I Was Prepared

I Was Prepared

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

I Was Prepared

Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts. It’s what you do with what you have left.

~Hubert Humphrey

We had recently married and we were expecting a baby girl in the summer, but first, I had to say goodbye to my Army husband. He was sent to Afghanistan on March 15, 2011 for a twelve-month deployment.

He didn’t have to go, because his military service was ending over the summer. But he wanted to serve in Afghanistan so badly that he extended his duty so he could go.

I used to read Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and bought every one I could find in the series. When I learned there was a book called Chicken Soup for the Military Wife’s Soul, I immediately went to buy it and read it every single night.

About a week after I bought the book, I read “Newfound Heroes,” a story about a military wife like me who got a call from her husband while he was deployed because he had been shot and seriously injured. While reading the story I kept stopping to think about how I would react if I received a similar phone call. When I read that, despite his injuries, her husband could still walk, I wondered what we would do if my husband called to say he had lost his legs. Our lives flashed before my eyes and I thought about how we would manage, how difficult it would be, and how our lives would change. I imagined the two of us with our little girl, only she was about five and playing at the beach. My husband and I were holding hands and smiling. Everything was okay and it didn’t seem so different after all.

I told myself that no matter what, things would be okay. That I would have the strength to stick by my husband through it all. I finished reading this story, closed my book, took a big breath, and fell asleep.

The next day (exactly four weeks after he had left), I received a phone call from my husband. I had been sleeping when he called but I sat straight up to talk to him. He sounded normal and I felt so relieved to hear from him because I hadn’t heard from him for about a week.

He asked if I would like to talk to him for a couple of minutes. I said yes, of course. Then he fell silent, and I could tell he had something to say. He told me he was coming home. I was so shocked and confused that I thought maybe a miracle happened and they were starting to send the troops home. I had to ask him why a few times, though, before he told me what happened.

He had been hit by an IED.

In tears, I asked if he was okay. He assured me he was, but it didn’t make sense. He had been hit and injured by an IED during his earlier tour of duty in Iraq, but still stayed and finished his tour. I knew they wouldn’t send him home if he were okay. Then he told me that he had lost a leg.

Of course I cried. But I also realized this must be so much harder on him and I tried to hold it together as much as I could for him. It wasn’t until after we got off the phone that I let myself cry until I couldn’t any longer.

After a day of waiting for information, I learned the extent of my husband’s injuries. He had lost his right leg from the knee down, his ring finger on his right hand, and the tip of his pinkie. He also sustained multiple shrapnel wounds on his left thigh and both hands.

At some point in the day, shortly after talking to my husband, I realized everything happens for a reason. As unfortunate as this is, my husband still has his life. He came home to me and our unborn child. He got to witness his child being born and he won’t have to worry about missing a thing.

My husband was meant to serve in Afghanistan because that’s what he always had wanted. He needed to go for his sake. He would have always had regrets if he had decided to not go.

Reading that story in Chicken Soup for the Military Wife’s Soul was the one that gave me the foresight I needed. It was the one that gave me the strength to see the big picture. It prepared me for what was to come. You never know your strength until being strong is the only option. And you could never guess how you will act in a certain situation; you can only prepare for it. I don’t know how I would have reacted if I had not read “Newfound Heroes,” and thought about being in a similar situation, the night before my husband’s call. It may have been more difficult for me to see the big picture.

We will get through this. And someday, when our daughter is five, we will be at the beach holding hands, smiling, as if nothing ever happened. I just know it.

~Tracy Fitzgerald

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