left home (and his baby boy) for his sixth deployment, goodbye took on a different meaning.
By Georgie Hanlin
from the August 4, 2009 edition

San Francisco - I recently found myself in a conversation with someone at a cocktail party in San Francisco. The topic of my husband came up when the person to whom I was speaking asked where he was that evening. "Well," I began, as I figured she expected me to say he's just running late, "He's in Afghanistan."

She raised both eyebrows. "Where?" "He's in the Army, deployed for a year to Afghanistan." As we bantered back and forth about my husband, his deployment, and the war, this person asked a reasonable question, one that I'm asked all the time: "How often do you get to talk to him?" "It depends, he calls or e-mails when he can, usually every few days," I replied. "Oh, well then, that's not too bad. At least you're able to talk to him." I smiled and nodded. "Yeah, it's not too bad," I replied.

I wondered if it would still be "not too bad" if it were her husband, not mine? He's not, after all, on the Riviera, he's in combat.

One might think I'd be used to deployments. My husband is recently into his sixth. I consider myself to be pretty tough: I am, after all, an Army wife during a time of war. My husband's deployment is a reality I've had to accept. It doesn't come without heartache and worry, and it is ridden with patience and hope.

I think of the courage it takes for the members of our military to leave their families, deployment after deployment, year after year, well aware of the possibility that they might not return; that is extraordinary. The majority of people I come across who learn that my husband is deployed innocently proclaim, "I don't know how you do it. I could never be that strong."

I have to be strong. But my strength is nothing compared to that of my husband. After all, he's the one who has missed his son's first birthday, first steps, and first words, not to mention countless other holidays and celebrations. He doesn't get weekends off and he never complains – at least out loud.

The day before my husband left to join his unit at Ft. Lewis, from where he would soon deploy, he asked me to film him with our baby boy. "Let's get me reading to him," he suggested, trading me the camera for the baby. I aimed the video camera at them and as my husband adjusted the scene in a manner so precise, I caught a glimpse of what he must be like at work. I watched through the lens as our son smiled at the book, content on his dad's lap, not at all aware of everything the camera was capturing. "I want him to know my voice," my husband explained, "Just in case."

At the end of that day, I had scenes of my husband detailing how dump trucks work, diagramming how to build towers with LEGOs, and clips of him wishing our child a good morning, good afternoon, and good night. The sense of urgency my husband displayed around obtaining enough footage of himself with and for the baby was as heartwarming as it was heartbreaking. His departure for this deployment was indeed different than his previous ones. As a new parent, goodbye takes on a different meaning.

When I say the word "dad" to our son, his face lights up and he waddles over to the video camera. I then turn the camera on and let him watch the various scenes that his dad recorded for him. He subsequently claps and tries to grab the screen; he knows his dad. I try not to think about the what-ifs. In life, there are always what-ifs. However, when your spouse goes off to war, the what-ifs seem a bit more tangible.

At the end of each day, I appreciate the people who show their support to the military. I also appreciate people's questions because questions show curiosity about the reality of the state of our country – a country at war.

It is OK when people don't say the "right thing" to me. I've grown to accept the quirkier remarks; they're usually from people who cannot begin to identify with what my reality happens to be. I am looking forward to the day when our final troops return home once and for all.

It will undoubtedly be nice to have my son see his dad in person and not just on the video camera; to have my husband by my side at future cocktail parties; to have our country at peace, and our troops, safely home.

Georgie Hanlin is an elementary school teacher in San Francisco. Her husband is with the 2nd Infantry Division's Stryker Brigade.

Thanks to Pixie who first alerted me to this.


  1. I loved this!!! It pisses me off when people bitch about the military. If it wasn't for the people who serve (past, present and future) your opinions might get you killed. Be thankful they're willing to risk their lives because the ones who bitch sure in hell don't want to do it.

  2. What a strong wonderful woman she is. God bless her and him and all of our military throughout the world. They all have my utmost respect and support. Thank you for posting this.

  3. Anonymous5:04 PM

    Thanks for sharing that.

  4. I'd be one of the people who said quirky things because I truly have NO IDEA how hard it is for her, her son, her husband.

    Georgie, I;m not a religious person but I will be thinking positive thoughts for you, yours, and others in your situation. Thank you for sharing your story (through SkyDad).

  5. I'd be one of the people who said quirky things because I truly have NO IDEA how hard it is for her, her son, her husband.

    Georgie, I'm not a religious person but I will be thinking positive thoughts for you, yours, and others in your situation. Thank you for sharing your story (through SkyDad).

  6. thanks chris .. try now

  7. My best friend's oldest son was in Iraq twice. It's scary. I think we all know someone who's over there. D*mn politicians!

  8. One of my best friends joined the military and was shipped off to Afganistan too. She's a single mother. She left her five year old son with her parents and went off to war, missing her only child's first year in school and everything. It simultaneously broke my heart and scared the crap out of me. The what-if's were terrifying.

    Fortunately, she returned home safe. She was shipped out a couple more times and is now out of the military and back home with her son who is 11. And I couldn't ask for more than that. Not at all. :-)

  9. This post gave me chills, Chris. I just cannot imagine how she lives with the lack of knowing, etc.

    Thanks for posting it.

  10. Bless him. I hope this is his last tour-- he's more than done his part.

    One of the things that most infuriated me about the Iraq war was that it pulled soldiers and resources away from Afghanistan, where we needed to be defeating the Taliban, a real threat to our security. We might be done there had it not been for the unnecessary Iraqi invasion.

  11. I'm always afraid I'm going to say something insensitive to people who are in situations I can't fathom. Thanks to Georgie for being understanding about people who can't contemplatea her reality, and how much strength it really takes. Amazing.

  12. This made me a bit misty-eyed because I can totally relate to her situation. I've been through 4 deployments with The Corporal (Somalia, Bosnia, East Timor, and Afghanistan) and that was more than enough for me. The sad part is that he does it all for us, and very few people seem to give a shit.

    Thanks for posting this.