April 7th at 1:30 AM ended one of the longest years of my life. This deployment is over and Seth's unit is back safe and sound. Every single one of them. (Except maybe the guy who fell off a 10 foot tower during tower duty one night and shattered his foot. He's on crutches, but fine otherwise).
This deployment was infinitely harder for me than the last deployment. For one reason in particular. And it wasn't the distance. Unfortunately, we're used to that. It was the communication, or lack thereof. We're used to being apart, but we talked daily. On weekends, he'd call and wake me up at 9 am. Then we'd get online and we'd video chat. Then we'd talk many times off and on throughout the day. And send emails. That all came to an abrupt halt. He'd been warned that communication would be severely limited and I tried to mentally prepare myself for this. No amount of preparation could do it though. Heck, even last deployment, we talked daily, emailed daily and sent lots of pictures back and forth. Last deployment was very easy compared to this one, even though it was more dangerous. But this time, it was much harder than I could have expected.
Seth deployed on Sunday, April 4th, 2010. Easter Sunday. I went to my parent's house that day and then I stopped by his parent's house. I told his Dad that he left. Seth emailed me when he could, and I emailed him every night as I have been since we started our relationship. I got a call a few days after he left (I'd been sending telepathic messages his way for days, but apparently they weren't strong enough to be received that far away). I remember sighing a huge sigh of relief, just to be able to hear his voice, knowing that he was OK. I was at work and I remember thinking that he sounded really exhausted. I remember wondering if he was sad and missing me, mad at something, just being quiet in a tent full of possibly sleeping soldiers, or just genuinely tired. Or all of the above. Each of our phone calls, for probably the first two months, ended with me crying. I didn't want to. I tried to fight it. I tried to be silent so he couldn't hear the crack in my voice. I let him do the talking and I'd mumble yes or no. Then he'd ask me if I was crying, I'd say no, he'd call me a liar and I'd tell him I can't help it. I just missed him. We only talked on Sunday evenings, before he went to bed, for about 15-20 minutes for the first four months of the deployment. He said he'd be moving to a different location and our communication would improve. I wouldn't believe him till I heard it. By this time, I was getting used to the talking once per week thing (I still didn't like it, but I got used to it). The lack of communication with him was really hard for me to deal with and I went through a mini-depression. I put on a fake smile, fake happy face and fake everything and pretended like I was fine on the outside. One time, I was going out for a friend's birthday and before I got out of my car, I looked in the mirror and said: "put on your happy face." On the inside, I was hurting but wasn't ready to admit it.
Around July, I got my calling card to work, and we had a new routine: I'd call on Wednesday evenings before he went to bed, and he'd still call before he went to bed on Sunday night. This additional talk time helped me get out of my funk. We only webcammed maybe 5-6 times in the whole year he was deployed. Skype never worked for us; gmail video chat did, but it'd work for a few minutes, disconnect, work for another minute or two, disconnect again and then we'd give up trying.
Along with the lack of ability to communicate, we also seemed to argue more than normal. I hate to admit this because, I know, it's an unspoken rule that you don't/shouldn't argue with your significant other while they're deployed. I tried not to. But sometimes, with the added stress for both of us, it was inevitable. We had three bigger than normal arguments for us in the last year. I can only think of one right now and it lasted a good few days... back and forth emails, and he finally emailed me and said he'd call me that night and we'd figure this out. He called me, we made small talk, the phone kept cutting out more than normal (of course, right?) and then finally said, "ok, start talking." We finally resolved it then and there and I know we both felt way better.
Even though we've talked less and argued more in the last year, we've become a lot closer and stronger as a couple. We had many gmail conversations towards the end of this deployment (when the communication improved!) about the future, our lives, our selves, what we want and what we don't want. I wholeheartedly believe that a lot of the conversations we had during this deployment wouldn't have happened if it weren't for this deployment. Being apart has made us closer.
For that reason alone, I would repeat the last year over if I had to, if it meant it'd get us where we are today. I don't regret anything about this deployment, any of the arguments we had. It got is to where we are now, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. (And let's be honest: he re-enlisted while he was in the 'Stan, so we will have more deployments in our future).
Seth - I'm SO glad you're back, even if it means we're separated yet again. We've had a trying year but we made it through, and if we can do that, we can do anything together. I'm beyond excited for the next chapter of our lives to start together. And I've never been more proud of you than the morning of April 7th when this deployment ended for us. I love you!