By Jade Stone
I am so happy for warmer weather! Warmer weather means spring, and spring means the return of the show Army Wives on Sunday nights! I have been a faithful viewer since season one.
Jay was about half-way through his first deployment when I heard about a TV series that chronicled the lives of five very different army spouses. I would say wives except, one of them is a husband! I had been stranded in the civilian world with no one to talk to about this deployment and how much I missed him because so many people didn’t really understand where I was coming from.
I didn’t do myself any favors by not reaching out to others about it. I’m sure, though I was new to the area at the time, there were plenty of nice people around who would have been more than happy to listen, but it just wasn’t the same. I can honestly say, in my own humble opinion, the worst part about the National Guard is that you are very much stranded when your spouse’s unit is activated, unlike living on post where you are surrounded with neighbors and co-workers in the same spot. Everyone knows where you are coming from on post because they are right there with you.
When this show came out it was like therapy for me! I know, strange but oh so true. For one hour a week, everything stopped so I could relish the moment with the people I could identify with most at the time, right in my own living room. And to you naysayers who say “that stuff isn’t real”, whilst I do understand the content might be sensationalized a bit for the sake of having a show, the reality is, when you are a military spouse, your life is about supporting him or her, and that keeping up appearances amongst the “like ranked” is very real.
I would also like to point out that the situations addressed by the series are also very real. It has covered everything from base housing, neighbors, and medical services to promotions, deployments, births and deaths. I can see how some of this may seem like things that everyone experiences however, on a military base, I can assure you they all take on new meaning.
For example, where you live is greatly determined by your rank as is where people socialize. Births in families can happen with all family members present, or with the spouse deployed-sometimes even when the mom will deploy in a matter of months. Imagine ladies, leaving your newborn behind for 18 months. Heartbreaking as it is, it does happen.
The death of a soldier is tragic but more tragic yet is the fact that his or her family will lose their housing on post in 6 months, whether they have a place to go or not. Everything from the height of your grass to what you do and where you park your car is regulated.
Now that I’ve vouched for the validity of the program, I have to say the previews for this next one remind me all too well of a scare I had when Jason was deployed. It’s that scene that no military family member ever wants to think about, much less live out: two soldiers in dress blues (blue dress suits with medals) arriving at someone’s home in a black SUV, presumed to be delivering the news of a death to one of the wives but we don’t know which one.
The mere thought, no matter how fictional the show, makes me cringe. I will never forget the time while Jay was deployed that CNN reported a helicopter in Jay’s unit had gone down during a mission. I knew he was supposed to be on a mission that day and he didn’t call that night as expected. The next day, I still had not heard from him and had no idea whether he was dead or alive.
In situations like this, your imagination is not your friend. Two days passed without a single peep from him. On day three, I received a phone call from the FRG (family readiness group) leader telling me to stay calm and that someone would be in touch with me about this situation within the next 24 hours and then she hung up. At that point, my imagination went into overdrive.
As you can imagine, I feared the worst. Because the trademark “death notice” is typically delivered by soldiers in dress blues and dark vehicles I had even decided that, though I would vigilantly watch the front door and my classroom door for the men in dress blues in a black SUV, there was no way I could actually answer it.
I guess somehow I had reasoned that if I didn’t answer it then it wouldn’t be real. At 3 pm the following day, my cell phone rang. I was in class and the students knew what was going on intuitively somehow because they became silent. I’m sure my colorless face may have had something to do with it.
I stepped outside to answer the phone, hands shaking and knees weak as a lump formed in my throat. I had waited for 4 days for this news and yet I couldn’t bear to listen. Somehow I managed to croak “hello”. It was my FRG leader again. She said, “Jade, I just wanted to let you know that they found Jay…” <pause-okay, I just knew she was talking about his body and as soon as I went to ask where…> “He’s ok”. My soul jumped for joy! “Thank you Thank you Thank you,” I exclaimed.
But my celebration was cut short when she curtly cut me off to say “my best friend’s husband was killed”. Ugh, I have never experienced two emotional extremes within such a short period of time in my life. I meekly apologized, thanked her again for the call and then she hung up. One second I am ecstatic that my missing husband is alive and well only to hear that it was someone else’s that didn’t make it. That’s a strange emotion to experience: guilt-laden relief. Needless to say, my guilt was consumed by my own selfish happiness and relief. We lived to fight another day so to speak.
With any luck, this next deployment won’t deliver such a fright but only time will tell. In the meantime, we will just have to see how things play out in Ft. Marshall and its “Army Wives” this Sunday! Stay tuned!
Jade welcomes your comments here as well as any suggestions you may have for her future posts. You may also e-mail her at email@example.com. To read previous Military Mama posts, CLICK HERE.