Today was my birthday. It was a very nice day with my two boys. Ryan and I watched the Thanksgiving day parade in the morning. They boys played together, which is always cute to watch. We ate some turkey. And we all got to enjoy a little nap.
Most years when Pat asks what I would like for my birthday I'm difficult and just tell him I don't want or need anything. I know that annoys him, but it's usually true. However, this year I knew exactly what I wanted him to give me even before he asked what I wanted. This year I told him I wanted a cross necklace. I wanted a tangible reminder of my faith. There were also a few particular reasons I was asking for this gift now.
When I was in college, in fact even the night I met Pat, I was wearing a cross necklace. I probably still have that cross, although since my wedding rings are platinum and I mostly wear white gold now, I do not take it out often. For me there is something sentimental about wearing the cross through.
The first reason I really decided on asking for a cross though was because of my children. Sometimes I am not the mother they deserve. When I go to sleep at night I pray that I can be a better mother for them and ask for patience, understanding, and guidance. I wanted a cross to remind me daily of my aspirations to be the best mother that I can be, and I know I am not alone in my struggles with that.
The other main reason I knew what I wanted as a gift was this deployment. It has been a hard one. Back in the end of July, Pat's battery lost two Soldiers and had countless injuries during a 48 hour period. These casualties hit closer to home than anything during the previous deployments Pat has been on, especially with me being the FRG leader. It definitely threw me for a loop. August quieted down somewhat. When September arrived, his battery lost another Soldier. This casualty was even more difficult as I had just met the wife one month before. Through all of these tragedies, I knew God was there with a plan even if I would never understand it. I knew that He would hold those Soldiers in the palm of his hand and that the families would find comfort in Him. I knew that He would be watching over and giving strength to our wounded warriors and their families.
As FRG leader, I received many calls to inform me about the casualties. I knew my husband was in a safe job at the time and was never really worried for him. However, that didn't make it any easier to know that other people's lives were being changed, and their fears were becoming a reality. For weeks after each incident, whenever I would wake up with the boys at night I would search the internet to see if they were reporting any casualties from the area our unit was in before going back to sleep. The first thing I would do upon waking up was look for more news so that I could be a little more prepared in case another phone call would come.
I remember the next call a bit too well. On September 22, I had seen news stories listing 2 NATO casualties in the area our unit is in. I had a feeling that I would be receiving a call that morning. (Maybe it was intuition, maybe it was paranoia.) 7:38 a.m. the phone rang, and I knew it was our unit's Rear Detachment. To tell the truth, I wasn't that phased because I felt like I knew it was coming. But what I heard next, I didn't see coming. The Lieutenant on the phone told me our unit had a VSI (very serious injury) and then he said something I had never considered. It was my friend's husband, and he had lost both of his legs. My friend also happened to be my FRG Co-leader. Over the few months of the deployment so far, I'd spent countless hours talking with her. She was about the closest thing to a friend I had out here. I started to tear up on the phone, and asked if she was alone. He told me I should call her as she was obviously upset. Before he could tell me anymore, my cell phone was ringing, and I knew it was my friend. I told her I was coming right over. This incident rocked me to my core. I watched her live out one of the greatest fears a military wife has. We cried, and we prayed. Her friends and I tried our best to make such a difficult time easier. Her strength and faith were and still are amazing leading her on this new road her life is taking. It will be a long journey for them, but they are models of courage for everyone.
Somehow through it all instead of focusing on why this all has happened, I have chosen to focus on how to walk through the challenges with God. Pat's gift of the cross to me is a symbol that he and I both believe that God is watching over us. We have faith that everything will be okay, and even if something were to happen, we know that God will watch over us and take care of us. Pat picked out the cross, and I could not think of a more perfect one. For my birthday he gave me a cross with a claddagh on it. The claddagh sign is a symbol of friendship, loyalty, and love. It was on our favor boxes at our wedding, and the qualities the claddagh represents are central to our marriage. It is perfect to me to combine the cross and claddagh because it illustrates how our marriage is supported by our faith. So now I have a tangible reminder not only of my faith but also of the husband I love so much.