By Jackie DorrBefore Brian and I got married, I had an eye-opening glimpse into what our life would be like. My husband has an identical twin, Richie, who is also in the Army. In 2005, Brian came home from his first tour in Iraq and it seemed as soon as he got home it was Richie’s turn to leave. It was in that moment that I realized the affect deployments have on everyone.
I flew to Philadelphia where Brian picked me up so we could drive together to Ft. Drum, NY where the twins were stationed. It was mid-summer, but not overwhelmingly hot. I am from the south so to me if it isn’t in the 90’s it isn’t worth complaining about. We got in very late that night, so we would have to say our hellos in the morning.
We were up before the sun the next day. I looked over at Brian’s vacation beard (he refuses to shave or cut his hair when he is on leave) and shaggy hair. It was a departure from what I was used to. When my eyes met his, I could see the fear and anxiety he was feeling. Neither one of us said a thing.
We met Richie and the rest of the family at the barracks on post. I walked up and Richie said “Mama you made it!” Yes, they all call me “Mama.” I think it might be because of my mothering personality, ha, who knows.
I ran up and hugged Richie as tight as I could which was difficult because he had on all his body armor. Richie still had belongings to move out of his barracks room. So, a few of us went helped. I think everyone was really just too anxious to sit still.
The quad was brimming with soldiers all in their armor. In one area, there was a mountain of duffel bags. Each soldier was being assigned his weapon for the upcoming mission. You could see small cliques in random areas comprised of family members and soldiers.
The mood was surprisingly upbeat. I found it odd then, but now years later I recognize it as a coping mechanism. Parents were soaking up their last minutes with their babies and spouses doing the same. There were a good number of single soldiers who had their parents to send them off.
The day flew by in all honesty. Brian and Richie goofed around. Brian shared stories with Richie about his experience trying to prepare his twin brother. Then suddenly there it was, the call to have them line up. They had to make their way to the buses. The mood dropped in an instant. Smiles were replaced with long, sad faces.
I stood there and watched Brian help Richie put all of his gear on and I could see that look on Brian’s face again. It was the same look he had that morning. My heart sank. It is never easy to say goodbye to a loved one, but I couldn’t help but think that because they are twins this moment is much more intense for them. We all started slowly walking towards the area for the formation and Richie made his way to his spot.
The soldiers lined up and last hugs were given. I had never seen Brian cry before and as I watched my future husband embrace his twin I could see his emotions start to escape. Thinking about it today still makes my heart hurt so intensely.
I can’t imagine feeling like you may never again see the person you have always been with. Richie got on the bus and Brian threw his arms around me and just cried. We watched a soldier say goodbye to his infant child and my heart broke as his wife tried her best to remain composed.
As I wrapped my arms around Brian, I thought this is an intense lesson on what our future will be like. I knew I couldn’t make it okay. All I could do was hold him, so I did.
Later that night Brian confided in me that he was scared for Richie because he knew what it was like in Iraq and he didn’t know what he would do if anything happened to his brother. I was getting ready to marry a twin and that meant trying my best to understand that without his brother, Brian felt like half a person.
To this day, Richie’s deployments hit Brian hard. He fears losing his brother and I have learned over the years how to be my husband’s rock in these moments.
Jackie Dorr is an Army spouse, mother of two, president of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club and contributor to Off the Base. Her other entries include: