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What I really want to say

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Justyne Strohmeyer
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing History Office

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- What I really want to say…

What I really want to say is, I miss you.

What I really want to say is, home has never looked so good.

What I really want to say is, how much I love you and I’m sorry for your sacrifice.

Being in a marriage takes work.

Being in a military marriage takes sacrifice.

As a 10-year reservist, stationed at the same base since enlistment, I grew up with a general understanding that we were different. Different from active duty and different from other military branches, despite what we are told about one mission, one fight. I live a life separate from the military and that life has slowly started to intertwine, and maybe not in the way I hoped. I committed to this before my marriage. I signed my enlistment paperwork, but my future husband did not.

The issues my spouse and I have are different from those that do this fulltime back home. We both teach elementary age students and live by a daily mindset of patience and perseverance. I don’t put the uniform on until drill weekend or in other words, once a month and two weeks a year. That change in mindset is along the same lines as my job, but the shock of being here was something neither of us were prepared for, not drastically, but enough to give us strife.

I never knew how much my spouse would sacrifice while I was deployed. No kids at home to keep him company, no friends that live nearby, and no pre-planned activities while I was away. Deployments provide the warfighter to the mission, but what do they take in turn from the ones we leave at home?

Our saving grace was the Air Force Reserve’s Yellow Ribbon program. This culture shock, uprooting our daily lives for me to be on the other side of the world, was only capable because we were prepared. I knew it would suck. I knew it would be harder than anything I had ever done. I knew I would be a better person for it. But, what if my spouse did not attend Yellow Ribbon? What if I went alone? What if my unit did not support this program?

Yellow Ribbon, and the presenters, taught us to communicate in ways I thought we already were. Once deployed, I knew we had never communicated the way we needed. Conversations were impersonal and routine, but not thoughtful and concise. Our words have indirect and direct meanings. Choosing the way we speak and interact abides us the ability to care for one another.

In our seminars at Yellow Ribbon, we spoke to each other, but not just with words. We built upon established trust and grew. The short weekend was enough to make us realize that this deployment was really happening. This was going to be hard for me, but even harder for my husband. I needed him to be strong and I needed him to do it fast.

Support systems are for everyone, not just the deployed husband, wife, mother or friend. They are needed back home, no matter the branch, no matter the relationship. Building a culture of support and care will enable the warfighter to give his or her full attention to the mission. When you live in two worlds, as a reservist or a guardsmen and your civilian life, the transitions are needed for those you leave behind and more importantly, the ones you care about the most.

What I really want to say is, we can do this.

What I really want to say is, I am not just a reservist.

What I really want to say is, I support you.

(Editor’s Note: The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is a DoD-wide effort to promote the well-being of National Guard and Reserve members, their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. For more information, visit