And I shall not call you SergeantI was nineteen years old, and had been recently assigned to a line company in my new battalion. I was the first female to do the job I did for that particular company, and the only female soldier in the unit at that time. I had my own room in the barracks. That was a big deal after nearly a year in training status, and the fifteen roommates that got me for the duration. I was home on a brief R&R from a deployment I'd been sent on at the last minute, and it was the last night before I had to go back. I didn't have anything to do. All my friends were deployed, or in the field, and I was bored in the barracks all by myself. I heard someone playing a guitar outside, and thought to myself, "where there's a guitar, there's beer, and I would surely like a beer." I put my shoes on, and walked outside. There on the stairs was a guy from Headquarters Company whom I'd talked with a few times. He was always friendly to me, so I sat down on the stairs near him, and he paused from playing his guitar to hand me a beer. (I knew it! Where there's a guitar, there's beer.)
I sat there in the clear night air, looking out over the ledge, listening to my comrade play his guitar, and before I knew it, an attractive man joined me, and said, "I've seen you around here before, but not for the past few months." I answered nervously, peeling the label of my bottle of Bud Light, and fussing around in my pocket for my cigarettes, "Yeah, I've been on the JTF mission. I'm going back tomorrow, but will be back for good in probably a couple more months."
He asked me how my mission was going, and what I did. He listened raptly as I told him excitedly of my job, and my buddies, and how we were really making progress.
There was a lull in the conversation, and then he looked straight at me, smiled nervously, and said, "you have the greenest eyes I have ever seen." Just then, another soldier walked by, and said, "Good evening, Sergeant!" to the man I was with. We were in civvies. I didn't know his rank. He was very young looking, and I assumed he was around my own rank, but in reality, he was seven years my senior, and an NCO for years. I freaked out because I'd heard all the horror stories about fraternization and what happened to people who did it. I found the next graceful exit, and retired to my barracks room for the night.
For the next two years, that Sergeant would pursue me quietly, letting me come to him in my own time. He would "borrow" me from my company when he was on CQ in his, and I was CQ runner for mine. He would say he had a detail for me to do, but really, he would invite me to sit with him, and we'd talk for hours. He was so kind, and really cute, but I didn't really think much of it. I was young, and didn't know a good man when I met one.
Finally, I got out of the Army, and he got deployed. I couldn't keep him off my mind, though. I wrote him a letter, and he wrote back. He told me that he was in a very dangerous situation, and did not want to leave anything unsaid. He told me that he loved me, and that he wished he'd made a move while I was still in the Army. I was half ecstatic, and half shocked. While I did by then acknowledge that there was some attraction to the man with the dark eyes and kind smile, he was still someone I addressed as Sergeant, and stood at parade rest to speak to. It looked weird to see his first name at the bottom of the letter, under the word "love". I thought to myself, "do I love this Sergeant? Can he be more to me? Will I ever be able to think of him only by first name?" I pondered this for many days, and I came to the conclusion that he was a good man, and worth a chance. I wrote him back and said that I was open to the possibilities, that I was attracted to him, and that he ought to come and visit me when he came home.
When he came home, the first thing he did was email me. This was followed up a week later by our first phone call. He told me that he loved me before we said goodbye. I didn't say it back. He was still my Sergeant. Only now he was also my boyfriend. I was a little bit conflicted about the whole situation, but I knew even then that there was something about him, and I would be an idiot to waste this chance. I talked about him with my friends at university the next day, and they were all so awestruck by this soft hearted soldier who had loved me from afar for so many years, and only under enemy fire, got the nerve to say so. They told me to go for it. That's when it clicked. This is it for me. He is it.
A couple months later, he took leave, boarded a plane, and came to visit me. I was nervous about introducing him to my family since they knew that I had met him in the Army, and they have numerous misgivings about my military service, and also because he is a different race than I am, and I wasn't sure how my family felt about that. Well, all those worries went out the door the minute he met them. My family loved him from the minute they laid eyes on him, and told me I would be an idiot to let such a good man slip through my fingers.
For two glorious weeks, he and I reconnected as Army buddies, as veterans, and for the first time, as lovers. It was like nothing else I'd ever experienced. His touch was both assured and gentle, and he made me feel like the only woman on earth. He wasn't my Sergeant anymore. He was my fiancé.
A couple months later, we sent out our wedding announcements. We did not plan on the backlash we would receive from our command. They accused him of fraternizing with the lower-enlisted soldiers, told him he was in a world of hell for being with me, and threatened him with all kinds of unsubstantiated punishments. My quiet Sergeant stood up to every single one of them, said "She's not your soldier anymore, and I'm going to marry her whether you like it or not. I don't care how it looks for the unit. Think what you will. We have done nothing wrong." It was a hard few months for him in our battalion, and we really found out who our friends were.
As if by some miracle, orders came down for a different post, within weeks of our wedding. He would have to do several months of training en route, but that was ok. It was a new start for us, where our old command would not have their hooks in us anymore, and nobody had to know anything beyond that he is my husband, and I am his wife. I happily coordinated our move and our wedding simultaneously, and the day he arrived, everything was ready to go.
After we were married, he brought me to the post we were going to, which was only several hours from my hometown. There, we got me all squared away with the paperwork end of things, and also met his new command. It felt strange to be treated nicely by the very ranks which used to chew me out for anything they could. I think I turned ten shades of red when his new First Sergeant called me ma'am. Out of habit, I corrected him, "It's Specialist, First Sergeant." My husband laughed at me, and said "she hasn't been out long. It's her first time on post since then, so she's a little jittery." The First Sergeant was good natured, and found it hilarious.
Over the next two years, I tried to learn how to be an Army wife. It's so hard to do after you've learned how to be a soldier, and really allowed that to become part of your personality. I had to do this mostly alone, too, since he was gone for training for the first four months we were married, then was training up for deployment after that, and a few months before our first anniversary, he deployed for the second time. I was alone on the outside of the uniform, in a world I had known only from the safety of my BDU's and jump boots. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way about how to deal with civilian wives (civilian women married to soldiers, that is.) I tried to be a mentor to the wives of my husband's soldiers, as he had told me I should, but they didn't take kindly to my soldier style approach, and before the halfway point of the tour, nobody wanted to be my friend anymore. They didn't understand me, and I didn't understand them. With our husbands gone, it was impossible. So I was alone, on this strange post, far from my Army buddies, and without a friend in the world.
All the while, my husband was not being as attentive as he should have been. He would call me maybe once a month (there was limited access to phones where he was, but others called more) and was frequently heard saying, "My wife is a veteran. She can handle it." Despite all my begging, pleading, and crying, he did not get the point that I am no less of a wife just because I am a vet, and that I need the things all wives need, including some attention, whatever form that may take. By the time he came home, I was deeply depressed, and ready to leave him.
When he saw that, it was like a lightbulb came on, and he became the best husband anyone could ask for. He was home for just over a year when the troop surge was announced, and he was deployed again. In that time, we took our marriage to a whole new level, celebrated our second anniversary, and I forgave him for pushing me away during his second tour.
He's deployed now. It's his third tour. Things are better than ever. I still don't really know how to be an Army wife, but I'm really trying. I have one friend who doesn't mind that I'm a batty old veteran, and she keeps me smiling. My husband calls me daily, and our marriage has never been better. Our existence in this man's Army has gone to a whole new level, and I love it. He's moving into the senior NCO ranks, we've been married nearly four years, and we are planning for children after this deployment is over.
Being an Army wife is a life I never wanted. I thought it would be impossible for me to be around my beloved Army without enlisting again, but now, I see that this is better. I've come to enjoy this end of things even if I do fit in about as well as the proverbial square peg. I love the man I married more than life itself, and could never imagine a life without him in it. If that means I am an Army wife, then I am an Army wife, and I'm glad to be.