When “See You Soon” Really Means Goodbye

We Loved With a Love That Was More Than Love // aboyagirlandthemarinecorps.com

In the time that I have been with my husband, he has only deployed once.  He has had extended training missions, but only the one deployment, shortly after we were married.  I remember when we were dating I didn’t really understand what it was like to be in love with someone in the military.  We were in our early 20s, and so much of our life seemed so normal.  We did normal couple things and spent time with our friends.  But then I did the normal “new love” thing and asked, “How long do you think you could be away from me?”  To which he replied, “Well, at a minimum, two weeks.”  Shocked, I asked, “Why two weeks?”  And he replied, “Because that is how long AT is each summer.”

That was that.  That moment defined something that, at 22 years old, never occurred to me was definable.  At 22 years old, you ask your new love how long you think you can be parted and they are supposed to say, “Not a single day.”  But our love was different.  We didn’t have single days to be apart.  We had weeks, we had months, we had a whole year.

Of course, in that moment, we didn’t know we were going to say goodbye for an entire year.  We didn’t even know we would get married.  But as time passed and we became more sure of each other, the ever looming thought of time apart, separated by oceans and duty seemed to grow with a fury.  And I didn’t understand.

He shared pictures from his first deployment.  He told me stories; I met his bunk mate and his wife.  I went to my first ball, I met more Marines, I met more spouses, and the life we were going to have together took a more definite shape.  He was a Marine.  It wasn’t a romantic ideal of a man in uniform.  He was a Marine.  He was deployed to combat zones, he took fire on occasion, his life was in danger.  And I loved him.  That is the truth of this life.  It isn’t a romantic ideal, it is fraught with stress and “see you soons” that are really goodbyes.

We have always had a very open communication style, the two of us.  And one thing I have always longed to hear more about, but also wished we would never speak of again, are my husbands deployments.  The burden of knowledge is great and it means that I do not live in a world where he might just be sitting on base not doing anything for a year.  I know what he is doing.  I know what can happen in a year.  I know that we say “see you soon,” because we are afraid to truly say goodbye.  I’m not terribly superstitious, but I fear the things I might say or do that will tempt fate.  I say see you soon because fate has never been a friend of mine.

And so, as a new bride, barely unpacked in my new home with my new puppy, I said “see you soon,” to my new husband.  And it was awful.  We did not kiss romantically through windows on a bus or have deep meaningful hugs goodbye.  We said goodbye thirty times before they left.  Each time being told that they were really boarding the bus this time, and each time being lied to as they found new things that were missing from their gear.  By the time it was over, it was a relief to see him sitting near the window on the bus, really leaving.  I didn’t have another “see you soon” left in me.  My tears could no longer remain silent and the year ahead seemed like an impossible amount of time to pass.

My last look at my husband was through a dingy window.  The charter bus owner had not bothered to wash the exterior prior to coming to pick up the boys.  Maybe he didn’t understand where they were being taken.  Maybe he didn’t care.  But even if he did, it probably never occurred to him that the last look we would ever get of our husbands would be forever tainted by the grime on the widows.  I still picture my husbands face through that dirty window.  I spent a year having only the memory of him through that window, slightly fogged.  It is not imaginable to most civilians what that feels like.

And so I said goodbye, see you soon, with a final wave to a man whose features I could scarcely make out.  I used my imagination to fill in the placement of his nose in relation to his eyes, his lips in relation to his chin.  It had not occurred to me to try to memorize his features before he stepped onto the bus.  It had not occurred to me to measure the length of his gait, the way he stands when talking to me as opposed to one of his men, the subtle way he talks a little softer when gesturing in my direction.  I was not accustomed to being a military wife, I had never experienced a deployment, and in the moment of watching the bus leave the parking lot, I realized all that I had to learn.  I realized that my final memory might be of my husbands face, obscured by infinite layers of dirt, waving goodbye after saying, “See you soon.”

About A Girl

A Girl is a 20 something blogger who began blogging in 2008 as a means of coping with a deployment. She is a Veterinary Technician by trade and loves her work in Emergency and Critical Care. She is married to a 11 year veteran of the USMC reserves, whom she meet shortly after he returned from a deployment. They have been married for four years, have three, very bratty dogs, and are currently trying to muddle through the aftermath of a difficult deployment for both.

13 thoughts on “When “See You Soon” Really Means Goodbye

  1. Beautifully written…

    I am not married to a military man, but am the daughter of a career Air Force pilot. Growing up all of us lived with multiple deployments in the Vietnam War era. While I can’t, really, truly identify with the way a spouse feels, I certainly understand from the viewpoint of a child…
    Carole recently posted…A Fresh Start on a BudgetMy Profile

  2. This coming June I will be married to my soldier for 25 years! Can’t even believe that number! You are correct, civilians do not understand. Your words are touching and your description of him sitting behind a dirty window, that whole paragraph got me totally and completely! The things that whiz around in your brain before that, “see you soon”, even if I had a butterfly net, I wouldn’t be able to capture it all. But one thought that does stand out above all, the one that you captured so amazingly, do not tempt fate! Wow! Thanks for sharing, you have a new fan! xo

    PS I’ve been through 7 tours of duty with my soldier, I will not lie and tell you they get easier, but we do develop tools, kick ass tools! Chin up and, soldier on! xo

  3. I remember our first “see you soon”. The rest are blurry and hazy and there are far too many. But that first, it was an all out panic attack when I realized how final that bus pulling away was. I hadn’t memorized his face, his voice, his everything. And I would not have a chance to do it, for 7-12 months.

    This was beautifully written! We’ve always said good-bye, but the feelings are something indescribable until you are in that moment.

  4. Reading your memories has brought up some old feelings from my when my husband left. I was 22, pregnant, and had a puppy too. All I can say is that his deployments added tremendous value to the time we have together. It’s something very special and exclusive to military wives. Did he just leave or was this written a while ago? I hope you and your husband are well. Take care. I can’t wait for the homecoming story. Those are the best!
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  5. Great post! I totally knew and felt what you were writing…my husband was in the Marine Corps when we first got married and was sent to the “field’ and Camp Pendelton many times which, at the time, I thought were hard enough but I did not know until he was activated and deployed to the first Gulf War as a reservist how very hard it would be, your statement “It is not imaginable to most civilians what that feels like” is so true! Just like any other situation, a terminal illness, loss of a job, etc..until you are actually going through the situation there is no way to actually know or feel how the person feels. Support groups are what helped me get through the 5 months he was was over there and I did not know what he was doing or where he was (no technology then except the news, which was not a comfort!) The people in the groups were also going through it, most of them wives, and it helped me being with people “who knew”…We have been married 28 years now, his Marine Corps years long behind him physically but not in his mind or heart (Once a Marine always a Marine)..so I will say my prayers for all of you wives, husbands, children, mothers, fathers, family members and those in the military that you come home safe and thank your for your service!! Bless you!

  6. I have two memories of watching my man leave for his deployment. The first when they mobilized for their state-side training. I don’t know where he sat on the charter bus, so all I remember is seeing him shake the Governor’s hand as he boarded. The second was when he was finally leaving the states. There was no big group farewell. They were to report early that morning after a week of leave. Many of the guys had left their wives and families at home to carpool the 8 hour drive together. My husband and I were one of the few who made the trip together, since he was mobilizing at a post near my parents’ house. All I remember is watching him walk away from me, across the field in the sticky morning of a Kansas summer… and then having to get back in the car with my dog and make the drive to see family who wouldn’t understand what I had just done. It’s been almost 6 years, and we know another deployment could come at any moment — his guard unit is overdue for their turn. But now we have two kids and a third on the way. Sigh. This is a beautiful post… and for us guard/reserve wives, living in this bizarre limbo between the military and civilian worlds, it’s so strange.

  7. My husband is a marine but I met him after his military career. There are things that we struggle with as a result of his time in service but I can’t imagine him going on deployment and having the strength to do life without him for an extended amount of time. I commend you and appreciate the vulnerability of this post. #SITSSharefest Happy to have found your blog today.
    Jess | Daughter Deerest recently posted…IPSY Glam BagMy Profile

  8. Beautiful! I admire your strength along with all other the other military spouses who go through this. Without the love you have for each other, you wouldn’t have such strength.

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