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our next “duty station”


Last Monday, J. accepted a job as an industrial engineer with a pharmaceutical company.  The industry is strong, the position itself will get continued education with plans for promotion in a couple of years, and we will be moving back to the South (North Carolina).  The other two positions he had to choose from were as an engineer for an oil services company in Texas, and as an operations manager for a wind farm.  The wind farm was an excellent opportunity, but would likely always be in the boonies.  And as much as I love Little House on the Prairie, I didn’t want to live like Laura (a girl needs her TJ Maxx and Target). J. loved the oil services company, but not the industry so much.  And we didn’t want to live in Texas forever (sorry, Texas-lovers).

We are all at once excited about our future and sad about leaving the Army.  It really is a loss for us.  Some very well-meaning friends and family have called to say they are "relieved" that we are getting out.  The thing is, for us it’s been a privilege, an honor, to be in the Army for over 6 years – especially during this time-frame.  Not everyone – particularly civilians – can appreciate that.  But then again, they haven’t lived the news for the last six years.  Which is another reason it’s so difficult to leave this life.  I feel like we are about to enter The Land of People Who Just Don’t Understand.  My Army friends smile knowingly when I say that.  In fact, sometimes I avoid discussing my feelings about our experience on this blog because without the context of being an Army wife during a war, I wonder how readers interpret my thoughts.  I’m going to put some of it out there anyway.

It’s not just a career, or a thing we do, it’s who we are, and have become.  We’ve been part of the Army during a pretty tumultuous and trying time.  We’re not walking away easily. 

With all the debate and opinions, there have been times that I have wondered what we’re doing this for.  Yes, I understand the right to dissent and disagree, protest and argue, are what we are fighting to keep – or gain for others.  And I appreciate that.  But there are our rights, and then there’s common decency.  Take, for instance, the protest I had to drive through at the opening of our gate on post – essentially the front steps of where soldiers live and work (I was grateful my daughter wasn’t old enough to understand).  The signs told us to abandon our mission, to just "refuse to deploy!"  Besides thinking that the protest was in the wrong place to begin with, I wondered what sense this made?  Did they know what would happen to this country if our soldiers were to suddenly pick and choose which orders they followed?  I cried for an hour after that as I shopped the commissary on post.  Yes, I took it personally.  And how else could I have taken it, really?  Soldiers do not take their duty lightly. We’ve made a very personal investment in defending this country and others.   

Last summer J.’s Humvee was hit by a bomb (he survived unscathed).  It was bound to happen at some point.  He and his driving partner were almost always in the lead vehicle in a convoy.  Which means if there was a bomb to hit, they would probably be the ones to hit it.  A group of corrupt Iraqi police had told them the road was clear, then hit the ground for cover after J’s team passed – a sure sign they knew what was coming.  Do you know what happened when J. went to arrest and question the Iraqis who were responsible for knowingly letting them drive over a bomb?  He had to let them go.  Their new story was that they’d "tried to warn the soldiers about a bomb ahead."  A flat lie. But in Iraq, evidence isn’t enough to hold a known terrorist.  And even a conviction means only a short 3-4 month stint in jail before they are free to terrorize again.  That’s what our soldiers are up against over there. 

Our husbands have a million stories like this.  And it’s why it hurts so much to be a military wife among American politics these days.  And despite all the conflicting emotions, I truly feel blessed to have been a part of this history.  I am proud – PROUD – of J., of Clay and Karen, Christine and Dave, of Ben, of Phil, of everyone willing to wake up every day and follow orders. (This pic is from the day J. was commissioned)


This isn’t a political blog, but this is a blog about my life, which has been affected by politics for over five years now.  Regardless of your politics, you’ve always been supportive.  And somehow I feel okay sharing my thoughts with you today.  You won’t find too many military spouses willing to discuss such matters outside the military community, much less blog about it.  It’s a bit of a no-no for many.  We’ve learned to be gracious, to keep our opinion to ourselves, and for heaven’s sake to not bite people’s heads off when they compare their husband’s weekend business trip to our 12 (now 15)-month deployments. 😉

For all of you military wives, I am sad to be leaving your community in a few short weeks.  I will always appreciate your family’s sacrifice.  If your husband or wife is deployed, please know my family is praying for you.  Stay strong.

Today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day.  Please take a moment to pray for our military spouses.

tanaya - What a personal and honest blog post.
I will not dare to say that I understand. I don’t. I don’t understand any of what you (military families) go through on a daily basis.
I will not dare to discuss my (or your, or anyone’s) specific political feelings. They do not matter. Opinion are just that. Support and love are all that I can share.
I will say thank you for all that you have endured and for all that you are about to accept in this world of people who do not understand.
I will say good luck and best wishes and travel safe and that I hope that you find the life that you are dreaming of waiting out there for you.

LauraJ - This post is dripping with pride! I admire you for that. Be proud of who you are and the road you have travelled. I’m happy I read today.

Not Your Typical Pastor's Wife - I just found your blog recently and have admired your crafty creations…I guess I’m hoping your creativity will somehow rub off on me if I read your blog and look at your photos!:)
Anyway, I don’t have personal experience in the military, but I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am to your husband, you, your daughter and all the other military families you represent. I am honored and humbled that you have given so much for all of us. Thank you.
God bless you and your family as you close this chapter of your lives and open the next. I hope your experience in the Army will somehow prove to be instrumental in making a huge impact in the lives of the people you meet as you go forward.

KBG - This, of course, hits home. I do the same – try not to discuss my feelings about these things – because I know that people “in the real world” just wouldn’t get it. Well, please know that I got it. I hope you all love NC, it’s a beautiful state!

Shanna - ack! i’m in tears reading this! i’m an ex army wife and my entire family is army…i completely understand.
congrats to the hubby on his new job! and from this texan, i completely understand why you wouldn’t want to be there for too long!

Christine - Thank you Crystal for this beautiful post. I can only imagine your feelings right now.
You will always be a military wife :) You will always understand. Your amazing positivity and pride while J was deployed inspired me and I am sure so many others.
The experience has built character you will carry with you into your post active-military life. You are now just an alumni of this crowd! Any time you want to check back in I will be happy to share sob stories.

Julia - Thank you for posting this. It’s good to know how soldiers and their families view their service to our country. I want you to know that most of us who are quietly going about our lives feel deep respect and gratitude to those who willingly sacrifice and face hardship and separation from family to fulfill their mission. We just don’t gather at the gates of military posts with signs — and maybe we should.
God bless you and your family in the next chapter of your lives. Even though you’re leaving the Army, it will always be a part of you and nothing will change that.

Mom - Hello, little girl :) I will echo the sentiments left here by your friends… we are proud of James, and of your family; of all that you have done to make this world a better place at your own expense… And remember–they can take the wo/man out of the military, but they can never take the military out of the wo/man. It forever defines you.
love u,
mom xo

stephanie - beautifully written. congrats on the new opportunity! that is exciting! you will always be a military wife- and will probably encourage and inspire other military wives because you have “been there and done that” and you will always get it. i like how you have emphasized how much the military has meant and defined YOU. i feel the same even though i have never put on the uniform. many spouses will say things like “HE is in the military I am NOT” but i just don’t see it that way. my life is dictated by the military so i serve in my own way :) best wishes for many good adventures ahead!

Anne - What an amazing and poignant post. You expressed so well something that I have a hard time saying sometimes, and I’m just a girl who was raised a military brat to a 20 year daddy in the Army. You’re right – I really think that it is impossible to understand outside the ‘circle’. So many thoughts with you and your husband as you make this very strange and new transition in life. I hope for you both that it turns out amazingly, and you can find the same level of love and respect in your ‘new life’.

laurie - Bless your heart! We’re currently on deployment #4 in 5 years (3rd combat tour to Iraq). Your blog certainly hit home!
Kudos on “graduating” to civilian life!!

Karen - You are an inspiration to military and civilian wives alike. The grace and dignity you emote in your writings provide an accurate representation of what is a ‘true’ military wife. I am not lying when I say that I am a bit jealous that your family is entering the civilian world…you are correct when saying that it is a difficult time to be associated with the Army. I wish you the best of luck in all that you do and know that there are women around this world that look up to you and your ways. C., J., and E. may you be blessed and happy in North Carolina…go South!

Dorothy - I am in tears what a great post!! Congrats to your family, best wishes on your new journey.

charlotte - Congratulations, Crystal,J and E! on your news, on all the new adventures to come, and for all that you have learned from this present/past in the military. I am grateful for everything your family has sacrificed and could not forget that for a single moment…not a chance. Have faith that your new world appreciates that reality and will help you turn this corner. You will not be alone. Happy Mother’s Day, my friend. xoC

keri - Crystal – What a great post. I read it quickly on Friday, but came back to read it again today. First, congrats to J on his new job. I know it will be stressful to move, new job, etc, but exciting at the same time. Secondly, you summed up alot of my thoughts. My husband was only in for 5 years, but it defined alot of how we act now, our friends, etc. Sometimes I think I miss it more than he does b/c I miss the friendships, the patriotism, etc. I think thats why I read so many military blogs and try to stay in touch & connected. Beautifully written. Best of luck to you all.

Shawn - I stumbled across your blog through a link to one of your aprons but this post really grabbed me. Congratulations to your family on the new job and adventures ahead and thank you for all that you’ve sacrificed. I am so sorry for all of the politics that you’ve had to deal with during his deployment. I can’t even imagine. The deployment itself would be hard enough but not feeling supported has to make it that much more difficult. Fortunately I come from an area where for the most part people support our troops and what they are doing. At a local parade yesterday the entire crowd stood and clapped every time a military group passed by. I wish our troops and families like yours could feel that type of support every day.
Thank you for sharing your honest feelings here.

Andrea - Congratulations on the new chapter of your family’s life! You’ll be able to take all that you’ve learned over these past years of military life, become this amazing “civilian” woman who has so much to teach others, those may not understand the whys etc. of military life. What a blessing you will be able to be to those around your family!
I agree with your mom, you’ll always be “military”. I’ve seen it in the friends of ours who have gotten out – they still have all the “military” without being in the military.
May God bless each and every one of your steps.

Jill Pettis - I stopped to say a prayer for military spouses after reading your post. Thank you and your husband for your service to our country. I know you have both sacrificed. Congratulations on your new future and may God be with you.

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