Something to Be Proud Of

Something to Be Proud Of

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

Something to Be Proud Of

One is not born but rather becomes a woman.

Simone de Beauvoir

When Susan got engaged to Gary, her mum confessed many reservations about her daughter marrying a soldier. Susan’s mother and I are best friends.

Within a year, Gary was posted to Ireland, and Susan couldn’t go with him. A year later, she gave birth to little Innes. She spent a lot of time at her mum’s house rather than live alone.

When Gary came home, it was only to tell Susan that he was being posted to Germany, and she and little Innes would be able to go with him. This move terrified Susan so much that she began to lose weight. I wondered if she would refuse to go, but the day came, and off they went.

Susan had been there for a year, when, suddenly, she arrived home with Innes, unannounced. Susan said Gary was away all the time; she was left with strangers and felt like an outsider. Gary arrived home and told his side of the story. It was obvious these two were very young, and, instead of talking over their problems, they blamed each other. Finally, they sorted it out, were back in love again, and, off they went, back to Germany.

Susan’s mum went out to visit her and learned all was not well again. Susan mixed very little, just enough to show her face, and now Gary had been told that he was being posted to the Middle East. Since she couldn’t join him, she immediately announced that she was coming home to wait for him in Scotland.

By this time, Susan was pregnant again, and, after Gary had been in the Middle East for two months, Kerry was born. There were regular letters between the couple, but I think both Susan’s mum and I suspected that when Gary returned, things were not going to be very good between them.

It was a lovely sunny June morning when Susan’s mum’s telephone rang. It was military headquarters, and they had been trying to get in touch with Susan. Gary had been wounded and was in the hospital. They would fly him back to Germany within the next few days. They asked if he couldn’t be flown back to the United Kingdom, but were told that his injury was quite serious and the specialist was based in Hamburg.

“What is his injury?” Susan asked in a flat voice.

“He has been blinded,” came the short reply.

Susan bit her lip and asked, “Is it a temporary thing?”

There was a pause. “Mrs. Phillips, that is unlikely, but the specialist will decide.”

Susan and her mum and dad flew to Germany that same day. Susan just couldn’t imagine how Gary would cope. He was outgoing, and the army was his life. Two days later, the doctors informed them there was nothing they could do to restore his sight in either eye.

Susan cried, but, once the tears were finished, her resolve set in. Hermum said it was as if Susan suddenly grew up in that endless hospital corridor. “I want to see him and find out how soon we can get him out of hospital,” she said.

She was the one who said she wanted to tell him the bad news. She held him when he cried, and she told him that they would make a new life together. She was advised that, once Gary could get out, he would still need treatment for his other wounds, and they would prefer him to stay on base in Germany until they officially released him from the army.

This was no problem for Susan; she had her mum bring both the children over so that Gary could have something to absorb his interest a little. Susan took complete control. She nursed Gary mentally and physically. She looked after the two young children, and she set out their accommodations so that Gary could find his way about. This meant it had to be free of toys and clutter. She liaised with the doctors and with the army as to what was the next best step for Gary.

She pleaded with the army to find something that a blind man could do for them, but, finally, they returned to the United Kingdom. Instead of coming home to Scotland, Susan had other ideas. She felt that Gary would give up if he sat at home doing nothing all day.

She talked someone in the army into giving them accommodations near a camp in the South of England, and, with her encouragement, Gary found a job on a help-line for the army.

Our admiration for Susan is enormous. Gary is back in control again, but she is always there in the background, ready to give support when needed. Whenever anyone says anything to her about how her life has turned out, she just shrugs and says, “All part of being an army wife. Gary is alive, and we have two wonderful kids. I never forget that Gary got hurt fighting for his country and that was why he joined the army in the first place. It’s something I am very proud of.”

Joyce Stark

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