+Tuesday, October 25, 2005+
Well, after a month or so at an FOB, Matt is now safe and sound back at Kandahar (err, "safe and sound," all things considered); the specifics of his trip home were a little hair-raising, and while I'm not sure I'm at liberty to divulge the details (I'm still figuring out the whole OPSEC thing, so better safe than sorry), I'll simply say I was praising God for keeping Matt safe. I worked myself into quite a bit of a frenzy over it, but there's not much you can do about something after the fact, so I've tried not to worry myself with it too much and just thank God that He took care of my love.

During his time at the FOB, we got to talk a lot more often - the phone systems are set up differently and there's a lot less people at FOBs, so typically we talked every night, and it was so wonderful. Now that he's back at Kandahar, we're back to our two to three calls a week routine, and while it's a little sad getting used to minimal phone calls again, I can't complain too much; since we decided not to talk every day during the deployment, having a month where we got to made it that much more special. In some weird way, it really was like a "second leave," going home every night and knowing I'd get to talk to Matt. Now we're back to the "norm," and we're so close to the end, my head is spinning. That figurative light at the end of the tunnel is in clear view - 4 measely months!!

Of course, I'm told it'll get harder before it gets easier. I preordered the "Friends" DVD box set - it's not released until November 15 - so now I have that to look forward to, and when it arrives, why, I can become a "Friends" zombie all over again and will most likely have every single episode watched by the time Matt gets home. I also have the holidays to look forward to, and before I know it, it'll be 2006 - 2 months left, I think that's when it'll start to get hard. I was talking with Christy today about different methods of counting down a deployment, and I've found the one that's been most effective for me has been counting down in series of small, yet significant events.

I know, I know. Gosh, Erika, how hard can counting down be - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - but when you're waiting for something that's so far away, it is truly mind-numbing to think about how many days lay between where you're currently at and when that thing you're waiting for will take place. You never really take into consideration just how damn long 365+ days is until you live every single one for the sole purpose of getting it over with, so it's helpful to countdown in ways that give the illusion of "less time." For example, seasons - Matt left last winter and will be returning this winter, so saying he'll be gone for 4 seasons sounds a lot better than 430-some days. Being that I'm in school, I've also used semesters as a countdown method - there's only 2 and a half of those I'll have had to go through without Matt.

But of all the different countdown methods thought up and implemented by military wives world wide, my personal favorite is counting down via events that take place. "Events" can be anything as small as the release of a CD from a band you particularly like (I had marks on my calendar counting down to the release of Depeche Mode's new CD last Tuesday), a weekly sitcom you're particularly fond of, awaiting a package (like - ahem - my "Friends" DVDs LOL) or as big as something like a wedding or a birth. As long as you have something in the near future to look forward to, the distant future doesn't seem so painfully far away. It's important in a deployment to remember that even though you're half of a whole, you're still an individual, and while it's virtually impossible to simply "forget" that you're living every day to an ultimate goal - your spouse/significant other coming home - it's good not to forget yourself in the whole ordeal and not drive yourself crazy obsessing over the end. Regardless of how devastated you may be of the year or so you have to spend without your sidekick, it is still a year of your life and you must treat it as such! After a while you'll just naturally fall into the role and all the people at the post office will know you by name (or by your soldier's name anyway). :) That's my advice for the day....LOL.

Last weekend I drove a couple hours out of town to visit my maid of honor who lives in a little town called Winnemucca. Honestly, I was quite a bit begrudged about going - I've had something to do every weekend this month and haven't had a single one to myself, and I was actually looking on this weekend as more of a chore than an enjoyable weekend with my best friend. Nonetheless, I went and ended up having a really great time; it was extremely relaxing and gave me the opportunity to allow myself to forget about the nit-picky details of every day life. It's funny to me how something I really didn't feel like doing proved to be incredibly therapeutic.

The weekend prior - that of the 15th - I flew down to Arizona with my parents for the wedding of a family friend, and that was a good time as well. I got to see my brother and his wife (whom I've seen a lot more of this year than I usually do in a year, and I'm so glad of that - I just love my brother and his wife!), and a lot of other people I haven't seen for what feels like ages. I cried and cried and cried throughout the wedding - all around me were happy couples, including but not limited to the newly weds, and it made my heart ache for Matt in a way I thought I'd trained myself to suppress rather well. When they played "our" song during the reception - Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting," the song that will be our first dance at our wedding - I lost it. I tried to be eloquent with my tears, but by the end of the night, my mom was basically following me around with a box of tissues while I insisted through constrained sobs that I was fine.

The feeling of missing Matt is so common its presence is now just a part of my daily life - I have become numb throughout the deployment because I've had to to be strong and retain my composure - but every now and then I still cry. One emotion I haven't become numb to is that of how much I love Matt. When you find a great love, nothing can make you forget how it makes you feel, and distance and time only add kindling to the flame. I cry because I love him and he's not here - there's a year full of memories, of things that happened that I wasn't able to run right home and share with him, and it hurts, but if nothing else, it truly has shown me how unconditional our love for each other is. I don't love him because I need him; I need him because I love him.

wishing matt was here @ 2:48 PM+

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+Thursday, October 13, 2005+
On Monday I attended the funeral for CW3 John Flynn. Yesterday the funeral for SSG Patrick Stewart was held, but I did not go - I just couldn't. Two funerals in one week, and I can't help but think the most morbid of thoughts. I felt terrible for not going to the funeral yesterday, but.....I just couldn't. If you've ever had to watch a woman bury her husband, you probably understand why I couldn't watch it again yesterday.

9 months ago or so when we had our first FRG meeting without our soldiers, when wives were sad, but were, nonetheless, chittering with excitement over the FRG, when every single one of us showed up with notepads, eager to absorb as much information as possible about where our loved ones were at, what they would be doing, when they would be home, and the most glorious acronym in the military - R&R - I remember vividly how somber the room got when we had to discuss notification of injury or casualty. The atmosphere changed completely. But certainly everyone from our unit would return safely. I feel naive for even thinking it; 9 months ago I never would've imagined that by October two of those women would have to bury their husbands.

The funeral on Monday was incredible. If you haven't already read the post written by one of the soldiers in Matt's unit about the ramp ceremony for these men, please take a chance to read it now. Losing men from a unit is painful for their families and for the men serving with them, and it's amazing to see how many people are affected not only here at home, but overseas as well. On Monday, literally hundreds of people packed into the small church for the services. I don't know how quickly the main chapel filled up, but there was no room in it by the time I arrived (and I was early!), so along with a few hundred other people, I sat in another room of the church and watched the services on video.

The mass lasted over 2 hours. My heart sank as I watched troops march in with the coffin draped with an American flag to bagpipes wailing "Amazing Grace." The strength and eloquence his wife sat through the funeral with speaks loudly of her character, and she expressed nothing but the deepest pride for her husband. She said her husband was her best friend, the love of her life, and that her children would grow up knowing that their father was a hero and died doing what he loves. And this - "Freedom isn't free."

I was choked up and sniffly and probably red and blotchy - I was fighting with vehemence to keep the tears back, but hell, I'm crying as I write this, how could I hold back tears then? Many people spoke, particulars of the mission were stated; I had to leave a little early - since I was attending the funeral on my "lunch" and had taken about a 3 hour lunch, I slid out toward the end and felt like shit for doing so (and most certainly would not have done so were I in the chapel). I pray fervently to God that our unit suffers no further losses, and please keep the men from our unit - CW3 John Flynn, SSG Patrick Stewart - and the other men who were onboard the Chinook when it crashed - Adrian Stump, Tane Baum, and Kenneth Ross - and their families in your thoughts and prayers. May God rest their souls and watch over their loved ones in this most difficult of times.

wishing matt was here @ 2:23 PM+

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+Thursday, October 06, 2005+
As promised, I watched an episode of the epic series "Over There." Well, part of it anyway - Matt called around 9:30ish and it wasn't until a while after we hung up (or got disconnected, rather), that I remembered it was Wednesday and that I'd planned on watching the show; I managed to catch the last half hour. It's probably pretty amazing that I was able to watch the show in the first place. When Matt first deployed, I could hardly even watch recruitment commercials let alone even think of watching a war movie or the likes. Now that he's been gone 9 months, I'm a little less dramatic...After all, they're only actors portraying someone's point of view and not necessarily what is real.

My first thoughts on the show were that I was going to get motion sickness if they didn't stop jerking the camera around and zooming in and out. And the violins really started to wear on my nerves after a while, but those are just production values and probably pretty irrelevant to the quality of the show itself. All in all, I can't say I hated it. That, of course, isn't to say I liked it; I watched it with my keen pragmatist eye and saw the show for exactly what it is - a handful of no-name actors (I'd say "B-list," but I think that might be giving them a bit too much credit) acting out a script that might be just a tad melodramatic. I didn't really understand what was going on, but that could probably be summed up to coming into the show a half hour late and never having seen a prior episode. In some ways, it seems like the show is just a poor attempt to remind people that we're at war. The war is losing footing in the media, so hey, why not make a show about it?

I do think it's in very poor taste to create a show about a war that's still going on, and I think it just feeds on society's blood lust - you don't want to look, you don't want to know, but you just can't help it - and what is depicted on the show is more in response to ratings than facts. I tried to research the creators and producers a little to find out if any of them had served in OIF or OEF and came up empty handed. So where do they get their storylines? Did they extensively research the Iraq war, interview troops and freelance correspondents who were "over there" and their wives and families back home or am I to believe that I'm watching a show that's complete and utter bullshit about a war that's still going on? That's not rhetorical - I'd really like to know!

One part of last night's episode - when a wife is arguing about her husband's paychecks being sent to the wrong address and sarcastically claims, "The army at its finest. God, I loooove the army" - actually made me laugh to myself, but everything else seemed pretty painful to me. Is it an Iraqi woman that runs the orphanage and seduces a sergeant by sensually removing his radio headphones and taking him into her bed? I mean, COME ON! Where do you draw the line about what is and isn't acceptable about what the creators of this show are leading the American public to believe about the Iraq war? They've certainly romantacized the entire thing...Perhaps instead of worrying about their ratings, they should've taken into consideration not even making the damn show in the first place.

And I can't seem to come to definitive reason for the name - "Over There." It seems like it should be followed by a menacing "dun dun dun." Granted, I'm not being paid 6 figures a year to think up a "creative" name for a dramatic interpretation of a war still in the midst of being fought, but wouldn't, oh, I don't know, "Operation Iraqi Freedom" have worked just as well? They've really outdone themselves with this show. Perhaps next they can head out to the Astrodome and make a reality TV show about the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

It makes me sad that people can so easily forget we're at war, that our own are still fighting for the democracy of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the most "effective" reminder that we're at war is a silly dramatic TV show with a ridiculous name. I assure you the Iraqis and the Afghans haven't forgotten. Yesterday I found an editorial about that "other" war, but it's the first thing I've read in a while that basically says, hey, we're still working to make this country a better place.

Bombings, shootings and violent deaths continue in Afghanistan, site of the first post-9/11 American war. Although the campaign in Afghanistan became the "other" conflict once the invasion of Iraq began, the country remains dangerous and uncertain, and international cooperation there is as crucial as ever.

Last week, a suicide bomber killed nine people and injured more than two dozen others in the Afghan capital of Kabul, demonstrating again that reconstruction and successful elections have not ended the threat from the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The explosion near Afghan troops boarding buses was an ominous echo of suicide attacks in Iraq. It occurred a week after President Hamid Karzai claimed that his country was no longer the source of terrorist threats.

Karzai was overly optimistic. Afghanistan may not be the source, but terror still plagues the country. More...
Of course, it's not like I expect the wars to be a constant presence in the public's mind; now stories only make the headlines if they involve a bombing or deaths. News reports about the progress we're making in these war-torn countries and how far we still have to go seem only to be worthy of second page news, if that. It's all very morbid. Despite continued attacks, we are making headway, and yet it seems people only care about OIF and OEF in the way of fictional and dramatized accounts; a little more recognition and respect for those who are representing America and helping those who truly do need it would be a nice change.

I also wanted to take the opportunity to post a link to this - an account of the "ramp ceremony" for the soldiers that were killed in the Chinook crash a couple Sundays ago. All Along the Watchtower is a blog by one of the soldier's in Matt's unit.

wishing matt was here @ 12:36 PM+

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+Monday, October 03, 2005+
Here's what's new in my life from the last week: nothing. I'd feel more sorry for myself with my seemingly pitiful life if I didn't bring it upon myself. In fact, I rather enjoy it. From the beginning of this whole "adventure," my favorite person to hang out with has been me. The truth of the matter is, I'd much rather sit at home and talk to myself (I'm actually talking to Matt, but well, since he's not here, it may appear I'm insane to the naked eye) than go out with friends and pretend to have a good time. Besides, who says you have to go out every damn weekend? I'm always so busy visiting with family and friends on most weekends, the ones I get entirely to myself - like this last one - are the best ones.

Well because of my nothing weekend I don't have much to post about. I slept in Saturday, did laundry, lounged around in my pajamas all day, watched some movies, read my book, made portobello mushroom tortellini for dinner. The only time I left the house all day was to venture down the driveway to check the mail. I did nothing and it was everything I hoped it would be (I stole that line from one of the best movies ever, "Office Space"). I was a little more productive on Sunday - I studied for the accounting midterm I have today and ventured a little further out of the house than the day before, drove all the way to the other end of town to spend the gift certificate I got to Steinmart for my birthday from Matt's parents. I didn't get much though - a new shirt, a new pair of pants, and a throw pillow for the guest bed. They never have anything in my size. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Last Wednesday they had a meeting for the FRG, but I didn't go. They haven't had a real official meetings since February - or maybe it was March. Whenever it was, it was a long ass time ago. They've had 2 meetings this month so far, both on Wednesdays. They throw the meetings in the middle of the day in the middle of the work week, email out the wrong time to everyone, and then wonder why no one shows up at the meetings. Well, the email about the second meeting had the correct time as far as I know, but once again, Wednesday. Busiest day of the week for me, and I'm pretty bummed I didn't make it 'cause I actually would've liked to have gone to this one...

The wife of one of the soldiers who was killed in the crash last Sunday had an open house on Friday for people to come mourn, to give their respects and condolences. Once again, I didn't go. I don't know if this sounds terribly selfish of me, but I wasn't necessarily comfortable going - I talked to her on the phone once last December, I never officially met her, and I really had no idea what to say to a stranger in that situation. I do intend on sending sympathy cards to both women and on attending the funerals though. Every news story I've read and every report I've seen on the local stations saddens me to no end, and truly I have the deepest sympathies for these wives and their children. I'm still a little in shock in some ways - I really had started to believe that the entire unit would make it back okay, and this was....a wake-up, for lack of better term. I just can't wait for Matt to get home. I'm so damn exhausted of all these heaps of loneliness. I think Christy said it best when she referred to it as a "half-life."

I've decided I'm going to watch the show "Over There." I've heard a million and one different things about it, and I've decided it's finally time to assess this for myself. Not to mention it'll give me something to post about...LOL, so come back on Thursday for my review of the show (and to find out whether or not I even made it through the whole damn thing). Am I the only one that thinks this post read a little like one of Jim Carrey's journal entries from "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"?

wishing matt was here @ 3:25 PM+

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