Excerpt of "Beyond Afghanistan: More Views of a Military Spouse"

Chapter One

Change is in the Air
2 January 2013 to 7 February 2013

2 January 2013

Ken has been home for little over a month and for the most part things have reverted back to our pre-deployment routine. The process of coming together as a family again after a deployment or an unaccompanied assignment is often referred to as re-integration. It is not always an easy process, nor is it something that happens over night; it really is an undertaking, not a single event that ends when the military member safely returns home. Successful re-integration requires effort and time, as well as an understanding that everyone involved has changed during the separation. While I’m not a mental health professional I’d like to think that despite some minor hiccups here and there, we are well on our way to once again becoming the family we were before Afghanistan, nevertheless I have to admit that I am surprised I didn’t go bat crap crazy while my husband was gone for a year.

Today was wingman/safety day (the term “Wingman Day” is Air Force speak for airmen spending the day to focus on shared camaraderie); this meant attending meetings and briefings all day long. Ken’s wingman day however was interrupted by his post-deployment doctor’s appointment. When my husband arrived at the flight doctor’s office, the technician took his vitals and then asked him the purpose of his visit. Since it was one of their clinic representatives who told him that he had to make this appointment, he was somewhat confused by this question.

He told the technician that he did not know the purpose of this visit and he had hoped someone could tell him. After playing 20 questions with the technician my husband just gave up and asked to see the doctor. Long story short, no one was ever able to enlighten him as to the purpose of this appointment, nor was he told anything that he didn’t know already. I just love it when people waste my precious time!

As for me, my legs were aching from yesterday’s furniture shuffle and running up and down the stairs. I do have to admit I like having the office upstairs. Now our front room is ready to be converted into a music room with a piano and a couple of comfortable arm chairs. I can’t wait for my husband to play the piano for me!

3 January 2013

And the bad news just keep on coming! My husband came home today, after a full day’s worth of work to break the news to me that his squadron commander neglected to request a DEROS (Date Eligible for Return from Overseas) extension for us. Needless to say without a DEROS extension my husband will be unable to meet all his gate months, prior to attending AFIT (Air Force Institute of Technology) and his RNLTD (Report no Later than Date) would also not coincide with the beginning of the school year.

Not to mention that without meeting his gate months he would lose his entire flight pay about midway through his doctoral program…in short, my husband and I cannot afford for him to attend AFIT under these circumstances. This in turn means that we will be slated to leave Alaska by autumn of this year…whereto, we have no idea.

The deadline to submit an application for an assignment to AFIT for the school year 2013/2014 has already passed. Without a DEROS extension we will be forced to PCS no later than September of this year. Once we arrive at Ken’s next duty station, he will have to wait until he has two years of TOS (Time on Station) before he can apply again. By then his letter of acceptance from AFIT will have expired and he will have to start the process over. Talk about a Pandora’s Box!

I hate surprises and I don’t appreciate living in limbo! Nor do I appreciate when the leadership does not look out for their troops, because they have their own agenda. My husband and I are old enough to make our own decisions. And by the way here’s a newsflash: not everybody in the military wants to become a general some day! Stop trying to pigeonhole your troops!

Our dream of living together in Ohio for the next three years, without the fear of another deployment, appears to have been destroyed. The 278 days I sat here in fear for my husband’s safety during his latest deployment seem to have all been for naught! Ken has set up an appointment to see his squadron commander next Wednesday to get answers. But will that change anything regarding our future? Not very likely! The tracks have been set, just not the way we expected them to! This is all beginning to sound very familiar…

4 January 2013

And he did it again! Darren, that little stinker, pooped along the upstairs hallway this morning. Apparently he has declared that part of the house his own personal toilet. I suppose I ought to be thankful that he doesn’t have diarrhea at the moment, but that doesn’t make the clean-up any more pleasant…especially early in the morning before breakfast. You can easily lose your appetite that way!

Ken and I have been contemplating our assignment options, since AFIT seems to have moved out of reach. Also known as rack-and-stack, we’ve been making a list of Air Force Bases with his current airframe on station, sorting the assignments descending from favourite to least favourite. Since we will more than likely not get what we want, we are now in damage control mode.

Despite my foul mood (in part due to Ken’s lovely news yesterday, in part because of Darren’s actions) I decided to focus on something a little more fun…planning a surprise birthday party for my husband. Last year Ken was in Atlanta for the MC-12 Pilot Initial Qualification Course, so we didn’t get to celebrate his birthday. The year before that he attended Squadron Officer’s School (SOS) in residence at Maxwell AFB in Alabama; I thought it was high time to throw him a big birthday bash. Shhhh….it’s a surprise, so don’t tell him!

5 January 2013

After our afternoon of piano shopping we decided it was high time to get dinner…our destination: The steak house. Ken ordered the New York strip with mashed potatoes and I had a filet mignon with a baked potato…it was delicious! I’ve been craving red meat for a while now and today I finally satisfied it. Naturally we both ate too much, but it was so good we just couldn’t help ourselves.

All these activities made for a decent anniversary of our first date or as Ken likes to call it “non-versary”. It seems like so long ago when we went to the local Irish pub for dinner and according to my husband being with me for all those years hasn’t been all that bad – this is quite a compliment on Ken’s part! Where did the time go?

6 January 2013

Today was the day of the three wise men (or three holy kings, as they are known in Germany) and with it the last day of the Christmas season has arrived. Therefore it was time to put away the Christmas decorations. It made me sort of sad to stow away all those pretty ornaments and garlands. It’s challenging to imagine that we might not celebrate our next Christmas here but at some other location.

It felt like déjà vu for me, carrying bins in and out of the garage, stowing things away….I could have sworn we just did that last weekend when we moved the office furniture and paraphernalia upstairs. Now the house has been restored to pre-Christmas order, but somehow it looks too bare to me. Perhaps that’s because the music room isn’t complete yet!? Either way, I’m sure by tomorrow my legs are going to ache again from all that schlepping!