Military and Veteran Life

Weary (honest thoughts about ETSing)

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This morning I stood in my backyard with bags of army gear scattered around my dirty bare feet. It was only around 80 degrees but the high humidity made me sweat regardless. This was the second time in less than 24 hours that I had found myself in this exact spot, digging through military gear, trying to decipher the difference between “cold, wet weather” and “extreme cold, wet weather” on ACU patterned tops and bottoms.

Our ETS date (the date my husband is no longer employed by the US Army) draws closer each passing day. It’s less than a year away now. And with each day that passes I find my heart becoming more ready. A few months ago I was overcome with sadness every time I thought about leaving this community. But now I’m eager to move on.

I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the Army. Less than six months after his return home from a war zone he is tasked to work a separate temporary work detail for the summer months which gives him a daily 12-hour shift. He gets Saturdays and Sundays off, but no training holidays or the generous three and four-day DONSAs (Day of Non-Scheduled Activity) that other soldiers get so frequently. But he is still attached to his company and has to participate in their activities, which this week means a 12-mile road march.

He will get off of work at 1800, make it home sometime in the next hour. Try to sleep for a few hours, and then he has to be back on post for the march which starts at 0200. After the march he has to attend a safety briefing at 0700, (a briefing to kick of a DONSA which he isn’t even getting). And then he has to be back to start his shift at 1000. So basically he will be working two full work days back to back, with only a few hours of sleep and a 12-mile road march in between.** Neither of us is happy about it.

Earlier in my husband’s military career I wouldn’t have been upset. Yeah, it’s not fun, but this is the soldier’s life! I was excited to help get his gear together and to “soldier on” with him. But after five years of doing this stuff, we are just weary. Weary of the Army making decisions that make little sense to us. Weary of long work hours. Weary of pulling gear out of bags and sorting through stuff that has never been worn to find the 30% of stuff that he actually uses for this job.

Don’t get me wrong, I still felt a huge sense of pride when I reassembled that Army helmet (screws and all) all by myself, and could tell him that after 5 years I finally learned what an IFAK was (thank you Google!) He was so relieved to come home to find all the gear on the kitchen table ready to be packed so that he wasn’t the one sorting through the bags when he needed to be resting. But boy will I sure be glad when I no longer have four big green bags of “useless” gear sitting in my storage closet and another huge pile in my guest room. Green and tan is nice and romantic at first but after a while it just gets old.

I was hesitant to write this at all. Because military wives are proud to serve, proud to sacrifice. I feel guilty for being ready to leave it. I wanted this life…I prayed for this life. It was a dream come true. But now I’m ready for it to be over. As a family we have decided that we have given enough, that we cannot continue to make these sacrifices for another ten years. And sometimes that makes me feel horrible. I personally know women whose husband’s have lost their lives. They don’t have a choice. I feel like I’m somehow disrespecting these people, or disrespecting the families who have chosen to go on continually sacrifice through an entire military career. Sometimes I feel like we as a family are weak or selfish because we simply don’t want to do it anymore.

But I’ve heard it said that sometimes God makes us discontent to prepare us to be able to accept the change ahead. We can’t look forward to change in the future if we are comfortable and happy where we are. And as hard as it is to deal with these conflicting emotions, I have faith that that’s what’s happening here. Maybe things are hard right now so that when the time comes for us to leave this life behind, we will have no doubts that we are headed in the right direction, and that reassurance will be the fuel that gets us through the difficult times to come in the civilian world.

So for now, today I’m still wearing my “Proud Army Wife” tshirt, even though today is a day that I feel more weary than proud, more “hurry up and get this over with” than “Hooah!”

**Just as an update…my husband was able to come home from his ruck march being told he didn’t have to be into work until 1300. Then when he got to work they told him to go home for the rest of the day. It was a little frustrating for me to have to rearrange my schedule (as I had made a lot of plans for the day!) but we ended up having a very sweet rainy day together as a family cuddling and watching TV. It was definitely a blessing and a much-needed break.**

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