It was an odd choice for date night. I can’t remember if the movie was rented or if we saw it in a theater, but I certainly remember the movie. Black Hawk Down. The brutal true story of a military mission gone wrong in Somalia in 1993. Shortly after watching the movie that night, Steve informs me that he recently met with recruiters for Army Aviation and flying helicopters sounded a lot more fun than studying Chinese. Steve was still in language school at this time, but already he could see that the job he signed up for wasn’t as exciting as it sounded. He wanted to apply for flight school, and fly…Blackhawk helicopters.
The Army was only supposed to be a pit stop on the road to other things. A place to spend a few years learning a language and seeing a different part of the country. But then September 11 happened. I remember watching that second plane hit the tower, realizing that this was no accident, and as the wife of a soldier, understanding pretty quickly that things were about to change drastically. What our role would be in the upcoming conflicts was still unknown, but I knew that somehow, we would be part of it.
How do you make your peace with this kind of life?
So… flight school it was. I have to say it’s a lot of fun to be married to a pilot. For one thing, the “Honey, how was your day?” conversations are a lot more interesting. It’s pretty cool to visit him at the “office” and getting to sit in the cockpit of a multi-million dollar war machine. Imagine going about your day only to look up and see your soldier flying traffic patterns over your house. And of course, the uniform. Steve sure looked good in his flight suit!
Flight school is also where I got my first taste of the “what ifs.” What if there is an accident on the flight line? What if there is a crash? What if my soldier doesn’t come home at the end of the day? I remember being in a classroom with a bunch of other spouses of flight students. We were given a very frank briefing on the realities of Army Aviation, especially as the United States had just entered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There WILL be deployments, with dangerous combat missions,” the speaker informed us. “There WILL be accidents, there WILL be crashes. It’s just a question of who and when. And there WILL be casualties. They will come in war and they come in training. So here is what you need to know….”
And for the next hour we learned about casualty notifications and care teams, life insurance and wills. We discussed death benefits and funeral plans. We chose who we would want to knock on our door in the case that it was our soldier who was lost.
How do you make your peace with this kind of life? How do you become ok with knowing every day your spouse puts his or her life at risk? How do you make a normal life for yourself among the stress and uncertainty of being married to a soldier during a war?