“I love you the mostest!” an Army Spouse Goodbye

Brian and Jackie as his R & R ends and he returns to a war zone May 2007.

Jackie Dorr is an Army spouse, mother of two, president of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club and contributor to Off the Base. To read her first entry, click here.

By Jackie Dorr

In my five years as an Army wife, it seems like I have a million stories filed in my memory. Several stand out as truly special.  One of my most memorable happened in May of 2007.

Brian had come home for his R & R (Rest and Recuperation). We were stationed at Ft. Gordon, GA at the time. He had flown through Jackson Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta.  His layover was something like five hours, yet it was only a two hour drive from Augusta. So naturally, I drove down to gather up my husband and his belongings. Neither one of us could bare to wait three more hours!

Since I had picked him up from Hartsfield, 15 days later I had to bring him back there to catch his flight back to the desert. Our two hour return drive felt like 10 hours. We both were dreading what lay ahead.

Countless kisses are part of the couple's goodbye ritual.

Once we got there, we had to find our way over to the designated area for returning soldiers.  I was the only spouse there since Atlanta is really just a layover for most soldiers. As Brian and I waited in line to go through security, I remember thinking how humorous. All of these soldiers are going to war and yet they still must participate in the tedious security rituals.

We were then escorted to the USO after completing all the security measures where we were to wait. The USO representatives lined up the hundreds of soldiers on the upper level of the airport’s atrium. The line almost completed a full circle.

My stomach was in knots. I had just gotten Brian back and already I was sending him away again.  I had just said goodbye six months ago. So, this should be easier. It wasn’t. It hurt much more because I knew what to expect.

The line began to move and as we marched in parade like formation through the airport – all of the passengers stood and clapped as these soldiers began their journey back overseas.

I still don’t know how I made it through that walk without balling, but I did.  I avoided eye contact with the onlookers, but I felt their pity. I think if I had looked at them, I would have lost what little composure I had.

I kept thinking to myself, angrily, these people are going on vacations or business trips. When they get to where they are going, they will call someone to share the story of this amazing site, as if it was a novelty.

Jackie and Brian have been married five years and gone through four deployments together.

They had no idea how much my heart was hurting. I squeezed Brian’s hand three times, as we often do. It’s our way to let each other know “I love you”.  He squeezed back four times, “I love you more,” and with that I took a deep breath and kept walking.

We made it to the gate, looked for a quiet spot. Every seat was occupied by a soldier wearing his or her ACU (Army Combat Uniform).  All of the soldiers there, with the exception of Brian, had already said their goodbyes, this was just a pit stop. Brian and I sat in a far corner trying to soak in every moment we had with each other.

We huddled together. Brian had his arm around me and my head rested on his shoulder.  We weren’t discussing today or the future that was too heartbreaking.  Instead we talked about what we had done on this R & R. We had our vows renewed just ten days prior then had an amazing “honeymoon” in Dafauskie Island.

As we waited, a passenger from another flight started singing the national anthem. Brian jumped up arms to his side, legs straight and tall like a broom stick. In an instant, every soldier for that flight stood at attention. The civilians stopped to watch, held their hands over their hearts. The soldiers all faced the woman singing while all the civilians stood facing the troops.

It was an amazing site. The many civilian passengers and hundreds of men and women ready to go back to their war time mission’s standing at attention for the “Star Spangled Banner”.  As I looked around I could see some f the civilians with their cameras and cell phones out, undoubtedly capturing pictures and video of such a memorable site.

I have seen Brian stand at attention a million times, everyday at 1630 to be precise, but that day was different. It was a day I would never forget. Since that day, no matter where I am, when I hear the National Anthem, I get a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes and goosebumps on my arms and legs.

It will be eight months before Brian can kiss is wife again as he prepares to return to a war zone in May 2007.

Boarding time came much quicker than I anticipated, of course.  They let Brian board last, so that we had every single second we could together. Brian held my face in his hands and kissed me all over – my cheeks and then my nose.

Before I could tell him I loved him he said “I love you more Jackie.”  I giggled, replying with “I love you the mostest.” He smiled at me with his huge goofy grin “I love you the mostest time infinity.”

We do this every time he leaves. We both know how much we love each other, but surely our love is so intense that the other can’t love that much haha. After what seemed like a million goodbye kisses, I watched the back of his head walk onto the plane.  As I walked away, I could feel the eyes of the onlookers. Some looked like they wanted to talk to me, but I walk with a fast stride. Once on the tram and back to the car, I let it out.

I sank into the seat of Brian’s car. My stomach felt like it had been punched and my heart felt twisted and pinched and pulled.  For a second, I was convinced I wouldn’t survive the next eight months (the deployment extension had just been approved). I thought there wasn’t a single person that could possibly understand how much I missed my husband already, again. I cried my entire drive back to Augusta and I began my countdown, again.

The woman who sang probably doesn’t realize the impact she had on me, but she made that moment more than just a sad goodbye.

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