Many nights over the past five years, I have wondered what the future would hold for my family.
Much of that time, I was sitting in an old armchair in my bedroom when we lived in Fort Polk, La., looking out a window to the fields beyond.
At the time, it often seemed like the loneliest place on earth. For three years we lived off-post in a house that was decently far from Polk itself, situated between a bayou and fields, with only a few houses scattered nearby.
As a medevac pilot in a short-staffed unit, my husband was at the hangar pulling 24-hour duty shifts (exactly half of the time we were there, to be precise). This left me alone quite a bit — a rather unsettling experience when you live in the middle of nowhere.
Laying in bed at night, I would hear the eerie sound of coyotes howling and calling to each other. One night, the coyotes attacked some poor, unsuspecting creature. The resulting uproar was terrifying, something akin to a werewolf devouring a puppy. I’ve never been afraid of the dark — or monsters under my bed — but that night, I trembled under the covers like a little kid.
We had some good times, too, but when we left Louisiana after those long years, crossing the Texas border, which — ironically — was just a ten-minute driving distance from our house at the time, I felt like we were literally driving into the future, into the next chapter of our lives. I was pregnant with our first child and relieved, as well as a bit shell-shocked, as if I had been in a time warp.
Here at Hood life has continued, yet lately I’ve become aware of how ingrained into the Army lifestyle I have become over the years. It has changed me irrevocably. It is a culture unto itself, one you might even forget you are a part of until you realize that you can no longer see the world through the same eyes.
Like many families, for us the new year will bring another chapter, a particularly poignant one in the story of our lives — we will be transitioning out of the Army.
When we moved to Louisiana five years ago, my husband and I were engaged and putting the finishing touches on wedding plans. Now we are a family of three, looking down a road of both opportunity and uncertainty. It’s a fresh start, and while it’s a bit thrilling to think that we could go anywhere, it’s also nerve-wracking.
Anytime I chat with friends, family or anyone non-military affiliated, I’m always surprised by the total lack of understanding of even basic military knowledge that they possess. But then I realize that I was exactly the same way before I became an Army spouse.
In our new life, will we find a nice location, fulfilling careers and a home in which to settle down and grow roots? In this new place, will there be others like us, other veteran families who understand the shared history we’ve lived through?
Five years ago, this would have seemed like a ridiculous thing to wonder about, but now I do.
Five years ago, I never would have believed I would be living in Texas, let alone pondering leaving a life that was once so foreign to me.
So this New Year’s, think of me and my family, as well as all of the other families about to embark on this journey, and let’s raise our glasses for a collective toast: To us all, may our futures be bright.