Hellos and See You Soons, as a Marine Corps Family
Updated: Sep 25, 2020
Our connection to Yeager begins before we knew him. We had recently moved from Endicott, New York to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where our Marine was to join the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines Regiment, after a tour on recruiting duty. He was to deploy to Afghanistan within months of our arrival, and we were thrust into the intoxicating world of the United States Marine Corps. There was no hope of a peaceful transition to southern life or the added insensitivity of military southern life, so I prepared for the worst, wept when hope for something more crept in and was unmet, and delighted in the small things when presence of mind allowed.
We waited for a base house and bounced from beach house to beach house until one became available. It might have been exciting, and it was at times. But with your father immediately away in training camps, we had many nights alone on Top Sail Island, in the dead of winter, I slept little with every creek of the house. And the bugs! I was terrified that I would wake up and find these beasts of an insect crawling on my sweet girls. We had to trudge through the Yankee to southernification process, and mammoth sized critters were the things that nightmares were made of. Surely the base house, further away from the water would be better.
The call came after a couple of months waiting, that a house was available, and a decision to accept it had to be made immediately, or we would be back on the waitlist. The deployment imminent, being homeless was not desirable. I toted you girls to Berkeley Manor, which sounded delightful, but was older housing; unkempt housing. We were shown around the house on a rainy day, and my hopes were dashed as I saw what southerners eloquently call Palmetto bugs, belly up on the floor. I later looked it up, they are a roach, and in this case a rose by any other name is still a roach. I hadn't cried, but now I did. Upstate New York doesn't have critters like these water bugs, and the sight of their wingspan and prevalence broke me. Beyond the critters, the house was not what I had hoped for and true to my suspicions, it would not be long before mold and other elements of neglect continually surfaced. I had no shame of crying in front of the agent. I frantically called your dad, who was in some field training...so close yet so far. He didn't pick up. I left hysterical voice messages, "what should I do?! They said if I don't take it, it could be months before another house is available! Please call me back!" I have abhorred making decisions that impact many on my own, but such is life.
I accepted the house, and immediately went to Home Depot for pesticide. I met a sweet grandmotherly lady who worked there, and I shared with her my dilemma. Mackenzie on one hip with your overly adored pink doggy in tow and trying to keep Mariah from wandering with my spare hand. That pink dog came everywhere with you. Everywhere! You loved dogs instinctively, your tender heart connecting with them in an uncanny and instinctive manner. The passion you felt for the pink dog would someday be replaced and grown exponentially for a goofy labrador and co-conspirer.
The woman at Home Depot was the first sympathetic voice in months. I missed my family. I missed my friends. I missed my husband. So in complete abandon, I asked the woman if I could hug her, and she sweetly allowed me to. If you ever wonder why Home Depot is my hardware store of choice, it will always be because of that sweet woman who saw an exhausted new mom, thrust into a new world, and showed her love and which roach killer was the best.
The days dragged and sped in typical pre-deployment fashion. We couldn't have known, but Yeager was already searching for Improvised Explosive Devices in the Helmand Provence of Afghanistan, with Lcpl. Tarwoe. We saw your dad as much as was possible between training and quickly got the house habitable. We hosted new friends as much as we could, we would be going through this together. One of many dear things about the military community, is that you are all torn from your creature comforts and forced to forge a camaraderie of necessity and compassion. Strangers from across the nation, suddenly united by a commonality that ties souls by a love not simply for country, but for the love of the one you would follow to the ends of the earth. I adored your father with every fiber of my being, and would have trudged through any obstacle to be with him, even for a moment. My love for him made every sacrifice feel as though it were a gift to my own heart, and I delighted in the weight, because it was ours to carry and honor.
Love stories come in all varieties. We often narrowly think of them as amorous and knights in shining armor, riding gallantly through trials to whisk the maiden away from harm. I think love is bigger than that. Right now, in this very moment, there is someone, somewhere on this big beautiful earth, going about their normal day. They likely don't think they are doing anything profound, but they are building a story, moment by moment, that when your paths cross, you will determine to love them because of or in spite of that story. I like to think of Yeager as a part of our love story. I wouldn't have dared get a dog, not with the lifestyle of a Marine wife with children, and we already did have two cats. But somewhere, across an immense body of water, events were conspiring to bring Yeager into our lives. Someday that pink doggy would take a backseat and become forgotten when a new love would enter your life.
The day came, too quickly. Your dad was to get his Marines organized and ready for the buses, and we could meet him outside the barracks for one last "see you soon". Goodbyes are forbidden before a deployment. Goodbyes are final, and when the enemy is merciless, goodbyes are too ominous to chance; "see you soon" through clinched tears hoping against hope that the words would breathe reality over the opportunity to be reunited and whole once again. I watched you play with the young men who had dined at our house, they were sweet young men. In the sea of desert cammies, Mackenzie grabbed a hand thinking it was your dad's, the tenderness was accepted by a Corporal who would have no last embrace from a loved one.
Kisses were given, embraces lingered. Lessons in "so long", pressing against your tender hearts, already having parted from grandparents and loved ones up North. Saying see you soon, in truth, is a charade we play, because sometimes the soon never comes. Sometimes the see you soon, is a goodbye, and it is only by sheer hope against hope that one clings to the chances of soon. Somewhere on Camp Lejeune, only weeks after we said so long to your dad, a young woman and child would find out that their see you soon was a goodbye. Her goodbye would result in a new love for our family. You see, love is not precious simply because it is a selfless choice we make, but because the love we experience today is only due to the compounding of love over the ages that passed it along from generation to generation, until it is your turn to give and receive. Love is a lineage that pours out and crosses blood lines and species; and we are the fortunate vessel to receive and to give it.