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The Others

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Last night, I sat on my futon thinking about all of our lost soldiers and their families. I concentrated so hard on this that for a few rare moments I was able to almost forget why I was alone.

While we hear every day about men and women killed or injured in action in Iraq, we don 't hear much about those who survive each anxiety-filled day. We hear even less about the families and friends left behind by our deployed troops.

I was alone last night, just as I am alone right now, because my husband is one of those. He is a United States Marine deployed in Iraq. He has been overseas since September. In honor of all the families and friends left behind by US service members, I 'd like to take this opportunity to give the rest of America a glimpse at my daily life and what my family has given up for our noble cause in Iraq.

My husband and I met almost three years ago. I had just gotten over a bad breakup and he had just come back from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He was (and still is) a complete goofball --a karaoke addict and the kind of guy who would really try the old "haven 't I seen you somewhere before? " line. We fell in love. He proposed to me on Christmas Eve 2004. We got married in May of 2005 --two months before the big wedding we had planned for months because he found out in April that he would be leaving for California to prepare for a deployment to Iraq in June.

In the beginning, it was hard, but so fresh that it almost felt like a mini-vacation. He was only in California, and he would be back in a month or so for a visit. His first three-day visit home was uncomfortable. After just a month away from home, he already felt like he didn 't know what was going on with our friends. There were new inside jokes he hadn 't been there to learn, new stories and new haircuts and new paint on the living room walls.

And there was our daughter, Emily. She was just one year old when my husband found out he was being deployed. In April, she will be two. She was just beginning to walk when we got married, and now she sleeps in a real bed and begs to watch her Elmo video. In the beginning, she mastered the words, "Where 's Daddy? " Now she has to be reminded that she has one ...


Every day, I wake up and get Emily out of her bedroom and change her and feed her breakfast. I wander through our apartment making coffee and refilling sippy-cups and picking up animal crackers off of the floor and taking showers and giving baths and it all feels empty. I try to enjoy going out with friends, but every time a cute young couple gets up on stage to sing an off-key rendition of The Grease Megamix I have to go outside and cry. It 's impossible for me to enjoy any of the things we used to do together. Even eating dinner becomes a chore when you have to do it alone.

You would think that the phone calls and letters would help, but they often serve only as long as they last and once he hangs up or the pages are no longer unread the world feels even less alive because I feel even more alone. All the calls and notes in the world can 't substitute for the real thing. A husband is supposed to be there to hold your hand and tell you everything is going to be okay and take up the slack around the house when you aren 't feeling well. Who tells you everything is going to be okay when he 's not there? Who can tell you when everything might not, any day?

Every day is a battle between knowing I have to get through the day, for myself and for my child, and wanting to just sit down and cry. Every night is a desperate fight for sleep that won 't come. If you have never gone through this, you might think I am being self-indulgent, but if you have, then you know I am telling the truth.

We see our service members as heroes --those who stand and fight when the rest of us are sitting comfortable at our dinner tables and desks. What we often don 't see are the heroes they leave behind --wives and children and mothers and fathers who struggle every single day with a sense of loss, unable to articulate their feelings.

 

Katherine Brengle is a freelance writer and activist.
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