You could say I'm experienced with the military lifestyle. One grandpa was a Marine, one grandpa was in the Navy. My step-dad and brother-in-law are Air Force technicians. My dad was a Navy pilot, and my husband is a flight officer in the Navy.
My husband and I didn't see each other during the month of April for the first six years of our relationship. He missed every other month of our daughter's first year of life. I've said goodbye countless times and will say goodbye countless more.
We've had wrenches thrown in our family planning as we missed yet another ovulation time frame. He had to leave my pregnant self behind when hurricanes were hitting us to make sure the Navy planes were safe—twice!
I've had to explain that daddy is still gone for work to little ones that have no concept of how long a month is.
And yet, I'm one of the luckiest Navy wives I know. We haven't had a major deployment (six to nine months long) in years. He has been present at the births of both our daughters.
You think you can't wait for your overdue baby to make her way into the world? Try having a countdown when your husband will deploy for eight months and see how much spicy food you'll eat and how many long walks you'll take to get those contractions going!
I have friends whose husbands haven't met their babies until they are three months old. We haven't faced any injuries in the field or serious illnesses at home. Our kids are young enough that we haven't had to move in January and disrupt a school year.
Growing up, I said that I didn't want the military lifestyle . I didn't want to move all the time, and I didn't want to constantly have to say goodbye and watch my kids miss their daddy.
But then I met my future husband, and those plans went out the window.
He was worth it, and now that I'm a spouse, I see so much more of what this lifestyle entails.
Yes, my daughters will miss their daddy, and he will miss them. But they see how much he loves them with each return hug, each video he tapes for them when he is gone, each moment he makes sure he is fully present for when he is home.
We went to a friend's birthday party recently, and every baby there was being held by a military dad. They have to take their quality time when they can get it!
The goodbyes aren't just with my husband though. Military life is a lifestyle, and most of my friends also have spouses in the military since we are normally based in a "military town." And that means that I am always saying goodbye to one of them too, or my daughter is saying goodbye to a friend that is moving.
We try to say, "Goodbye for now," because there is a chance we will be stationed at the same base at a later date. I actually got mad when one of my non-military friends moved because she was supposed to be one of my guaranteed friends!
The military world is filled with love though. Watch YouTube videos of homecomings and see the outpouring of affection from people that are each other's everything—on second thought, don't watch them or you won't be able to see out of your puffy, still-crying eyes tomorrow.
I saw my 2-year old tell my husband, "I love you so much, Dada," when he returned from a long trip. She had never even said anything with that much emotion to me!
Every time he comes back, it has a rejuvenating effect on our marriage. It's hard to get annoyed with someone when you just spent the past six weeks praying for their safety and hoping time flies by. Even if you do still get annoyed by how he leaves every cabinet and drawer open, you missed him so much you bite your tongue for a little while. And at least I can see how hot he looks in a flight suit again.
As hard as the separation can be, the level of pride I feel for the men and women of the Armed Forces is off-the-charts. Their knowledge and dedication protects those of us on the homefront.
Thank a veteran for their service. Let them know that you are grateful, and that all the time spent training and abroad was appreciated.
It can be a hard life for our soldiers, living in barracks and on ships, apart from the people they love, facing danger to protect our country. We will most likely have another deployment coming up in the next couple of years. Our kids will be older and will have to learn what it is like to have daddy gone for a very long time.
But I know that when he leaves, our family's love will grow while he is gone, and hopefully that thought brings him home safely and quickly.