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Jeannette audio diary excerpts:

The Children's Needs (2:53)

Saturday, January 29, and the instructions for this recorder say "A quiet background ideal," but in my home, there is no quiet background. I've tried hiding in the bathroom, I've tried hiding in the laundry room, and they always find me, so in the background of this, you will hear the noises of my home, my children playing music and fighting sometimes, and wrestling, my 13-year-old upstairs playing football on the Playstation, being his own cheering section, and that's what you'll hear in this background. So I apologize if it's distracting, but this is a quiet day for us actually.

One of the hardest things of this life is the juggling and trying to keep each child, have each child have their needs met. I'm not talking about their physical needs - food, clothing, shelter - that comes naturally. You can just get on auto-pilot and do that. But what's really hard is trying to meet their emotional needs and their extra needs. There are things that make them have a rich life and fun experiences, so when they grow up, they can look back and say, "Our life was different, but it was good." And they won't feel that sense of having missed out on things. Just for example, Olivia's got projects to take care of at school that she wants to work on and she wants my undivided attention and they're creativity projects, and fun, good bonding times, but there's always the other kids that need something, and they need things. They're down to one parent and they need two. And I know this type of this isn't unique to our situation. There are a lot of single parents out there. There are a lot of families out there where the mom or the dad works an excessive amount of hours. But what's different about ours is that our kids know where our daddy is and they know it's not a pleasant place. And what I know is what we always have hanging over our head: the fact that he might not come back. And that's not something I think about that often for one, because it's an unbearable thought, but also because I have complete confidence in God and my husband's abilities as a soldier. He has incredible survival skills.


Wearing His Shirts (2:03)

When I get up in the morning, I turn the computer on and I log into Instant Messenger and I leave the volume up so that if my husband gets on, I'll hear the knock - it sounds like a knock on the door when he logs in - or he'll hit the buzzer and it will sound like a doorbell, and just kind of leave that on all day. And I have a picture of him in Iraq in his uniform with his weapon sitting in one of Saddam's chairs on his podium where he used to address his troopes, and I have that as my screensaver. So sometimes, I confess, that I sit there and talk to him in his picture.

I know other wives have their own little bizarre coping mechanisms also, but something I know a lot of wives do, and what I do, is when our husbands leave and they're going to be gone for a while, whatever the last brown t-shirt that - they have to wear their brown t-shirt under their BDUs [battle dress uniforms], their fatigues - whatever, the last brown t-shirt they wore, provided it can't stand up on it's own, I know I will wear it to bed, every night with his pajama pants. Every night I'll wear it to bed. The first month he was gone, I was wearing his dog tags until one night, I rolled over and I heard the "cling cling" and I woke up because I thought it was him and silly me, it was just me. So I have them hanging on the rear-view mirror now. It's our own little ways of easing into the deployment and setting the foundation for the long haul.

I know other people that as soon as their husbands go, they have to clean everything that he left behind and almost remove traces of him, not because they don't love him but because it's too painful. It will take me a couple weeks before I can change the sheets after he left because his pillow still smells like him. And it's just crazy stuff that we do.


Olivia's Prayers (1:08)

Watching the kids missing him is a hard thing. Olivia sometimes will say - I'm always telling the kids that their daddy loves them and their daddy misses them and he's thinking about them and he's praying for them, and every once in awhile, she'll ask me to stop telling her that because she doesn't want to think about her daddy missing her.

And at night sometimes, when she says her prayers, she would always start off with, "Dear Jesus, could you tell my daddy that I love him and this is Olivia?" And now, she just skips right past that, talks to her daddy, and she'll say, "Dear daddy, this is Olivia, and I love you and I know you love me and I know you care about me and I want you to come home and I don't want you to ever go back to Iraq again and I want you to be home every night," and she tells him how much she misses him and that she knows that he'll be safe and that he'll be home soon and it seems to make her feel better and she doesn't have nightmares on those nights.


One of Our Guys (2:47)

It's Friday, February 18. I'm on the computer and I just got a message from the colonel over in Iraq that one of our guys was killed. It was, I believe, a guy with 3-2-5. We're the 319th, we're the field artillery division, and we are attached to the 325 Infantry over there, that's who we're working with. I didn't recognize the name so I'm assuming he was someone in 325, but they're working together side-by-side so they're together. It's very distressing to hear that.

I just looked at the official letter and just was in shock and just stared and thought to myself something I could never utter to another person, and that is, will the next one - will - [her voice catches, she takes a deep breath]. Will the next round hit my husband, hit my soldier?

But then I just, I've been looking for him everyday online, trying to talk to him on the Instant Messenger or get some e-mails or something, and I just send him messages everyday. And I just clicked on to find something and there he was - but they're having trouble with their computer, and I'm typing to him and he's not answering and then it said he signed out, then it signed back in, and then he's trying to talk to me but he can't get any of the messages that I'm sending to him, and then he signed out. It's very sketchy and it's frankly really getting on my nerves because I've been trying to hear from him.

And you know, I'm patriotic and I'm supportive of our president and I'm supportive of our military. But right now, my true feelings are that I've had enough. I've had enough of this war. This family needs their daddy. I need my husband. He was here online. And this is all I have, this is the only connection I have to him, is this computer screen. And now he's gone again, and I keep saying, "Honey, honey," and typing in, "Where are you?" And I'm getting nothing back. And you know we have, on Yahoo Messenger, they have what they call IM-vironmments, and we have the one with the pink background with the hearts that float down, and I'm just watching the hearts float down and I'm waiting and waiting to hear from him, and there's nothing. And I'm really frustrated. I'm very very frustrated. And normally I'm really strong and I'm his cheerleader, but I've had it. I've had it with him being gone. That's just how I feel today.


God's In Control (2:25)

If anything happened to our husbands, rear detachment would contact us. Or they would come to our door or something. So no news is good news in that situation. But there's always this feeling of, the strange person in an Army uniform knocks on our door. I had a situation where the housing came to tell me about the yard and it was a man in a BDU [battle dress uniform] that I had never seen before and I froze in the foyer and just kept staring at him because I didn't know who he was, why he was at my door, and I was afraid to answer it. And that's just a reality. That's just part of our lives.

But I don't want to focus on the negative things. You know, my husband always tells me that I don't have to get down about anything because everything is just the way it's supposed to be. Nothing happens to us that God doesn't know about. Nothing takes God by surprise, and we're his children. I like to think about it as, you know, some people see God up there in his control room. It's not like he was up there in his control room, went out to the lounge to get a snack, came back, looked at the monitor and went, "Dang, something happened to one of my kids while I was gone." That's not how it is. He always knows. Everything passes through his fingers first.

And I love that saying that what doesn't kill us make us stronger. And if I'm not dead, then that means I must be getting stronger. And I have to look at something and it could be 98 percent bad and negative, but I have to say, "What is that 2 percent that's going to make me better? What can I learn from this? How can I be stronger?"

I have people tell me often that I'm really strong, and sometimes I just don't want to be strong. I have my times where I go up in my room and I kick and I scream and I pound my bed and I cry. And those times are actually healthier than the times where I just go numb. I go numb and I don't feel anything and I don't want to feel anything. Those are actually the times that scare me more because the other times show me that I'm still alive, I still have a little bit of fire in me.


End In Sight (1:08)

I'm making an album for my husband, it's a scrapbook album. I've been keeping a journal, I think I talked about it before, that's called, "While You Were Out," and I'm going to put it in a scrapbook album with some pictures of different things that happened while he was gone or - even mundane things, things that are new in the house that weren't here before he left. And my plan is to take a quiet evening when the kids are in bed and give him the album and give him his favorite comfort food, which is my homemade bread, and let him just go through the album at his own pace and just kind of take it all in, so it doesn't feel like a big chunk of his life has been missing. So he can kind of catch up on things at his own pace.

But it looks like our guys, they told us an official date that they'll be coming home at the end of March. And I know a lot of things can change and that's still an entire month away. But it's hopeful to know that there's an end in sight.


Something To Wear (1:19)

Well, we have 18 hours until we get to see my husband, and daddy. When he gets off that plane, he's going to see happy, healthy wife and kids and lots of banners and signs and yellow ribbons and all of that. And it's going to be a good homecoming.

I look around I think, "Oh, I forgot to clean the bathroom, and there's a basket of laundry or two or three here and there, and oh, I want everything to be perfect and spotless," and I know that that will stress me out. And that's not what he wants. He would rather have things left undone like that and have the priorities taken care of, as far as the kids and I; peaceful and happy and content. He wouldn't like it if everything was perfect and the bathrooms were spotless and I was just stressed out and wound tight. But as long as he's got some good food when he comes home and some family time and everybody's doing good, he'll be happy. And I still have to go shopping and buy something for myself to wear tomorrow because I want to look nice for him.


Someone to Share the Load (3:15)

Well, this is our first normal day. I'm cleaning the kitchen while I'm talking. It's April 4, I believe. Clinton came home on Sunday, had off on Monday and Tuesday and the kids were off from school all last week, so this is the first day I've had of my normal routine. That's one of the hardest things about redeployment, or when they come back - not that it's a bad thing, there's so many good things. But one of the things that's difficult is just trying to integrate your lives back together. But with the kids being off all last week, the first week that he got home, it was good because then they got to spend more time together, but it kind of threw me off. It's like when you go on vacation and you come home and you need a vacation from your vacation because everything can be just out of whack.

But the truth is, part of why I don't get anything done is that I can't stop looking at him. It sounds so high schoolish and we've been together so long and I'm so old and I should not be like that. But I am. I just want to be around him.

He bought a lot of things. I set money aside for him and he used a good bit of it to buy things for my hobbies and stuff for the computer and to set up a whole separate computer for me and a really cool scanner. He bought me my dream camera, just a lot of things like that. And I'm not the kind of woman that just expects my man to buy me a lot of things but, it's been nice to see how much of his attention has been on me and making things better for me. I like to think that he sees it as I carried the load by myself while he was gone, and now he's doing things that make me feel good and that's really nice.

I think whenever guys go on deployment, or women for that matter, if they already have a solid personality, they're solid people, I think deployments and some of the hardships that they face ideally make them more solid when they come back, make them appreciate things more. And likewise for the spouses that are left behind.

When - the first day that I got to sleep in and the kids didn't wake me up and daddy had let the dogs out and fed them and fed the kids and changed diapers and did that whole little morning thing, it was just a small thing, but boy did it make a world of difference. Sometimes when you're strong, you don't realize how much you're carrying. Until you're not carrying it anymore, until somebody comes up alongside you and says, "Hey, let me take part of that." You don't really realize how much of a load that you have. You just do what you gotta do.



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