Okay, I have been a big procrastinator --- I meant to get this entry done a couple of weeks ago - and I didn't do it. This story is going to take a little while to tell, so that is partially why I have waited so long.
First, let me give you some background -- Al is National Guard -- as such, I knew absolutely NOTHING about the military. You see, when you are dating or married to someone in the National Guard - the 'Army' is this cute little thing that your soldier does once a month. In your mind you consider it sweet that they go 'out in the field' and you picture small groups of soldiers huddled around the camp fire roasting marshmallows and basically playing "Boy Scouts" - except they are grown adult men.
Yeah, they have to go away for two weeks every year and that kind of sucks a little bit - but, they seem to enjoy their contribution to the military - so, you play along. Well, when Al got put on alert last Spring - I kind of started to realize that this National Guard thing might be a little more serious. But, Al reassured me - he said (in his sweet Southern voice) - "Baby, a lot of people get alerted and never have to go". So, things went along fine and dandy - and then he went to his Guard weekend in July. BAM! He definitely got deployed - for AUGUST. FOR 545 DAYS.
So, I went from knowing absolutely NOTHING about the Army except that I thought Al looked cute in his uniform - to being engaged to a FULL TIME Army nurse. Add on to that that I live a state away from his home unit - and that, at the time, I knew nobody in Birmingham who was also in the military.
I searched and searched on the Internet for support - finding a little bit of information. I also ordered a couple of books - yes, they have books for that kind of thing - "Married to the Military", etc. Finally, in October - by this time, already two months into full time Army life, I stumbled across www.armywives.com. And I found all the support that I had so desperately needed and had been looking for.
Over the past several months, the wonderful ladies on that board have been gracious - and they have taught me so much. Most importantly, I have made some "true" friends. I have learned that Army wives (and girlfriends and fiancee's [like me]) are the most dedicated, honorable, fun loving, friendly women on the planet. Through that board, I met "Katie" -- and of course, through Katie, I met her boyfriend "Billy".
This winter was really rough on me. Since I am brand new to all this Army stuff, I am brand new to all this deployment stuff - and Katie was one of the awesome ladies that kept me sane when Al finally left for the Sand in January. Katie has a great sense of humor - I would love to tell you some of the stuff that we have laughed and joked about together, but I would run out of room. Suffice it to say, she knows that laughter is the best medicine for a broken heart.
Well, last month, her boyfriend Billy FINALLY came home!!
Here is a picture of them when they were reunited:
When I first found out that Billy was finally home, I knew that I wanted to tell their story on this blog. You see Billy and Katie are a success story. I know that a lot of people don't realize it - but being deployed is HARD and returning from a deployment is HARD. A lot of military relationships don't last. A lot of times when their soldier is gone halfway around the world - the person left behind can't take the stress and strain of being by themselves. Or when the soldier returns, transitioning back to civilian life puts too much pressure on their relationship. The reason that I want to tell their story is that Katie and Billy MADE IT. Knowing them, knowing what they went through - knowing what cool people they are - makes me know that Al and I can make it too.
Iron sharpens iron -- and Katie and Billy have been my iron - they have taught me about sacrifice - and about love. While Billy was gone - not a second went by that Katie didn't stand by him 100% - and when I told her that I wanted to tell their story -this is what Katie had to say:
"About us.... We met through mutual friends (who swore we had met years before because we've always all hung out for the 3.5 years I'd been in college) on Dec. 6, 2003. We hung out everyday until I left to go home from Christmas, he was deployed on Dec. 18th. I was shocked, we had just met but I was ALL about him, I was skeptical that he'd be as into me as I was into him and I was SO disappointed that I had finally met this WONDERFUL man who was PERFECT for me and he had to leave! We spent Christmas and New Years together and then he went to NY for his MOB. I visited him and met his family over V-day when we all went up to NY and then on Feb. 17, 2004 he was gone. He was stationed about two hours south of Baghdad, he ran convoys and was the gunner. No one in his unit was killed, several people received purple hearts though!
Let's see... what else would you like to know? I knew before he left that I wanted to be the one who was there for him through all this, whether it turned out that we were just friends at the end or not, I knew that I would have wanted him to stand by me so I decided I'd stand by him and see what happened. I fell in love with him while he was gone, I mean I really liked him before he left but we didn't know each other well enough to be in love. By the time he got leave in July I was DYING to tell him how I felt but it just didn't seem right to say it over the phone. So we've been together about 15 months now, he has to finish school (he'll graduate in December) and then hopefully we can live in the same city again. Right now I'm in OH in law school and we went to college in WV. We will get to live together this summer though which I'm really looking forward to. Our birthday is two weeks from yesterday! We didn't get to celebrate together last year (that was the first time he called me from over there and I bawled my eyes out) so we are very very excited for this year!! Can you tell I like to talk about us!? I'm sure thats way more than what you were looking for! Have fun blogging, let me know how it turns out!!"
You see, everything in life is a gamble. You have to love and you have to hope - and you have to believe in the moment. You have to toss your hopes and dreams up to God and trust Him to take care of them. Thank you to Katie and Billy for helping me see a real life example of things working out.
Welcome Home Billy. Sorry it's a month late - but I really appreciate your sacrifice. Katie, thank you for being my friend and for your sacrifice also - you and Billy remain in my prayers!!