Young men and women fell silent in their private conversations and eyed me as I walked by. I imagine I looked quite out of place. At almost thirty weeks pregnant with my 15-month-old son on my hip, I was the last person one would expect to see at the Military Entrance Processing Station. But I was there. And, I was there for a good reason.
I made my way through the crowd, ignoring the looks and awkward glances, and found a spot near the door. I shook slightly as I anxiously awaited the sergeant to come and get me. I had gotten lost on the way there (three times) and was practically in tears when I finally arrived. I didn’t want to be late for this. This was something I could not miss.
My husband was swearing into the Marines.
If you had asked me two weeks before that day if my husband ever thought of joining the military, I would’ve laughed in your face. The idea would have been preposterous.
At that point in our life, my husband, Daniel, and I had been married two years. We had our first child, our son Mikey, just before our first anniversary and wasted no time having another. Daniel worked full time and attended school part time and I was a full-time homemaker. We had little money and our fair share of debt but we were quite happy. We enjoyed our frugal adventures and the time we spent as a family. Life was good.
But I felt something was missing.
Thinking back on it now, I guess I really shouldn’t have been surprised when Daniel started looking into joining the military. But still, when I saw the recruiting pages up on our computer screen, I couldn’t hide my very real surprise. But when we talked about it, I could tell he was excited at the prospect of joining the military. We sent in information from the recruiters and the Marines got back to us the very next day. It only took us four days to decide that my husband was going to enlist.
I have to admit I wasn’t quite prepared when the gunny gave us a two-week deadline for his shipping out, but I knew it would be for the best. As my husband kept working, meeting with the recruiters and whipping himself into shape, I packed up the house, made arrangements to put our stuff in storage and all the other little things needed to move away.
When the time came to drop him off at the recruiting station for the night so the Marines could keep an eye on their newcomer, I felt like a mother taking her kid to school for the first time. I kept asking him if he had his pen, his notebook, his ID, his Scriptures and just when I was on the verge of totally breaking down he pulled me into a hug, gave me a kiss and told me to go.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Hannah. I love you.”
I cried all the way home.
The next day, as I waited for him to finish his preparations to leave, I was definitely feeling out of place as the only wife with one child and another on the way but I didn’t care. I just wanted to see my husband.
My son and I walked quietly into the room where my husband and about ten other young men were swearing in. I knew that my husband was nervous about all this but you couldn’t tell from his swearing in. He looked excited, proud, and anxious for the future.
I was so proud of him.
I wanted to wait around and see him off but my courage began to waver. Just like before, my husband pulled me into a hug, kissed me and our son and said, “I love you. I’ll see you three in thirteen weeks.” He placed his hand on my large belly, gave our son one final bear hug and sent us out the door.
This time, I didn’t cry.
Thirteen very long weeks later, on my husband’s 25th birthday, I stood with my 18-month-old son and 17-day-old newborn daughter on the edge of the Parade Field at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, waiting for Daniel to be released for Liberty. I could see my husband standing in formation with all the other young Marines, looking sharper and stronger than he did 13 weeks before. He was still my husband but there was a new spark in him. Something had changed. He had been through much the past 13 weeks and I knew we still had a long road ahead of us before we would find our place to call home again, but I was so proud of my husband, so proud of my Marine.
I knew great things were in store for us.
After the call for Liberty had sounded and the Marines gave their final, ‘Ooh-rah,’ my husband and I ran for each other. It was like a scene from a movie. With tears in our eyes and our excitement overflowing, I handed our newborn daughter to my husband and grabbed my son. It was so wonderful to be with my husband again, to be a family again. My son lapped up all the attention he could from his daddy and our little daughter was constantly in her daddy’s arms.
Ten months after my husband left for boot camp, we finally settled into our first duty station and life is just as it was before with a few differences. My husband works full time and I am a full-time homemaker. We are no longer in debt, but we still enjoy our frugal family adventures and time spent together as a family.
Things have not always been nor will they ever be peachy-perfect but I can say, with all honesty, that our decision to join the Corps has put us on the road to get where we want to be. And that is worth a lot.