For today, my husband retired after 31 years of service to the military.
I remember when we first started dating.
Ironically, we were trying to set up a lunch date and I remember him saying, "it had better be quick because I leave for a deployment to Germany in two weeks."
So, with unaccomodating schedules, we turned lunch into happy hour and the two weeks turned into four months. (That should have been my first clue about the military....)
The first time his military and civilian life with me collided was eating at Applebee's one night. Another man approached him and called him, "Sir." (Multiple times. In fact, I believe it was every third word. If you're associated with anyone in the military, you know what I mean....) I giggled and said, "But, it's just you..." (I don't think he was particularly happy with me.)
By the time he left for Germany, we had built a pretty solid relationship, but I still didn't think much about being an officer's wife. After all, I was pretty much a pacifist and his military career seemed more like play than anything else.
|Just prior to Germany deployment|
In fact, he and his friends referred to the Germany deployment as being in Disneyland! He lived above a German restaurant where they treated him quite well...so well, that he came home 30 pounds heavier.
His Germany deployment led to my first two trips to Europe so I could visit him. And, I was actually more comfortable in Heidelberg than on post because all these uniformed people used American money in a foreign country and talked a language I didn't understand. At least I had taken German in high school; there really isn't a military language education unless you're part of it.
And, that was the second time I remember civilian and military life colliding when we were walking down the streets of Heidelberg, holding hands and he told me he was breaking the rules because he shouldn't be holding hands in uniform. Really?
One thing led to another and we got married, but because I still didn't think there was anything special about his military service, there was no military ceremony. (Nor was there anyone pointing a sword at my butt and telling me to "be good.")
Actually, the military was pretty much a drag that meant he was gone one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Well, that's what the advertisements would lead you to believe. For me, it just seemed like every time there was an "occasion," Ed had drill.
|At a drill Christmas party|
Then, in Christmas of '02, he called and said, "Are you sitting down?" (And, not in one of those--boy do I have some GREAT news for you--kind of way.)
He had just been told he'd be deployed to Kosovo in a few weeks.
Now, this was beginning to seem real. Talk about civilian and military life colliding.
I cried, I fought, I said lots of bad things about the Army, but sure enough--he left me and Alex (two years old) behind. I swore up and down that I wanted nothing to do with the military and they could take their deployment resources and put them....well....I won't go there.
|At Ft. Stewart--Ed's trainup site for Kosovo.|
Another moment of intersection with military and civilian life came on our anniversary of 2003 when he told me during a phone call from Kosovo that all of their leave was going to be cancelled so we wouldn't get to see each other at all. (See how much I'm liking this military stuff?)
Luckily, he managed to create a reason to have to travel to Heidelberg so Alex and I could fly to meet him for five days. It was an awesome five days that we were blessed to have.
And, then there was another one of those collisions. Ed had to catch a plane back to Kosovo quite early in the morning. So, he weepingly said goodbye to Alex the night before, but--at two years old--Alex didn't understand. The next morning, Ed was gone, but every time we'd hear footsteps outside of our room, Alex would say, "Daddy? Daddy's back." Talk about breaking your heart. (I love the Army....I love the Army....I love the Army.....)
|At Ft. Stewart--Alex modeling Ed's helmet.|
After Ed returned, it took one full year for Alex to comprehend. Every time Ed put on his uniform for the next year, Alex would ask, "Will you come home tonight?"
|Welcome Home, Daddy!|
|The media couldn't resist two handsome men in uniform!|
|Our Welcome Home Sign|
Time went on and Ed had a number of jobs working for the National Guard and as a military contractor. Then, in our never-ending discussion about whether or not he should retire, he came up for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel.
|Dressed up for some formal occasion|
|Ed getting promoted with Alex right there!|
All right. I was solid with that.
He even switched into the U.S. Army Reserves to teach because he projected his chances of another deployment were pretty slim.
But, what he didn't know was that---in the National Guard--an entire unit has to be deployed. In the Reserves, they can essentially pick an individual out and say, "Guess what? You win the prize for the next trip to Iraq."
And, about two weeks before he could retire, he got another call. Yep, he had won the special ticket! Turns out, he was on a list showing he had no previous deployments because the Guard and the Reserves don't always talk nicely to each other. By the time he got it straightened out, they say, "Yep, you're right. You shouldn't be on the list. But, have a great time in Iraq."
It was December. Again. Merry Christmas from the US Army.
|At church service before Ed deployed|
|At Baltimore Airport saying "final" goodbyes.|
|Full combat gear|
This time, Alex was nine and he was angry. (Wonder who he got that from?) We allowed him to break Army pencils and defile Army stuff. And he vowed he'd never join the Army. (Yay, said mom and grandma!)
So, once again, we said a tearful goodbye and off he went to live in a tent in the middle of the desert. Sure, it was after the major combat was over, but he still had many close calls, including rocket fire on Thanksgiving day and dodging fire in a helicopter. (I believe I did not know about either of these things until after he came home.)
|Homecoming. Very cool that they allow military families in the restricted area.|
|Ed and Ed|
|Alex, Daddy Doll and me|
In Germany, I got one email a day over a slow connection. We had to send hard copies of photos to each other. We were able to chat infrequently at a pretty high cost.
By Kosovo, we had digital photography and pretty decent internet. Ed got to keep abreast of all the life events that happened while he was away.
And, when Iraq came around, we could Skype on a daily basis. In fact, it was so regular that sometimes Alex would say he was busy when Ed called and asked if he could just talk with him the next day.
And, as the technology changed, another funny thing happened.
I began to experience pride in my husband and his Army career. I began to identify with being a military family. I began to see myself as (gasp!) an officer's wife.
And, so we reach today and I'm really very torn about Ed's retirement. If it's one grudge I'm still holding against the Army because he reached his MRD (see? I can now speak the language....military speak for "mandatory retirement date") before getting a promotion to a full bird (more military speak for full colonel.)
Ed has taken it in stride and believes there were a few tickets he didn't get punched along the way that stood between him and the silver eagle. (And, honestly, it's very likely because--in my non Army fan days--I was not in favor of him taking an extra weekend a month to do the program that may have been one of those tickets.)
I now see it differently.
As a proud officer's wife, I look back on his outstanding reviews, his Bronze Star, his Army Commendation medal and all of his experiences and I think he was the best thing the Army had going.
BG Gronski (Brigadier General...more military speak) said today that the one word he thinks about when he thinks of Ed is "impact." Ed had an impact on every job that he's had along the way.
I think about his Army buddies who would do anything for each other.
I think about the kids in Kosovo that Ed distributed clothing to.
I think about his friends in the Iraqi Army.
I think of his recent service as an active duty officer at the US Army War College and the great job he did there.
And, I think of something else that BG Gronski said today and that is Ed fully exemplifies the Army values. I wholeheartedly agree. He has been a wonderful husband and an amazing father along with being an outstanding Army officer.
I'm proud to be his wife....an officer's wife. A good collision.
Ed--I love you so very much and, although I was pretty much dragged into this kicking and screaming--I wouldn't have wanted to live my life without you and the Army. It's obviously a huge part of who you are and the man you've become. Thank you for all you have given to your country and your family.
Here's to our next set of adventures as LTC(R) and Mrs. Beck.
|The fam after the retirement ceremony (Alex had to miss it because of a class outing which was much for fun for a 12 year old than a formal ceremony!)|
And, they lived happily ever after.... :)