Our 24 War Babies: 10 Years Later
Christmas 2002 was good. I was pregnant with our first child, we were able to spend time with family, and we had the best of friends just down the street to share more good times with. Michael was in the Navy and we were stationed at CBC Gulfport with NMCB 133. We were enjoying the last few months of home port, knowing that soon the battalion would deploy, bound for Rota, Spain. We were not a nation officially at war, though the last deployment had started with a bang- quite literally, as just a few days after Michael left, our country was devastated by 9/11.
Christmas stand down, a few weeks of mostly vacations, was not quite over for the battalion. But yet, the phone rang at 9pm, calling the entire 600+ in. It was another 13 hours before I saw Michael again, when he came home for some much needed sleep after the unexpected all nighter. But by then, word had spread throughout the base and families, that they were loading cargo planes. The first wave of our Seabees would be leaving the next morning, bound for the Middle East.
The next few days were a blur, as preparations were made to deploy unexpectedly early and to an unexpected location. I was nervous for many reasons. Being pregnant while your husband goes to war is never the dream. The fact that he had been hospitalized 8 times in the past year, and that his battalion seemed unaware added to the fear.
But there were these women.
I was surrounded by some of the bravest and strongest women I'd ever met. Women who were raising children mostly alone, who had faced many more deployments than me, and who literally kept the home fires burning. And men too. Days before our husband's and wives left, we gathered in a base chapel, for a family briefing. We were told limited info on the mission and destination. Not even a country was named, though we believed they were headed to Kuwait to prepare for the Iraq invasion. (We were right.) I looked around at these women and knew I was in the company of the best.
One of those, was my rock. She lived a quick walk away, had a few more deployments under her belt, and was pregnant with their second child. She fed me and kept me going. Another one was my example. She was the wife of the battalion Commanding Officer, the mother of two teenagers, and wise. I'll never forget her answer to my question of how she stayed so strong. She told me that she didn't. That the mornings her husband left, she said goodbye at home, and cried. She could barely get out of bed she cried so much, but not for long. After that first day, she picked up and started life. She made me know it was okay to be sad. But it was also okay to enjoy life while they were gone. Other women were simply my friends. They shared fears and tears, but even more, just shared life and laughs.
|Ashley, 4 mos & Drew, 3 mos|