The Call to Duty

Beginning in 2004 our family was aware that the “call” would be coming. Sean worked many extra hours at the US Army Reserve Center, stop-loss was in effect, and local National Guard and Army Reserve units were deploying more frequently. We talked about it a lot, worried, laughed, and told ourselves we were prepared. We told the kids we wouldn’t obsess (although I’m pretty sure Sean and I did) but that we knew it was a possiblity and we would deal with it together when and if it happened.

We listened as well-meaning family and friends said, “We are praying Sean doesn’t have to go,” or “Maybe it won’t happen.” “I just hope they send the troops home.” and knew in our hearts that it doesn’t work that way. A soldier is enlisted to serve. Many, like my husband, are proud of that duty. He has to work to remember birthdays or anniversaries, but he can rattle off that enlistment date like nobody’s business. I married a soldier. He was a soldier before I ever knew him. But knowing him, I know that this is truly what he believes. He serves because he loves his country, his fellow man, and freedom. You cannot tell a soldier you’re sorry he has to go, because the point is, he has to go. It’s something inside him. Something that makes him stronger, braver, more determined.

I am disheartened when I hear people complain about soldiers who have gone to war, or say, “he signed up for the education benefits, but not for this.” Really? Read the fine print. Somewhere, there is a clause about service to your country in return for those benefits.

So while I was not happy that he would have to go, I did accept that it was a reality. I am so very proud of Sean. Three deployments in 18 years of military service. No complaints on his part. And I know Sean, he would gladly serve again.

But I digress.

The alert came in November of 2004. Nothing much changed at this time as far as our day-to-day, but there were changes in all of us. I worried excessively. The kids began acting out. My son’s grades dropped within a week. We celebrated a quiet Christmas at home. Our families were less than thrilled, but thanks to E catching strep throat and sharing it with all of us, no one minded our absence in the end.

February 2005 brought the activation call. We were at home on a Wednesday night getting ready to go to church when the call came. Now, there is supposed to be a call from the unit to the soldier, but instead, we got a call from the commander’s wife (he was out of the state at a military conference) asking for Sean. The activation notice had been leaked to the press and she had the media calling her house for confirmation. What a way to get the news that your husband was being deployed! The kids and I went to church and Sean went to the unit to do some damage control and start contacting soldiers. Unfortunately, some soldiers saw the announcement on the six o’clock news before they could be contacted.

How does one sit calmly in church next to her children when this news is so fresh? Remember, we were prepared! Well, we thought we were, but I guess you are never really prepared for when the official message comes. I don’t remember much about that night except the phone rang constantly, and we stayed up late with the kids on a school night to watch a movie.

As the saying goes. . . our lives have never been the same.


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