‘With both of us active duty soldiers, we’ve learned to adapt to spending more time apart than together, and live for the quiet moments.’

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“I sit here, in the quiet of the night, listening to the hum of my air conditioner in the lonely silence of my house. It’s late and my daughter is curled up in the bed next to me. My fingers are tapping uselessly on the keyboard as I struggle to think of MY story, OUR story as a family, and what it means. I struggle because I know that I already know the answer – My husband and I love the life we’ve built together. With both of us active duty soldiers, we’ve learned to adapt to spending more time apart than together, and live for the quiet moments.

There are a lot of words that could be used to describe me:

Mother. Nurse. Wife. Soldier. Friend. Daughter.

These words, they’re not original. They describe hundreds of the women that I serve with, women who have stories just like I. Our story isn’t original either, we just happen to have a voice to speak it.

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Miles and miles of road fell behind me as the sun sank into the sky, basking the horizon in a hazy glow. My fingers fumbled to hit the back button on my console as I jammed my phone back a song. The song had been on repeat for the last 45 minutes and with each new repetition, I could feel the itch behind my eyes worsening. It’s my sad song, the one I listen to at every goodbye. There are a lot of goodbyes in my marriage. I refused to cry. My tongue burned as I popped another seed into my mouth. One more chug of energy drink to wash it down, as another mile fell behind me. We had gotten 12 hours together.  Hundreds and hundreds of miles for 12 hours and every glorious minute was worth it. But…but, but, but …not to be greedy, it just is never long enough. I pushed the back button once more and I realized I was crying. You see I had left half my soul behind, yet again.

I can tell you every clean toilet along the I-95 / I- 20 corridor. My husband, well – he could tell you the cheapest gas station, if you care about things like that. I could tell you every pot hole, every beautiful field that catches the sunlight just perfectly. We know the corridor intimately because it’s a part of our marriage, for better or for worse.

Wayward + Wild Photography

Our lives, you see, they run like interweaving waves. We zig and zag – Zigging independently and zagging towards each other for the briefest moments in time, before we shoot back off towards our respective duty stations. This period of our lives is significant for the snapshots of time we get…because that is all we get. Our normal is stealing the moments where we can, whenever we can.

Let’s backtrack a few years though.

I was 25 when I went through a divorce from a man I had been with for nine years. I was 800 miles away from home, left with a 2-year-old baby in the throes of nursing school. I had $86 dollars to my name. There was a moment in life in which I lovingly refer to as the algae-lickin’-rock-bottom … you could take a guess that I’m describing THIS part of my life. You’d be right.

Fate, though, you know?

I had just flown back from halfway across the globe, feeling as though my heart and soul had been drop-kicked across the Pacific. I had spent the last of my savings to get home, with divorce papers clutched in one hand and the last of my dignity in the other. I flew into the airport, took one look at my Customs photo, and cringed. I was a mess. I don’t do ‘a mess,’ so of course like any logical person who has just flown over 17,000 miles in three days, I decided to go for a run.

And that’s when it happened, folks, fate. I had known of him for the years I had been in ROTC, but that was the extent of our relationship. On that beautiful spring day, there was a shift in the air. There was gravitational pull, a hum and vibration so loud that it was deafening.  I was drawn to him – probably because there he was running, running in this neon shirt so vibrant, NASA could use it for a landing strip. We ran straight into each other’s lives at the exact moment we needed to – literally and figuratively.

And that’s all she wrote. It really was THAT easy, it really is THAT easy.

Wayward + Wild Photography

I have been in love with that man since then. I’m talking about THE love – the one you feel in every synapse of your body, every single cell yearns for that person. I’ve been in love since the first time he met my daughter and I realized that love extends beyond blood. He has embraced her as his own. She is OURS. I love his loyal and steadfast nature, his level headed personality that oozes calm in every situation he is in. We yin and yang. We excel at where the other faults and we grab their hand and carry them on with us. We wave the biggest foam fingers for each other and it is so incredibly easy because we are each other’s biggest fans. I could talk all day about how much I love that man and I wouldn’t even need to take a breath.

Wayward + Wild Photography

We earned commissions into the United States Army in 2017, I into the Nurse Corps and him into the Infantry. Our yin and yang extends to our MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) and that doesn’t surprise us at all.

We are babies in the military, fresh – young – inexperienced.  We entered into active duty on the same day and it was the day our lives began to interweave. As we drove away from each other down the stretch of highway, it become one of the first of many goodbyes. Our lives are always on hold, counting down until the next time we get to spend with each other. My daughter, she has learned to be resilient, to say goodbye to her mom and her stepdad, and carry on.

Wayward + Wild Photography

Again, we are not special.

We are not unique.

There are thousands of others in our situation, who have willingly signed up for this life because we believe in what we are doing. We believe in our purpose in serving our country even at the personal sacrifices it has and will cause us. I can count on my Facebook friends list and at least half are missing their person right now. Another third are struggling to manage a household, doing everything in their power to have their kids’ lives have the least amount of disruption. Some friends have their husband’s come back different people. Some friends haven’t had their husbands come back at all.

The stories I could tell you. They’re not my stories, but one day they could and might be.

This is the life we sign up for.

They – we – CARRY on, continuing to keep on keepin’.  As a member of the United States Army, I’ve said the Soldier’s Creed more often than I can count and a part of it that always electrifies my heart is:

‘I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, I will never leave a fallen comrade.’

Change every I to a WE.

And there you have it, that is the secret.

Wayward + Wild Photography

THAT is why I took these photos. We, as a family, will never quit. We, as a military community, we will never leave a fallen comrade – we will support our fellow wives and soldiers in any way we can. Even thousands and thousands of miles away from home, you have the biggest family to count on.

These photos of my family, they serve as a reminder to every military family out there that knows what the struggle can be like. A reminder that there are quiet, stolen moments in between the chaos, and those moments, they make everything worth it.”

Wayward + Wild Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sierra Haenchen, 28, of North Carolina. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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