SITREP

The Life I Chose? by Racquel Arnett

“Well,” there is always that long awkward pause, “that’s just the life you chose.” 

When I hear this statement, I often want to follow up with a guttural yell. In the last four years with my husband, who is in the Army, I have heard that phrase more times than I can stomach. I hate the suggestion that because my husband is in the Army, I am not allowed to be upset about him having to go overseas for another assignment, or worse, a tour of duty. I hate that accusatory tone the speaker takes, as if I knew every in-and-out of being a military spouse. 

I have always been fiercely independent. I do not wait for anyone to make the plan because I take action in my life. So, you can imagine how hard it has been to adapt to the Army’s hurry-up-and-wait mentality. The Army is an ever-evolving beast. They will tell you to be ready to go at one time, only to have it change several times, possibly cancelled, then reinstated at the last minute. It is a whirlwind to deal with when you have your own job and life. The only bright side is I am far more adept at finding work and making friends than I would have otherwise thought possible. 

From the day we met, Jordan and I were inseparable. We were together for four blissful months until he was stationed in South Korea for one year.

The year in Korea was possibly the best thing to have happened to us. We were still in the new and awkward phase of dating. Before he left, we took a month-long trip to Florida and Kentucky to meet his family, something, I never would have imagined myself doing. It was a blast of a trip that kicked off our year apart. With the 16-hour time difference, we were mostly speaking late at night, for one or the other. I was an office manager at the time and would spend my Friday mornings working on reports and video chatting with him. (My bosses were very understanding.) Any joint waking moment, we spent messaging and building our relationship. We began to joke if we could make it through the year apart, we might as well get married because that is the worst of it. 

Well, we made it to July when he asked me to marry him. We decided we would do a double proxy marriage (we gave power of attorney to a company in Montana to sign a marriage certificate on our behalf without being present), so that when he came stateside again everything would be set to move to Fort Drum, New York. We were both 28 years old when we were married—his second marriage, my first.

New York was my first real move far away from all the comforts of being close to family and friends. I struggled, and when I did, the familiar “Well…this is the life you chose” refrain really started to ring out. There is no book to instruct spouses on how lonely it is when their husband or wife must go to the field for a month and they are brand new to a location. Finding a job at the hospital was a saving grace. The best part was that all of my supervisors had ties to the military, so they helped me navigate the uncertainty that I felt in this new lifestyle. My husband was constantly gone in New York. There was a field event every time I turned around, then NTC, a school in the summer, and by March of our second year, he was heading to Poland for a nine-month rotation. 

Poland was a miserable experience for us both. His days were long, and every day was the same. My days were also much of the same. Then my father became terminally ill. I was 15,000 miles from home, my father was dying, and I did not even have my husband to help me navigate all of these new feelings and experiences. Thankfully, his command team was amazing and had him on a plane home to me within three days. We met in New Mexico to be with my family as the tragedy occurred. My father was placed on Hospice care, and I had to go back home to our animals and my job. It was the worst two and a half weeks of my life, until I got the call that my father had passed away, three days before I was scheduled to return to New Mexico to be with him. When I got home, I was upset that I did not spend my father’s last days with him. Then I heard the familiar phrase: “Well, that’s just the life you chose.” 

In July, we moved to Colorado Springs, a move we initially hoped would bring us closer to my father, had he made it that long. Life here has been good. My husband’s leadership seems 

to care. And now we are expecting our first child. This has brought up a whole new set of challenges. When will he deploy next? Will he be able to witness our baby coming into this world? How many birthdays and holidays will he have to miss? 

These questions I know will be answered in time. Yet I know to bring them up to others will bring the chorus of “well, this is the life you chose.” But for now, I am so excited about our future. I will never agree that this is the life I chose. This is the man I chose; the Army is just his job. One day I will be calm enough to tell the naysayers this.

This is the image of the author with her husband.
Raquel Arnett with her husband Jordan.

☼☼☼