Spouse Calls: Don’t forget families overseas
A reader named Denise sent this letter, which she wrote during a deployment in 2004:
Dear American people,
Who are we? We are the men, women and children left behind during deployment who live overseas. We live away from family, friends and the familiarities of home. Our home is on a military post in a foreign country, and our soldiers are deployed in Iraq.
We do not even know if you know that we exist.
Some of us are newlyweds who have been separated from our new spouse. Some of us are significant others — girlfriends, boyfriends or best friends — of a deployed loved one. Some of us are longtime military spouses. Some of us are family members who came here from the States to take care of the children of a deployed soldier.
Our children are born, get older, hit new milestones and live without one parent for months or more than a year. We’ve watched as children took their first step, lost their first tooth, started school, stayed up waiting for Santa Claus, had their first date, knowing that event is gone forever, never to be enjoyed first-hand by our spouses.
We live through mailed letters, e-mailed letters and photos. We enjoy hearing our loved one through crackly phone calls, and some of us enjoy instant messenger sessions and Web cam. We remain brave and smile, even though our hearts are worried and we know our deployed family member may not come home alive.
Can you imagine living in a foreign country where English is not the primary language while your spouse is deployed? This is our "home" — empty, lonely and incomplete.
Our family members defend our country — our freedom of speech — yet you do not hear from them; you do not hear from us. Is it because we are so far removed from the U.S.? Is it because it is an election year? Is it because we chose this, so we should suck it up and drive on?
We receive news that our spouses are extended in Iraq while we are extended in living our lives solo. The soldiers miss more milestones and miss their loved ones. They are doing their job and we are doing ours. Yet, life goes on and many of us wonder: Do you know what our family members — the deployed and the ones keeping the home fires burning — do for our country? Do you really know?
And now I ask: Does the media care to report about these Americans living overseas keeping the home fires burning, awaiting our soldiers’ return? Embedded reporters related the stories of missions in Iraq. What about reporters for the missions on the home front on duty stations other than the U.S.?
Our spouses left as one person, and more than likely they will return changed, changed forever by what they have seen, done, heard and experienced. We too, the family members, are changed — changed forever.
So again, we wait. We wonder. When renewed and intense fighting breaks out, we worry with more sense of fear. What will happen to our soldiers? Will they come home? Will they be extended again?
We want you to know we are here, and that they continue to be there.
Please don’t forget us as the war rages on and as our soldiers stay there for what seems like forever. Please don’t forget our soldiers. Do not get comfortable with the fact that we will "always" be at war with someone.
Please do not let our soldiers and their families become anonymous. They have faces and families. Remember us.
— The wife of a deployed soldier
Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Spouse Calls blog at http:/blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls.