Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Killington On My Mind...

I'm not sure I even know what to say anymore. We've gone through so much, and seem to have been jinxed from the start. The boy had finally moved to the same city as me and then got deployed. Came home to propose on leave, and the ring was stuck in Chicago in a blizzard. I got it the day he left to go back to Afghanistan. He was ready to start training again and got injured. We've had an earthquake and a hurricane in one week. And the day we get his start date for training again, we get a call.

Have you seen the recent Irene coverage? Of course you have. Have you seen Killington? That aerial footage of the washed out road, where 3 lanes just fell away and now there's a 20-foot cliff instead? That's the road that leads into Killington. Into my wedding.

Killington, where I relax, where I worked two years in a ski shop, where I learned the magic of skiing on Tuesdays (the visitors are gone and the Beast of the East is mine, mine, mine), where I have a second home, and more importantly, a second family. Killington is essentially an island. Literally every road has been washed out, wiped away. They've been airlifting supplies in. 3 days later, they've managed to open one lane, in one direction, for one hour each day, so that those who are stranded can leave and those providing emergency care can enter.

We got the call today that due to the condition of roads, and all the destruction, events are the Killington Grand are canceled through September 17, no questions asked. My wedding is supposed to be the 18th. We were told that they could have the facility open. They could *probably* have staff and food. But, well, they have no idea. And they have absolutely no idea when the roads will be restored, in order to deliver the needed food, the staff, the vendors, the guests.

I'm working on plan B. And plan C. But really? Really, I'm tired. I'm tired of plan Bs and Cs and all the little things adding up, over and over, and over. I'm tired of being unemployed, panicking about every dime I spend and oops, they might all be wasted. I'm tired of being supportive, of dealing with everyone else's stress about their family that's coming, or their friends that are coming, or this that and the other thing.  And I'm tired because I don't know what happened to Vermont.  I can't even expend my energy in the only way that still seems desirable. I can't get up there to help. And oh yeah, I lost my job 3 weeks ago, so I don't even have the financial means to help.

So today, I can't lift anyone else up anymore. I can't smile and support you. I will again soon, I know it. But today, I'm gonna just lay where I fell for a little bit. You just let me lay here. Ok?  Go pick up Vermont. Because as much as this sucks, it's not about me. I don't really, truly have it that bad. So go check out the Town of Killington's website, and donate. Because they're resilient, but we could all use a hand to help us up.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Am Here...

The ladies over at Her War, Her Voice did something wonderful this week. They decided to throw back the curtains, yank the covers off, pull open the door on the issue of military spouse suicide. I've talked about it here, and lamented on twitter just how little we, as a whole, talk about this issue. There are numbers each month on veteran suicides, reports, national media attention. There's not enough, but it's a start, it's an issue. There are no numbers on spouse suicides. No reports. No discussion.

I believe spouse suicide is an issue. Every rare now and then, it registers a blip that tells the spouse community that they are not alone. One such blip happened in April. An Army wife posted her suicide note on her blog. The spouse lived and was taken for treatment. The issue was discussed here in the At War blog, . And after this blog, the issue seemed to vanish again.

After HWHV started their "Just Wait" campaign, I began thinking. Thinking about this issue as a whole. Why military spouses feel so alone so often. And I started thinking about my personal frustrations with the Army. In the simplest term, my conclusion was that we have brought the issue on ourselves by using anything we can to drive ourselves apart, instead of using everything we can to unite.

Part of this realization was born of my internal debate over which division causes my frustrations. Is it the Reserve vs. Active Duty division? The girlfriend/fiance vs. wife? The debate raged, and almost reached a conclusion until it finally dawned on me. NEITHER division should matter. When I find another spouse, it shouldn't matter the branch, the MOS, the number of deployments, the ring that is or isn't on my finger. None of it should matter.   But as a community, we give these things intense weight, whether we think we do or not. We drive each little adjective between us until we're standing across the room, arms crossed over our chests, glaring at each other, firmly thinking in our own mind that "I don't care if her husband and my fiance are both in Afghanistan, HE'S Air Force, at Kandahar, and they're married. MY fiance is Army, in Paktika and we're just engaged, SHE won't listen to ME."

And all of sudden, we are alone. Lost. With no one that we can reach out to in a time of need. Because they have judged our differences. Because I have judged our differences. Because, consciously or not, we have judged.    

I've experienced it, and I'm guilty of it. I want every wife, every fiance, every girlfriend, and every other parent, grandparent, sibling, anyone who loves a member of the military, to stand up with me and refuse to judge. Think only of what unites us, and where we can empathize.  Because, I may be just the fiancee of a Reservist, and you may be the wife of an Active Duty soldier, but in the last three years, my fiance has been deployed twice. And your husband is preparing for his first. And that doesn't make me better than you, or stronger, or anything. But I have experience that I can offer, if you can just set aside your prejudices against me for being just a fiancee, of just a Reservist.  I've felt the fear and the pain and the difficulties. And I can empathize. I can offer advice. Or I can just listen. I won't judge you Don't judge me.

That spouses are suffering shouldn't even be a question. Our lives are chaos, and often we don't know where to turn. We prepare for deployment with them. We worry while they are gone, manage the house, worry about the finances, learn to change a tire or fix a leaky sink. And we try to be the rock when they come home, shaken and changed by what they've seen and done, unsure how to relate to their wife again after a year with their fellow soldiers. We have challenges in finding jobs, moving. As Reservists/Guard members, we worry about our spouses job, because many won't keep them, or hire them to begin with, because of their military side. And often, even the military fails to help. The problems seem endless, and I know the burden of current deployment tempo builds these stresses over and over on spouses until it seems too much to bear.

I don't know if we'll ever get someone to count spouse suicides. I don't know if they'll ever report them, or include them. But I believe we can combat them. We, as significant others, can stand up and tell another significant other, "I am here. We are different, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that we are ultimately the same. And I am here for you."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Honor Them...

By now, you've heard the news out of Afghanistan. Unless you actually live under a rock, you know that a Chinook was brought down by the Taliban. That 30 Americans, 7 Afghan commandos and 1 interpreter lost their lives in the crash. And it is certain that you know 22 of the Americans were Navy SEALs, many members of the elite Team Six.

The day I found out, I didn't really have the words. I was angry, sad, sick. The largest single day loss of American lives in the entire Afghan campaign. In one incident. A very good friend of mine has a friend who could've been involved, so I was also worried and fearful. We've since learned that he is OK, but he and others we know lost very good friends in the crash.

There is nothing good about this situation. Good is simply a word that can never apply to anything about this loss. But what I am grateful for is that the magnitude means this cannot be ignored. Despite the competing news, the downgrade, the stupidity of children who pretend to work on Capitol Hill, despite all that, this is not ignored.  National news and local news alike have shown not just the initial story, but the men behind the story, and the families behind the men. Americans are having it thrust into their bubble of existence that men are giving their lives on our behalf. And that these men leave behind parents, grandparents, wives, siblings, children. That they were young, with hopes and dreams and lives ahead of them.

And yet, in these stories, I am also angry. Of course, we all know Team Six was responsible for the death of bin Laden. SEALs, and Team Six especially, have gained this almost mythical popularity and reverence. Which they deserve. But over and over the story reiterates how Team Six killed bin Laden. Though they believe none of the dead were on the mission, that accomplishment is almost always included. And I wonder. If this were simply 30 guys. 30 Marines. 30 soldiers. 30 members of the National Guard. Would it get this same attention? I hope.

Because every man and woman who willingly puts on a uniform and goes to a foreign land so you and I can live free is heroic. They will tell me not to call them heroes. Not to revere them. They are just doing their job. But in doing their job, they have done so much more than you and I. So much more than the average American. And we owe them. We owe them for leaving their families for months and months at a time. We owe them for all the risks they willingly take. We owe them for the injuries, seen and unseen. For TBI and PTSD. For the nights spent sleeping in the field, on the floor of a vehicle in the middle of the Afghan desert. We owe them because they are willing to, and all too frequently do, give their lives for us.

I want us to honor the 30 who lost their lives in the crash. To learn their names. Learn about the families they've left behind. Step up to take care of those families. But I want us to honor everyone else just like them. Like Marine Sgt Daniel Gurr, 21 years old, who gave his life on August 6 in Helmand province Afghanistan, killed by enemy fire while clearing a village. Daniel loved soccer, and his mother said he always wanted to give back ( Like Army SSG James Christen, 29, and SGT Jacob Molina, 27, who were killed in Kunar province July 19 when their vehicle was hit by an IED. Both men were married (    I want us to honor them as well. I want us to know about each and every hero. All the men and women who gave their lives in a foreign land. In a war. For us. We must honor them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Keep Calm and Indulge in Mexican Food...

At the end of this week, I will be unemployed. Having done my best to keep my place of employment anonymous, and of course, knowing that anything I blog about is my opinion alone and in no way is the opinion of my employer, I'll just give it to you simply. It's a tough economy, and layoffs were needed.

I've left a job on my own, endured 7 months of unemployment, endured endless months of worrying about losing my job (at multiple companies), and all the other things that seem to simply be 'normal' when you come of age professionally in this type of economy. It seems like no position is safe, and the worries will always chase you. They never quite caught me though.  Until now.

I wish I was a newlywed, and not a soon-to-be-married. It's scary to think about bridesmaid gifts, makeup artists, and other expenses when my income is about to vanish before my eyes. It's hard to think about journeying back into the land of job hunting. That barren, harsh desert that I only found my way out of a year and a half ago. It's strange to carry a box of my stuff home from the office, and know that it is not at all by my choosing. To stare at my desk at home and think about how I need to organize it so it can become 'hunt central'. To think about the two-bedroom apartment that we were left with, didn't really need, and now can't afford.

But it's not all bad. It never is. I will have only a two-week gap in insurance before I am married and can be added to my husband's. I am only 47 days away from what should be the happiest day of my life (assuming I don't kick either mother first). I get to spend time at home with the cats. Right? We may not be married yet, but at least, this time, I have someone at home to support me, to help me financially, to maybe even give me the occasional footrub...    And hey, losing weight for the wedding will be NO problem now!

But I have the guilt. The guilt that he has to support me. The guilt and self-loathing that comes with unexpected unemployment, even if it's irrational because it's not your fault. That feeling of failure.

So, I embrace the guilt! Diet be damned! I'm enjoying the $10 birthday reward from Don Pablo's! Chips and salsa, tacos and margaritas can cure almost anything! And I remind myself that God has a plan, a bigger picture, and I have a good and prosperous place in that picture. After all, He told me I do! And these times of trial teach us to trust Him more.

So, come September, when they talk about August's unemployment rate and new unemployment claims, think of me. I'll be a statistic. But don't worry too much, I'll be a statistic who also has time for wedding planning, time to exercise and lost weight, has made a very clean house, and yes, is indulging in the occasional Mexican food.