Last winter, Chris and I made the decision that he was going to join the United States Air Force. It was something that he had wanted to do for a long time and we had discussed it on several occasions. Not long after we began dating, we started discussing the future. Chris told me of his dream to join the military. At that time, I completely shut out the idea of being a military wife. That lifestyle just was not for me.
Fast forward to five years later, we are married, have two sons, and are sitting in our local recruiters office for the USAF. I still don’t know exactly what made me change my mind. I saw how miserable my husband was working in retail management. I knew how intelligent and capable he was. I knew that he needed to follow his heart and do something that challenged him and gave him a sense of purpose. He had worked so hard to see that my dreams of being a stay-at-home mom were possible. How could I deny him something that his heart desired? After all, we were a team and I had to be willing to give just as much as I took. So, I said yes.
In February, we moved in with his parents, so that I would not be alone with the boys while he was gone for training. He spent most of that month, and March and April, working and preparing physically and mentally for Basic Military Training. We saw him very little and I spent most of that time dreading when he would leave.
He left for BMT in late April. We were in a much different situation than most are when they leave for BMT. Chris was not some 18-year-old leaving behind a high school flame. He was a 26 year old, married, father of two. This created an extremely trying dynamic for our entire family. For nearly eight weeks, the only communication that I had with my husband was letters. Letters that our boys could not read or understand. Still, I wrote to him every single day. I told him stories about the boys, funny things that Hudson had done or said, milestones that Logan had reached. I sent him photos of us and pictures that Hudson had colored for him. His letters home didn’t come as often, but I had expected this. Every day, I walked to the mailbox, hoping I would hear from him. Most days, I walked away empty handed, but on the days that I did receive a letter, well, those were the best days.
We got to talk on the phone a few times while he was gone. Hearing his voice was the best feeling ever. The boys didn’t really understand what was going on, but I think that hearing Chris made them realize that he was okay and that they would see him again. I told them how much their daddy loved them every single day. There were several nights that Hudson woke up screaming, and there was nothing that I could do to calm him down. He didn’t need to say it, I knew that he was missing his daddy so much it hurt. So, I would just hold him and tell him that daddy loved him. I did the best that I could to keep them entertained and happy all summer. I learned just how strong and resilient they are.
But only worrying about Chris and the boys, caused me to neglect taking care of myself. (can any other mamas relate to this?) I blocked out my feelings and just tried to get from day to day, until, I broke. I began crying and once I started, it was as if I could not stop. I was angry that I had agreed to this, angry that my husband’s dream was keeping him from us. I was angry that he had missed Logan’s first birthday. Angry that I had lost a grandmother and he had not been there to grieve with me. But most of all, I was heartbroken, because I missed my best friend and my babies missed their daddy. I was heartbroken that it felt like I was doing it all alone.
I finally stopped crying and decided to become stronger from the struggle. I decided to view things in a more positive way. I decided to be proud of my husband for serving his country and for taking care of his family. I decided to view our time apart as something that would make our relationship and our love so much stronger (and wow, has it ever). I decided to see that, one day, his sons would be so PROUD of their daddy for his service and his sacrifice. That they would learn how to be strong, protective, caring, and humble men. Just like their father. We could get through this, and we would be so much stronger because of it.
In June, my in-laws and I loaded up their truck with everything one could need to entertain two toddlers and headed for San Antonio, Texas. We spent two days on the road, and on Thursday June 15th, we watched as Chris was coined. I had never been more proud of him, more proud to be his wife. Sitting in the stands, all I could think about was getting to him. There were hundreds of men before me, but I knew exactly where he was. I ran to him, baby on my hip, and was finally reunited with my best friend. We spent four incredible days with him. The boys were even able to be with him on Father’s Day. Then, just as quickly as it began, it was over. We were headed back to Bowling Green, without him.
Chris got his first pick of job as an F-35 Crew Chief, which meant that his technical school would be longer than we had hoped for. We were very happy that he would be doing what he wanted to do, and I was extremely proud of all of his hard work! He stayed in San Antonio at Lackland Air Force Base for Airmen’s Week and then left for Sheppard Air Force Base for the first part of his technical training. We were nearly a thousand miles apart, again. Luckily, we were able to text, call, and FaceTime when he wasn’t in training. It helped to make the time pass quicker and seemed to make the boys happier. He stayed at Sheppard AFB for close to ten weeks and then graduated and moved to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for the second part of his technical training. It was August by this time and we had not seen him since the middle of June.
Everyone, including the military, told us that it was pointless to move to Florida when Chris would only be there for a few months. But we are not everyone, and our situation was different than most. Plus, if you know me at all then you know I’m a real stickler for going against the grain. My boys needed their father. I needed my partner in raising them. We talked it over and decided to rent a place in Crestview, Florida, which was a short drive from Eglin AFB. We moved down on August 18th and those two months with Chris were more than worth the time and money that we had spent to get to him. He was only able to stay at the house with us on the weekends, but he came over in the afternoons when he could during the week and we made the best of our time together.
Chris graduated from the F-35 Tactical Advanced Fighter Maintenance Course at Eglin AFB last week. He was additionally awarded the Flight Chief’s Award and the AETC Commander’s Award. The boys clapped every time their daddy’s name was called and Hudson cheered, “Yay, daddy!” I am so happy that he has found what he is passionate about. We are so proud of him and everything that he has gone through to get to where he is now. He left for Arizona and will be finishing the final portion of his technical training at Luke Air Force Base. The boys and I will be dividing our time between our home in Florida and Bowling Green, for the holidays and coming months. Chris is set to finish with technical school sometime in January and then we will be moving to Utah and finding our new home at Hill Air Force Base. I do not know where the Air Force will take us, but I am looking forward to this adventure and I am glad that we took a chance on his dream.