Four months earlier, SoldierMan had been accepted to the Army Officer Candidate School program, and was sworn in at the Oklahoma City MEPS office, which was in the “new” federal building downtown. The old one, of course, had been blown up 14 years earlier by Timothy McVeigh.
We didn’t have much to do on the day he left for Basic. Obviously he didn’t need to pack much of a bag. I didn’t have to take him to the hotel until 8:00 that night. His recruiter didn’t make him ride the bus from the recruiting office that morning with the teenagers. So we had the whole day to ourselves. We went to Old Chicago for lunch, because our favorite restaurant was closed (of course). We went back to the house and he gave me his wedding ring to “keep safe” until he got back. It became our tradition whenever he left for the field.
It was our very first separation, and though it wasn’t the longest – or even one of the longest – it was still in many ways the hardest. We had the relief of a mid-training break, since the Army shuts down for Christmas – even Basic Training. It was, in my opinion, the best Christmas we’ve had together. I revisit it often.
Today marks six years since I dropped him off, beginning my tradition of Chinese food and Cherry Coke for dinner the first night whenever he leaves. It’s been a fast six years and a long six years. We’ve gone from one side of the country to the other, most of it in a Uhaul. Or, technically, Penske. We’ve collected dogs and junk and friends and memories. We still talk about “what might have been” if he hadn’t joined. But it gets more difficult to imagine as time passes.
However long this Army journey lasts, and whatever it may bring, I can certainly say it’s been anything but boring. There’s no one else I’d do it with.