Point 27 salutes Military Families; they are a National Treasure. Military families serve and sacrifice alongside the Warrior who wears the uniform. They carry such a heavy burden and they are often lost within the crowd of “normal” life. When the Warrior is deployed, they fear the worst and pray for the best. Often, neighbors, classmates, teachers, church friends, coaches, and extended family don’t understand, or even acknowledge what is going on in their world. However, these wonderful Americans contribute significantly to the National Defense and freedom all Americans enjoy. By supporting the Warrior so that he/she can focus on the mission, they increase the combat effectiveness of the force. When a Soldier is focused on family problems he is not focused on his combat mission. This lack of focus is dangerous for the Soldier and every member of his unit. When the Soldier knows that his family is doing well, his mind is free to focus 100% on his mission. This peace of mind increases the combat readiness of his unit, the Armed Forces, and it strengthens the Nation. Therefore, when you meet a military family member, thank them for their service, acknowledge their many sacrifices, and thank them for helping to defend the freedom you and your family enjoy. “No Man’s War,” is a window into the life of an army wife, Angela Rickets, who endured years of deployments. For a preview of her book and a glimpse into her life, read on….
An Army Wife Charts Her Struggles In ‘No Man’s War’
Excerpt: No Man’s War
Sometimes when you wake in the middle of the night it’s only for a slippery moment, a moment to re-cozy yourself, to remember with a flash of panic that forgotten appointment from the day before or to get up to potty. Potty is a word mothers begin using from the moment they give birth and never leaves their vocabulary until death. Sometimes what wakes you is a long-forgotten memory, the thing you tried to put behind you.
Once or twice in a lifetime you wake up and just know it: You are dying, even though three hours ago you were watching Dexter and fluffing pillows on the couch and wiping down the kitchen countertops because you never know what the night will bring. And because a perfectly neat home masks the other mess that spins beyond control.
I jerk awake and move the empty wine glass to see the time on the digital clock. Two something. I should remember the precise time on the clock, but I am a date person. Dates I remember; times, not so much.
In the silent house with a staring cat and three sleeping children and again without a husband present, I struggle through sleepy, disoriented eyes to remember where I am. A sweet artificial stank hangs in the air; oh yeah, the Yankee Candle I blew out before I slammed the last gulp of wine. Nothing looks familiar as I go back and forth in my mind; which issue is more pressing, the crushing pain in my chest or where the hell I am? The glare of the streetlight shining into the window reminds me I’m home, home for now. This is our third house in less than two years, and it takes me a minute to remember where I am. Fort Campbell. Just across the Tennessee border, but with a Kentucky address, surely the result of a political fight over which state got to claim ownership of the home of the 101st Airborne. I’m back in the familiar zone I like to think of as Grey Street, a favorite Dave Matthews song about a woman who feels numbed and paralyzed by her life. Like her world has spiraled beyond her control. Where colors bleed and overlap into only gray. The vibrancy of each color not lost, just absorbed into a blanket of grayness. The gray of autopilot. The gray of another deployment, of a home with a man of the house who wouldn’t know which drawer held the spoons. He’s the man of the house in concept alone. He is three months into a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, with no need to even own a house key.
But in this two-something wee hour, these ideas are just whispers under my blankets and inside my skin. My feet nudge around looking for the children who sometimes wander half asleep into my bed. As soon as I move I feel it, the thing that startled me awake. It isn’t a dream or a memory or a forgotten appointment. It’s pain, the physical kind. What frightens me in that moment isn’t the gripping pain in my chest, but a wave of incomprehensible terror for its newness and unfamiliar nature. A twisting stab in my back pushes me out of bed and to my feet. I feel sweat roll down the back of my neck, but it’s almost Thanksgiving and I allow the chill from outside to come into our home at night. I prefer the insulation of blankets and flannel pajamas to warm air.
Oh hell. It’s a panic attack. My body is at long last going on strike, revolting from the stress of eight long, intense deployments. That’s what I’ve been warned of, anyway, in the “resiliency” workshops and briefings army wives sit through during deployments. Well, before deployments, during deployments, and after deployments. So all the time. Whatever you face or feel, surely it’s addressed in a binder somewhere. The army’s philosophy is that just by virtue of identifying and labeling an issue, it’s 95 percent fixed. At each available opportunity, we are reminded to pace ourselves and manage stress. I picture the PowerPoint slide: “Panic attacks are a terrifying but normal reaction: It will feel like you are going to die, but here are coping tips … Remember, we are army strong!” But what were the tips? Dammit. Breathe. That’s surely one. I do feel like I’m going to die.
I grab my cell phone off the dresser and wander through the upstairs of our quiet house. Joe is almost a teenager, a stack of Call of Duty: Black Ops video games just inches from his sleeping head and a game controller teetering on the edge of the bed. The violent video games that Jack allowed because they are a reality of his job. Jack argued that the video games are disturbing with their accuracy and not gratuitous in their violence. The line between good guys and bad guys is clear, at least in the game.
Our two daughters, Bridget, who is ten, and Greta, five, are curled together in Bridget’s room across the hall. Using the term our is an effort on my part. “My children” comes more naturally; I have to make an effort to remind myself that these are “our children.” I’m not alone in parenting, at least not in theory. In reality, yes, I am alone.
In this moment of defining chest pain I am alone.
From No Man’s War by Angela Ricketts. Copyright 2014 by Angela Ricketts. Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint Press.
July 15, 2014 3:01 PM ET
No Man’s War
Irreverent Confessions of an Infantry Wife
People often expect military wives to be strong and stoic. But in her new memoir, No Man’s War: Irreverent Confessions of an Infantry Wife, Angela Ricketts writes about the difficulties she faced during her husband’s deployments – including the stresses it put on their marriage and on raising their three children.
She also writes about the toll of always bracing herself for the next goodbye.
“After the first really wretched, wretched deployment, each one after that you become a little more removed – a little more numb to the feelings,” Ricketts tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “That kind of blackens your soul. We joke about that. Army wives say, ‘Channel the black soul, honey.’ ”
Ricketts’ husband was deployed eight times – four of them to Iraq or Afghanistan. He was a lieutenant during his first deployment to Somalia in 1992. Then he became a battalion commander. Now, he’s a colonel in homeland defense, and they live in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Ricketts, who has a master’s degree in social psychology and human relations, grew up in an Army family.
“We are a culture that does lend itself to perpetuating Army brats who either become Army spouses or soldiers themselves,” she says. “So as much as … I wanted to be rebellious and I wanted to do something different, as I got into college … and saw what life outside the little Army bubble was like, the more I realized that I really enjoyed Army life and wanted to be an Army wife.”
Ricketts’ book explores the culture at home on the military bases, the responsibilities of being an officer’s wife, and the relationships she formed with other infantry wives.
On the six years of their 22-year marriage her husband was deployed
He went to Somalia right after we got married, and that’s actually where he got his combat patch. And I measured every deployment after that against Somalia, because that was really intense and really scary.
Angela Ricketts, whose husband deployed eight times over 22 years, says she had to get over resentment around parenting their three kids alone while he was gone.
And we didn’t have the technology that we do now with emails and immediate news. I had Christiane Amanpour, who I just hung onto her every word on CNN back then – that was all I knew. And [I had] the few letters that I got from [my husband]. So, to me, that was truly a deployment.
After that, he went to Macedonia, he went to Bosnia, he went to Kosovo, and those were each six months. Then he did two about a half-a-year deployments in Afghanistan, then a 15-month deployment to Iraq, then a year in Afghanistan.
On her ROTC basic training at Fort Knox and realizing why she didn’t want to be a soldier
It was the rules and the structure. I [always] wanted to know why.
Every time they told me to do something, I just really wanted to say: “That’s really stupid. Who cares if there are water droplets in the water fountain?” That was my job in the barracks was to make sure there were no water droplets in … the drinking fountain. I thought that was really dumb. It did not work for me at that kind of a level.
I think that when you’re a soldier, you definitely fit this sort of mold where you can take orders and you don’t need to know why – you just do what you’re told.
On her husband’s last deployment to Afghanistan
This last deployment, our oldest son, Jack … he was in sixth grade, so he was just getting to the point where he really missed his dad. And he was angry that his dad was gone because he knew that his dad had volunteered for that last year in Afghanistan, and that he didn’t have to go. It’s a really weird mix of pride and also some anger, too … definitely a feeling of being a second priority.
On the emotional difficulty of saying goodbye
The “black soul” is the numbness that you reach a point after the first few deployments – it just rips your gut out when you say goodbye. And you’re just left in this puddle of tears and emotional and weepy for days. That can only happen so many times. Just like they say you can really only have your heart broken once. …
I’ve become kind of stoic in general. People cry at movies, and I look at them and say, “Really? You’re really crying at this movie?” Because I just feel very unfazed by a lot of things that should faze me.
On getting over the resentment of parenting alone
I was resentful, and that’s where counseling came in for us. That’s where our therapist really showed us that he had a right to feel the way that he felt, and I definitely had a right to feel the way I felt, but that we had to move on from that. Especially now that he’s transitioned away from the infantry and likely will not go back to that, he just really appreciates every moment with our kids a lot more [than] what I’ve seen [in] regular families – dads who haven’t been gone the way he has, they sort of take the time with their kids a little more for granted, I guess. …
He really does a great job at making up for what he’s missed. That takes away a lot of the resentment for me. Every now and then, though, it’s hard for me to say “our children.” It does much more easily come to me to say “my daughter, my son, my whatever.” If he’s there, he’ll correct me and say “our daughter, our son.”