I have to leave again: a family perspective on military sacrifice
Ten years ago, my husband Christopher surprised me when he said he’d like to join the Army Reserve. His father and grandfather had been in the military, and he wanted to carry on the tradition. It didn’t seem like a big deal—what was one weekend a month, right? But as the military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan increased, reservists were tapped more and more for deployments. Christopher left for Afghanistan in 2008 and had only been back for a year when we learned he was leaving again for another, more dangerous mission. I couldn’t believe it. This time I was 35 weeks pregnant with our first child; I was a waddling, sleepless mess, and now I had to face the realization that I would be on my own with a newborn.
Inspired? Create and share by tagging @hallmarkstores.
When my husband left for training, our child, William, was only four weeks old. Christopher came home whenever he could, trying to bond with our baby as much as possible before his next deployment. When Christopher left for Kandahar, I knew that in some ways I was lucky. William was nine months old, so I didn’t have to deal with the questions and tears that parents of older children do. And while it was rough working full time and being a first-time parent, I found that I was far from alone. Family, friends and coworkers invited us out, came over to play (sometimes with a pizza and six-pack in hand) and offered to babysit so I could have a couple of hours to myself. I’m infinitely grateful for those people and the glimmers of much-needed sanity they provided. But seeing, every day, what Christopher was missing was always difficult: first words, first foods, first steps—all the big milestones and tiny, funny, everyday moments that make being a parent so amazing. I wrote long emails, trying to describe a silly giggle or a new discovery, but you can’t really put things like that into words. Today, I’m grateful that I have those memories. But I won’t lie: Even now it’s hard knowing my husband missed this phase of our son’s life.
Sometimes on the news, you see touching military reunions with hugs and tears and flags flying—that reunion is a wonderful moment. But most people don’t realize that it’s only half the story. Nine months after he left, Christopher returned home. The first few months were in some ways harder on our family than his deployment. William, at 18 months old, was terrified of the “stranger” in our house. And Christopher, who was dealing with his own post-deployment issues, didn’t know how to connect with an energetic, babbling toddler. Plus, we had to figure out how our marriage worked within this new dynamic. (Divorce rates in the military have skyrocketed since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.)
I’m thankful to say that our story has a happy ending. With patience and love from all of us, we put our family back together. Christopher and William (who’s three now) are best pals, always eager to wrestle or play catch. When Christopher is in uniform, strangers often come up to shake his hand and express their appreciation for his service. And that is always welcome. He faced dangers that most of us will never experience, and he deserves every ounce of their gratitude. But here’s a tip: When you thank a member of the military, try also to thank the family. Trust me, they’ve been through a lot, and they’ll appreciate your acknowledgement of what they, too, have given up for their country.
You may also likeSee more
Birthday What to write in a birthday card
Some people have no problem coming up with what to write in a birthday card. Just hand them a pen and they’ll effortl...
Congratulations Rewards for Kids: 10 Parents Share Their Tips for Celebrating Achievements
One of the most important tools parents have to shape their kids’ behavior is the power of positive feedback. But as ...
Congratulations How to Say Congratulations (Even When You'd Really Rather Not)
Congratulating others is easy and fun, right? Like when your friend worked really hard and got that awesome job ma...
New Year's New Year's Resolution Ideas for Groups
New Year’s resolutions are pretty lonely deals. It’s just you and that thing you have to live up to. Ack! No wonde...
Christmas Baby’s First Christmas Ideas
Baby's first Christmas means more fun, more cuteness, more joy...and definitely more wonder as you see the holiday se...
Mother's Day What to write in a Mother's Day card
Chances are you know at least a few moms who deserve a shout-out on Mother’s Day. If you’d like some creative ideas f...
Thank You What to write in a thank-you card
Express your gratitude with these thank you messages and ideas from Hallmark card writers.
Mother's Day How to Write an Appreciation Letter for Mom
No one has loved you (or put up with you) like Mom has. Or let’s say it wasn’t “Mom”—maybe it’s been a stepmom, grand...
Valentine's Day What to Write in a Valentine's Day Card
Hallmark writers offer up inspiration to help you find just the right loving words to add when you sign a valentine.
Christmas Christmas Wishes: What to Write in a Christmas Card
Get sample messages, tips and watch our new video guide to write the perfect Christmas card.
Anniversary What to Write in an Anniversary Card
Here’s to lasting love! From still-newlyweds toasting with wine glasses they opened on their weddin...
Lifestyle How to journal: 5 reasons, 3 ways, and 9+ styles
Start journaling today with our easy guide on how and why to journal
Card Ideas Envelope Addressing Etiquette for Weddings and Formal Occasions
When you address wedding invitations or another piece of formal correspondence, traditional etiquet...
Family How to Support Foster Families
It’s so exciting when someone you know welcomes a child into their lives, whether by birth, adoption, or fostering...
Faith How to Start a Prayer Chain
Praying is one of the most ancient of human practices, and to this day, billions of people still believe in its po...
Encouragement Comforting Words: What to Say and Do in Tough Times
When someone we know suffers a loss or is going through a difficult situation, we’re often not sure what to say. S...
Kwanzaa Kwanzaa Wishes: Connect with a Kwanzaa Card
Kwanzaa, a festival of lights rich in African symbolism, takes place each year from December 26th through January ...
Hanukkah Hanukkah Wishes: What to Write in a Hanukkah Card
Hanukkah is a lighthearted festival filled with rich traditions, many of which include food, fun, family and frien...
Kids Share the Love: Teaching Kids about Kindness
As parents, we want our children to understand concepts like empathy and kindness. We want to
Care & Concern To Care is Human: Why and How to Show You Care
What motivates any one of us to care about others? And of all the ways there are to care for people, why do we choose...