The Calm During the Storm

The Calm During the Storm

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

The Calm During the Storm

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerant uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.

Ursula K. Le Guin

I have always gone to wave farewell to my husband when he departs on a mission. I stand behind the approachment line on the ground as he taxis his aircraft, and watch his crew wave back out of one of the open aircraft windows. My husband is a pilot of an MH-53 Special Operations helicopter in the air force, and saying good-bye is emotional. My parting words to him are, “Please be safe.” His response is a smile and, “I’ll be home soon.” This is our ritual.

On May 21, 2002, he was called to action. Nothing can prepare you for the bravery you must summon when you get a phone call telling you a mission is under way. My husband called to say he was departing and to tell me he loved me. He would be airborne before I could make it to wave farewell.

I had kissed him good-bye just hours before, but when he left for work it was for an ordinary training flight. Special Operations mostly operates at night, and I told him I would try to stay up and wait for him. I had not known there was a chance I would not see him until he returned from a “real life” mission.

As with all Special Ops Pave Low helicopter missions, I didn’t have a clue where my husband was going or when he would be back. The duration of the mission is sometimes unknown and often is classified.

As I later learned, what began as an ordinary day saw one of the longest missions ever flown by a helicopter crew. My husband was involved in what is believed to be the longest over-water rescue ever conducted: a journey of approximately thirteen hours, covering more than nine hundred miles round trip, to rescue passengers aboard a troubled yacht in the Atlantic Ocean. The crew flew overnight, with winds gusting more than fifty miles an hour and waves hitting the helicopter. The mission was successful. The helicopter crew returned home safely, but was exhausted.

I learned this not from my humble husband, but from the media accounts of the mission. The crews of the MH-53 helicopters never seek credit. For them, gratification comes from the success of a mission. It is rare to hear anyone boast about their accomplishments in Special Ops.

When I read the newspaper reports and saw the photos, I was on my knees to God, grateful that I would be reunited with my husband.

Now, my husband is no longer on a peacetime mission. Our country is at war, liberating another country. When my husband returns home safely, I will be on my knees before God again, thankful and relieved. The opportunity to say farewell is meaningful, but the chance to say “hello” means everything.

Kathy Oberhaus

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