My life would change when I followed my college sweetheart from Colorado State University to San Diego State where she would teach for 3 years. We would then head to Seattle where Diane would be recruited by Eddie Bauer. The move would give the opportunity to become a C-141 Starlifter Flight Engineer in the Air Force Reserves in 1991.
Once I completed C-141 Flight Engineer school, the entire world became my classroom. From that point on, I would fly 7 to 10 days a month worldwide in support of our national interest. Every other week, I would be afforded the opportunity to leave the rainy Pacific Northwest and venture out into all parts of the world. Meanwhile, my spouse would be left worrying about me along with holding down the fort. Not only did she have to maintain her job as director of Quality at Eddie Bauer, she had to ensure that all the rental houses I had amassed were taken care of. She paid all the bills. She made certain that things were fixed. She also compartmentalized the reality that my aircraft could crash during an air refueling, takeoff, landing or on a low-level mission. No amount of body armor would protect against 100,000 pounds of fuel torching off.
In February 2002, I would be hauling technicals to Kuwait from Mildenhall, England. Once our three back to back augmented missions were complete, I would be activated for Iraq. As a result, I would have to shut down a business of 8 years. Of course, my wife would hunker down and make certain all the bills were paid as I was moved to March AFB for 18 months. Over an 18 month period, we would only get to see each other a few days here and there. Diane would then have to worry about the midnight sorties into Baghdad or Ballad. She would have to worry about a human error on a 24 hour augmented mission or a missile attack on approach to a hostile environment.
When the C-141C was retired from the USAF inventory, it spelled the mental end to my ability to stay in uniform. By then, I had flown 1600 times, 5000 block to block hours and about 1.7 million miles around the earth. I had lived our national interest for 16 years. A simple 2-hour flight had become a heinous Pavlovian affair. It was time to quit and be with my wife. Of course, the military transition from the status as a USAF aviator would become a painful and mentally unhealthy 5-year affair. However, as always, my spouse stood by my side. She stood with me and endured the pain as well. She helped me overcome, and nurtured me back to mental health.
Many times, our spouses go through the same trial and tribulations as the soldier. They are there when the soldier comes back with a missing limb or a traumatic brain injury. They are there when the soldier endures PTSD or becomes abusive or suicidal. The spouse is left to raising the children all alone or paying the bills when the patriot simply does not come back. The spouse must endure all the mental and emotional trauma a soldier goes through when he is not allowed to re-enlist after 10 years of dedicated service. The loving spouse is present when a Fort Lewis soldier comes back after an 8th deployment in a war zone in 8 years. He or she feels the pain when he or she is beat on by a spouse that suffers from a war-related mental illness.
The Bush II and the Obama wars of choice and ops tempo were brutal on the spouses of our dedicated service members.
I appreciate my wife and her dedication to this country. Without her, I might not have overcome it all.
We appreciate the spouses of our military patriots. Without them, we could not complete the mission.
From the days of marching barefoot for liberty to the streets of Fallujah, the spouse has always been there to pick up the pieces. They are there when the society abandons us or calls us baby killers. They are there when the government turns a blind eye to our exposure to the worst in human endeavor.