We are a military family.
That means that we’ve packed up and moved to places that we didn’t want to go with nothing more than a piece of paper telling us where to report and when we could maybe, possibly, “Oh, wait, nevermind” have our stuff shipped.
We’ve kept weird hours, we have friends all over the world and open invitations for a visit “someday”, Skype has been our best friend at times, and we have cried on the shoulders of absolute strangers-turned-military-family when we’ve been so homesick that we can’t stand it.
We have learned a ridiculous amount of acronyms, jargon, and lingo to communicate with our peers.
We can tell you everything about our squadron friends except their first names– we only know them as Animal, Boomer, Dirty, Gobbles, and each of their names has one hell of a story.
For 7 years, the squadron, the mission, and the country have come first.
In a few days, that is all going to change.
I have cried tears of joy and immense sadness that this will be our last 4th of July with the Air Force.
I openly admit that I am scared to death of what civilian life will mean but right now all I can think about is what needs to be done. We need copies of medical records, we have to make our appointments, time to purge the garage, clean out the fridge, do some repairs around the house, get a realtor here, find a new realtor there, polish up the resume, start a job hunt for the first time in what seems like ages… The list keeps me focused. The list keeps me calm when I start to panic. I am a crazy person, and this list is holding me together just like it has every station change before.
My dad was in the Air Force when I was a kid and I swore that I would never marry a military man. He tricked me. He signed up after we were married.
Despite the immense heat last weekend, our squadron had a rare “Family Day” where kids and spouses were invited up for food, socialization, and most importantly to learn more about the mission. See, it’s hard to be a supportive family when you really don’t understand what your spouse is doing, seeing, or going through. The nature of the job means that we can’t know very much so it is incredibly easy to be frustrated with your military member when you don’t know what’s wrong or why they had a bad day. These events let the spouses get a little insight so that we can do our job better.
The folks at the squadron went to a lot of trouble to get us a static display of one of the planes so that we could take all of the pictures we’ve ever wanted to take and I am so glad they did because I have never actually been able to have my camera within shooting range of these suckers. This is going to look great in the scrapbook.
We also got to spend some time in the simulator to see just what our spouses do all day, every day. The closest I’ve ever been told is that his job is basically like playing video games and that it could be very tedious at times. After sitting through a briefing, watching actual strike footage, and sitting in the simulator trying to work with this extremely counter intuitive, information dense, “I don’t have enough eyeballs for this” set-up I have an entirely newfound respect for my husband and all of the flight crew members that do this every day.
During the family fun, we were invited to watch unclassified strike videos of actual humans being blown to dust, actual lives being saved, and seriously real missions that actually happened (military family fun, guys!). While we were watching the videos, it really hit me just how important these jobs are. It is so strange to think that my husband is going from this weird, sometimes scary, often sad, and genuinely life altering mission to, who knows, selling toasters or whatever it is we’re going to be doing soon. Just knowing how many lives he has impacted, for better or worse, for the last 7 years it really seems like it is almost a waste of his skill to go back to, heck, I don’t even know what I think it is that we’re going back to.
All I know for sure is that I have so much to thank the Air Force for– my kids, my house, seeing these crazy places that I never would have willingly visited (Yeah, I’m talking about you San Angelo, TX!), making these amazing friends that have helped me through some of the best and worst moments of my life, for strengthening my marriage and showing me that if we can get through this we really can get through anything.
It has not always been fun, I have not always liked it, and I cannot wait to see how it feels to know that I am actually fully unpacking my house for the first time since he was sworn in but I am going to miss a lot of things.
This has been one hell of an experience and I can honestly say that I will never forget it. Military families don’t say “goodbye” so “See ya later” Air Force.
“Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At ‘em boys, Give ‘er the gun! (Give ‘er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing’ll stop the U.S. Air Force!”
… except lighting within 5, that’ll shut her down every time
Callsigns used in this article are for demonstration only, in alphabetical order. If you know anyone with a similar name, buy them a beer and tell them that they have amazing taste. I’m not talking about them. I swear. Except one of them… and they know who they are.