• The women behind the scenes

    What it really means to wear the uniform

    I am the mother of two active duty Marines.  Each of my sons have strong, patient women waiting for them.  These women and I wait for them to return from war, from deployments, from dangerous and faraway places.  We have been waiting seven months.  We have been waiting three weeks.  We are waiting women.

    We are waiting women.  We wear the uniform, too.

    I remember back in 2007, when General Peter Pace was serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, he said, “Thank you for your service.  You are serving in the military even though you don’t wear a uniform.”  He was speaking to a rather large audience of family members on an Army base in Hawaii.  All of them had a loved one deployed, mostly to Iraq.

    At the time, I didn’t get what General Pace meant but I thought, hey, that’s a nice thing to say to the families.  My sons were new Marines and so we had not experienced a deployment.

    General Pace was speaking to the wives of soldiers who were deployed in Iraq at the time.  He was there to answer questions about the 120 day extension for their husbands who had already been deployed for 12 months.   These wives were struggling with how to tell their children that their dads would not be home for another three months.

    There was a brave 12 year boy who stood up and asked the question, why was his father being extended?  General Pace struggled to answer the boy’s question and was visibly choked up.  The young boy was wearing the uniform, too.

    Today I get it.  TOTALLY.   When I saw my daughter-in-law bravely send her husband off to war, just six months after getting married, I knew she would be wearing the unseen uniform.   That was their first goodbye.  My son has just returned from his second deployment in less than two years.  They have been apart for more of the time than they have been married since his two deployments to Afghanistan. 

    My daughter-in-law, Stephanie, has been waiting for my older son to return.  She waits to hear about his experiences in Thailand from diving and free-falling out of planes at high altitudes teaching other Marines how to jump.   To say he engages in dangerous operations is an understatement.   He jumps, combat dives, and is in danger mode much of the time.   She waits to know he is okay, that he will come back intact.  She, too, wears the uniform.

     We are women waiting, waiting.

    We are waiting. 

    One more time.

    I thought of us waiting on the night before Rob returned from Afghanistan and Andrew was in Thailand.  Both were in different parts of the world, all 3 women scattered in California, Alaska and Okinawa.  Waiting.

    I am a mother of two Marines.  I know NOW what General Pace meant about wearing the uniform.  I wait to hear that their plane has touched down safely.  I wait to hear that my sons are in one piece, that they have survived.  I wait to know how they handle the effects of war.  I wait to check them out with my own eyes.

    What I am learning from this waiting is once again about letting go.  I am learning to not be afraid, to trust.  I am learning that worry & fear do not help.

    I wear the uniform, too.  Because I have to.  Because I will.

    We are women waiting, waiting.

     We are women behind the scenes.  We wear the uniform you cannot see.


    (Please go to johatcherretreats.com to read more.  Sign up to get updates and to be inspired about living full out and how to put more fun into your life.)

    • It’s true… in war and deployment, EVERYONE is at war, or deployed… or, their hearts are. You should check out “Bombshells,” which was co-edited by Jesse Loren. The whole book is about stories of women and loved ones left behind, waiting… waiting… waiting…

    • Hope they come home safely.

    • I would love to read that book, Debra, and will get it today. Your words are so true. And Madge, thank you. At the moment, they are both safely resting at home 🙂

      • Marlee Mitchell

      • February 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm
      • Reply

      Love this, Jo. Thank you so much for putting this out there. Wife who waited a lot in the 22 years her husband was in the Marine Corps.

      • Marlee, you deserve a medal. With 22 years of waiting, you are a master at it. I salute you and all the ways that you kept the home front going and the kids while your hubby was away. No wonder you are such a strong and resilient woman.

      • Jesse

      • February 23, 2013 at 10:34 pm
      • Reply

      Jo, I hope your men come home safely!

      • Thank you, Jesse. At the moment they are both home. My dream is that we are done with deployments.

      • Maya North

      • February 24, 2013 at 1:36 am
      • Reply

      Praying that home they will remain… XXXOOO

    Leave a Comment