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he made it.

I wish I had a quarter for every time I thought that.

The day he surprised me after his first tour in Iraq – he drove all night from DC to get to me in NY (even got pulled over by a cop, but was let go when the cop, apparently worried about his disheveled appearance, asked where he was coming from – “Baghdad.”).  I’ll never forget that feeling in the early morning when he crawled into bed and hugged me tightly.  I can’t describe what that meant to my mental health – I had started grieving his possible death as soon as he left on Valentines Day; I was bombarded with images of war and uncertainty all day at the television station where I worked; and I went to bed in tears every night as I drifted off to the general’s debriefing on CNN, and woke to the same every morning.  Then, there he was, holding me, and I breathed all that anxiety out.  He made it.

He had come home for an unexpected family emergency so there was no hero’s welcome.  But he was home.

***

The day he called me from his second tour.  Since he was on a small ten-man team and fairly busy with the job at hand, we didn’t get to speak often, but when we did it was at length.  At the end of one conversation he mentioned it – almost as an afterthought – “Oh yeah.  I got a bronze star.”  Not a small prize, but I was proud of him.  What an accomplishment.  He made it!

Usually an honor of that caliber comes with a somewhat elaborate ceremony.  It was sent to us in a padded envelope in the mail.  James didn’t seem bothered.  But I was.  He had braved a pretty dangerous mission for that star.

***

And I cannot describe the wave of relief when he called to say he was in Germany, on his way home.  Evyn and I arrived at the airport, excited to finally welcome him home.  It would be a fairly plain scene – no Army band, no large group of soldiers and families.  His team had left as detachments and came home equally singular and almost unnoticed.  I wish there had been the pomp and circumstance to match the amount of hell he and his team had been through.  But I was just so grateful he was home.  This was a tour he himself was most unsure about.  But he made it.  The whole team made it. Uninjured.  Alive.

***

He’s in the Guard on weekends now.  Our life is a lot more calm and predictable.  But I know it bothered him that he left as a Captain.  Before he dropped his papers, there were talks about his track to Major.  He never said it, but I know he was thinking it would have been nice.

And here we are.  Tonight he came home from drill with this:

Major 003

There’s a shinier one on his beret.  But after everything else, this seems fitting. 😉

Congratulations, J.  You made it. 

Heather - Congratulations…to both of you! You both made it to this point. This military life is such an interesting one, isn’t it? We (as wives) want everyone to notice the hard work and sacrifice that our husbands put into this job, this life. But, my husband is the same as yours. It’s his job and he doesn’t expect or want the pomp and circumstance. He’s just proud to serve. I’ve thought so much about you and your blog as my sweet J. gets ready to deploy again, this time to Afghanistan. The first time was so, so hard and I read your blog through tears almost all in one sitting. I’m not sure if I’ve ever thanked you for that but really, if there were a bronze star, I’d gladly give it to you because I’m positive that I’m not the only one who has sought comfort from your archives during deployments. Thank you.

Cara - Congratulations. I started reading while he was still deployed, and I say emphatically that you, as a family, made it. Again, congratulations.

Susan K - Congratulations, James!!!

Suzie Kropp - Amazing story! Congratulations to James! WTG for both of you for enduring the long, hard nights alone away from each other. You both made it!! :)

Sarah S - oh man, this made me tear up from the beginning. Such great story-telling about your relationship and how you think of your husband. I love it.
I’m very glad for all the times “he made it” back to you and y’alls girls. :o)

Andrea - I agree with Heather. I gathered much comfort from your blog way back when.
I’m so happy for you and for J. An accomplishment for sure (and you KNOW, because I’m super cheesy that I wanted to insert “major” before accomplishment – ha!)!
Really, really happy!

Karen - Congratulations!

Katie - Congratulations! That’s awesome! Love the way you write, btw. You gave me chills.

keri - Congrats to James and your family. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, Crystal, and remember when James was coming home and the posts and pictures. I was teary reading your post this morning.

Lucy - Congratulations, to you and J. That’s good to see.

margot - Congratulations! What an accomplishment!

Amber - Oh wow – gave me goose bumps reading this and I have tears in my eyes as I type…and I’m not even sure why :-) Congratulations to you all!!

Lyndy - Congratulations to both of you! Your blogs bring back so many memories of 23+ years with my Marine and his deployments (starting with Viet Nam). I’m thankful that today’s technology helps keep families connected when apart and forums such as yours offer a place to find comfort and share.

gMarie - I am so proud of him – He Made It! and so did you. I know it’s never enough to say how much I appreciate not only what he went through to make it, but you and your girls as well. Thank you, for sharing your husband so I can be safe. g

James Krysta0405 - Found this post through Flickr (SpiffySnaps™ Photography) and just wanted to tell you I was touched by it. My husband (incidentally, his name is James also) is serving his 2nd tour in Afghanistan now so I can sympathize with this on so many levels. My heart is with you and yours – keep up the good work! (On the blog and the beautiful photography. I hope I can be as good someday :) )

Becky - Congrats to you both. Love your family.

Dayna - Fantastic! (I’m obviously reading this very late. I haven’t visited for a while.) What a great milestone!

Sarah Byrum - Wow, that’s very much deserved. Congratulations to you guys! So cool.

nicke cutler - i cried like a little baby reading this post. thank you so much! i am so thankful for your families sacrifice! i love you all so much for it!