When most people think of Iraq, they think of the war that began in 2003 and the fight against terrorism. However, the U.S. military’s first major conflict with the country started 25 years ago.
Operation Desert Storm began Jan. 17, 1991, after Iraqi forces who had invaded neighboring Kuwait refused to withdraw. From start to finish, Desert Storm only lasted 43 days.
I don’t remember much about the conflict, aside from what I was taught in school, since I was just 6 years old at the time. My only real memory of that year was my baby sister, who was born Jan. 15 and my parents brought her home from the hospital just as Operation Desert Storm was beginning.
Growing up, I had no ties to the military. Many moons before I was born, my maternal grandfather served briefly in the Portuguese military and I had an uncle who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, but my day-to-day knowledge of the lifestyle or the sacrifices made by both the service member and their families, was obsolete.
It wasn’t until I married an Army officer in 2009 and moved across the country and an ocean to our first duty station that I got my introduction to life as a military wife.
My mind was blown.
Being married to the military is no small feat and it’s not for the faint of heart. I knew that my spouse would deploy, but I had no idea what “going to the field” meant or how often he would go “TDY.”
I learned a lot very quickly. I threw myself into the challenge of interpreting the acronym-filled, regulation-driven world of the military.
Early on, when many of our friends would go “home” during a deployment, I didn’t understand their reasoning. Why would you leave? Wasn’t this place your new home?
Well now that we have a family of our own, I totally get it.
Being alone is one thing, but being the only adult taking care of children, is something else all together. Having to hold down the fort and stay strong for your littles while your spouse takes care of business thousands of miles away, never gets easier. Sadly, with the way the world is, deployments aren’t going away.
Lucky for me, I have only been through one deployment and that was way before the twins were born. Now, when my husband goes into the field for a week or more at a time, I start to sweat and call in reinforcements.
I don’t know how families survived the doldrums and uncertainties of deployments without all the advancements in technology we have today. When my husband was deployed, we would communicate almost daily via social media or through email or Skype.
Those terms are like a foreign language to our Vietnam veterans. I remember talking with a local vet and he told me he used to communicate with his wife via an operator, and he would have to tell this voice “I love you, dear” hoping it would get relayed, hopefully, back to his wife.
Crazy how things change.
Although technology has helped bridge the gap it doesn’t change the fact that a loved one is a world away. Even with a drawdown of forces, service members are still being deployed to various parts of the world.
Deployment is a way of life for many military families and families locally are bearing the brunt of it. The number of Fort Hood soldiers deployed around the world jumped to more than 7,400 in February, according to Fort Hood’s population report card, the highest it’s been since 2012. Officials said the spike is due to the rotation of troops heading to and coming from South Korea — part of a new Army plan that has, thus far, fallen largely on the shoulders of Fort Hood soldiers.
Saying goodbye to your loved one and watching the buses drive away never gets easier. What always amazes me is how spouses rally together during these times to support one another. The life we lead, the choices and sacrifices we make, although it baffles others, is what bonds us and helps lessen the blow when duty calls.