12 years ago, the phone call came after I had gone to sleep for the night.
I didn’t watch much news, with Dh deployed I had been overwhelmed with the reports that had come from the first combat deployment since Korea. And so I’d blocked it out, avoiding the reality of it all.
My friend just wanted to know if Dh was OK. She had assumed I had heard, but I hadn’t. She felt terrible, it wasn’t her fault. So I turned on the TV and stared as the talking head told me there were reports of Canadian casualties.
Almost 5 months pregnant, I had no friends or family in the area, so desperate as I was I called the Regiment.
I was 21 and new to everything, I didn’t know how it was supposed to work.
This was new ground.
It’s like the concept caught us off guard.
The family support officer took the phone and and all he could say was ‘We can confirm there are casualties but we can’t confirm who they are, because the families haven’t been notified yet.’ They brought me to the Regiment to wait for a bit, I apparently sounded a little hysterical. I’m not proud of how badly I handled the news.
I came home to my empty house in the middle of the night, all I could do was wait to see if my doorbell would ring. When morning came and it hadn’t, I received a phone call confirming that Dh was OK.
What I felt then was almost harder than what I had experienced the entire sleepless night. It was the guilt that follows that moment of relief.
Because it wasn’t my love, but it was most certainly someones.
It wasn’t my heart broken, but the hearts of 4 other families.
How dare I go on with my day when I knew out there were others who were shattered?
12 years ago, what it meant to be a military wife in this country changed.
That week I attended my first Partner Support potluck with other spouses from the deployment.
The entire potluck table was filled with nothing but dessert.
And while changes in notification policies meant never again have I experienced that period between knowing there’s a casualty and knowing who it is, that relief and guilt every time there is a loss weighs heavy on the heart.
Over the course of 3 deployments to that country, the feeling became almost familiar, but it’s never been my heart that’s lost it’s other half.
That first tour was long and filled with very little communication and gaping uncertainty.
Reintegration was a hard road, one which Dh and I struggled to make through together.
But many times in those tense nights and broken arguments I would think back to those hours where all I could do was pray for silence and a night without a knock at the door, and I would remember that every moment we have together is a gift.
12 years ago everything changed, for our family, for our military community, for our country. And the least, the very least we can do, is remember those families who had their night silence broken by doorbells, dress uniforms and words that would never cover what they needed to convey.
Sergeant Marc Leger, Private Richard Green, Corporal Ainsworth Dyer, and Private Nathan Smith.
Lest we forget.