He was set to leave on the 8th. It was an agonizing time, every second felt like a knife-jab to the gut because it meant we were one second closer to his going overseas. I couldn’t bear it, I felt like I was dying.
The night before we blew up the air mattress, we were told ‘the call’ would come anytime. We slept together in the living room, clinging to our family as we knew it, even the small developing baby within me – if he could’ve reached through my skin to hold tight to my husband, he would have.
Several calls came and went that day – the plane was delayed, and each day was a gift given to us, and we were given many that week. It was an unfortunate turn of events that caused the plane to suddenly become “unbroken” just in time for Valentine’s Day.
That night, yet another night on the blow-up mattress with my family, pregnant, holding onto a husband I feared letting go, I knew it would be today, and my heart nearly leapt from my chest to prevent that door from opening.
On Valentine’s Day 2004, while pregnant, I said goodbye to my husband, deploying to Iraq.
While he was being issued his weapons, I recall staying in the car in the rain and finding an empty envelope to scrawl a poem onto right that second. Every emotion so raw, my tears overwhelming, yet the writer in me had to jot it down for him even then. He kept those words close to his heart his entire tour, words I folded up with my heart and gave to him as we parted that day. Words that made him cry when he read them for the first time on the plane.
Each day since his return has been an adventure, as we’ve moved, created a bigger family, changed (military) jobs, taken vacations, shared our hearts and lives with new and old friends alike. But each year, when Valentine’s Day rolls around, with the hustle-and-bustle for love trinkets at jewelry stores filled with roses, cards and chocolates are running rampant, I still cling to my husband. He’s the only gift I’ll ever need. He is home. He is safe. He is beautiful, and we are together. And I will never, ever, forget the gift the Army gave me that day. Considerably the worst Valentine’s Day ever, but one I won’t soon forget or take for granted, ever again.
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