On December 12, 2015 my husband officially retired from active duty. We had a small retirement party for him in our new town, surrounded by old and new friends–some who had been along the long journey with us, others who had entered our lives in this next chapter.
The whole evening went wonderfully. I remember bits and pieces of what was said, and that my children were “starving” and ready to eat. But in reality I was not embracing the fact that the last chapter of our lives had closed and a new one was beginning.
Mainly because I was angry, tired, and frustrated.
This wasn’t the plan. I was 35 years old, not a 70-year-old woman whose husband had retired. We had 17 years in, my plan was to go at least another 3-5 more. But God had other plans and along the way He gave me a lot of grace, especially when I fought Him on the plan.
Backtrack to 1 year 4 months earlier when we had arrived at Ft Bliss, TX from Ft. Stewart, GA. New base, new unit, new friends to make, new schools, but the same military. I loved it.
Two days after arriving I showed up at the local PWOC group ready to go. My husband, on the other hand, hated it on day 2. Everything reminded him of Afghanistan. Where I saw beauty in the mountains he saw war and destruction. Mountains he went up and down way too many times never knowing if it would be his last. But we continued on and settled into life at Ft. Bliss.
Within a little over a month my husband got word he would be attending another school at the end of October. This was the beginning of God making moves that would eventually take us down the road to retirement. You see, both my husband and I knew he was broken, but on both our sides we kept pushing. More me than him because this was my plan. My plan for his career, for our life, and that was it. We don’t deviate from the plan.
Sometimes God takes everything away, leaving you nothing but Him so you are ready to follow His plan.
My husband left for school and within 4 days of being there things started to unravel. On Halloween as I was trying to get 6 kids ready to go trick-or-treating, I found myself in his first sergeant’s office telling both the first sergeant and company commander the truth. My husband had PTSD and we needed help. We had been “faking it” for years; we didn’t know what normal was. I was tired and worn out by trying to hold it all together when he had bad days.
And then God started to demonstrate His grace.
Within 10 days of my husband leaving, he was flown back to Texas and met at the airport by myself and the first sergeant. Two days later, because of the holiday, we were sitting in behavioral health followed by the PCM for my husband with the 1SG. The unit was bound and determined to make sure my husband got the help he so desperately needed.
Over the next few months we would discover not only did my husband have severe PTSD, he also had a severe TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) caused by at least four concussions on the last 2 of 4 deployments. By February we were immersed in a med board looking towards medical retirement.
And God continued to give us grace, especially on the really hard days.
By April we were waiting for percentages and looking for a new place to land. We ended up choosing to live in western New York where my husband had spent most of his childhood summers. Over the next few months we would find and close on a house and my husband would be offered a job that was held for him until he got to New York. Everything was falling into place.
God was working His plan for the next chapter of our lives.
We moved in August, and 6 days after arriving my husband flew back to Texas to finish up everything so he could be medically retired. I threw myself into working, getting the kids involved in activities and school, and daily life.
By November when my husband returned, I was exhausted both physically and emotionally. I loved the small town we lived in but I longed for my life that once was. I longed for the friendships I had made, the Army family that had become so much of my life. I felt like a stranger in town, a fish out of water who wanted so desperately to go back to what once was.
I knew the reality was that medical retirement was the best for my husband. He had served his country proudly and in return the country said thank you by retiring him. I could see God’s hand in each step along the way but at the same time I fought it because I didn’t want it. I wanted my old life; this was not the plan. This was not my plan.
But that’s the beauty in God’s love for his children. He extends so much grace to us.
Even when we don’t deserve the grace. I definitely didn’t deserve the grace God had been extending me.
Jump ahead to April, Easter Sunday to be exact, and ironically one year to almost the day we started looking for houses in New York. I was done; I had had enough of this life. I sat on the couch and cried to my husband over how much I missed our old life.
He knew it was hard for me–he had watched over the many months as I slowly became resentful of the retirement. But something changed as I spoke through the tears. My heart began to heal and that grace that God had been extending to me began to shine through.
It was ok to miss the life we had, it had been our life for the past 14 years. I knew nothing else because I had married my husband two days before he reported to his first duty station. My children had only known the military life. I needed to mourn the loss but as Psalm 30:5 states:
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
My joy came that Easter morning. Finally letting everything out I had been feeling over the past few months lifted that veil of sadness and despair.
Do I miss the military life? Yes. There will always be the memories of the past that have helped shaped who I am today. But, that chapter is closed. God has a plan for this next chapter.
We serve an awesome God who has such a beautiful blueprint for our lives and waits patiently with an abundance of grace for us as we navigate the path He has for us.
So, maybe you find yourself where I was–longing for something that once was. I encourage you to remember the past, never forget it, but look towards the future. God has a beautiful plan for each chapter of your life. Embrace it, even when it’s hard, and remember our joy comes not from what once was but from above.
Cassie, after many years of living where the military sent her, makes her home in western New York with her husband and six kids. She spends her days running kids to activities, trying to sneak in date nights with her husband, and meeting friends for coffee.