Being in the desert was brutal; the heat, the sand, and the sun always beating down on you with nowhere to take shelter. It was enough to drive you crazy. It also didn’t help that the high heat intensified the stench from the burn pits in the camp; one for the camp’s trash and the other for its human waste. God, it sucked to be on the wrong side of the camp on windy days. The base was one of the larger ones in this region of Afghanistan, housing units from each military branch. Maybe that is an exaggeration since the Coast Guard wasn’t on base.
My SEAL team had been deployed here for a little over six months. We had four months left here before being transferred to another location for eight months. We could go home then and try to resume a ‘normal’ life before getting the call for another tour. Just about the time you get readjusted to civilian life it comes to a halt with a new set of orders. Most of the men in my unit are single and love the idea of being able to make up for lost time by partying and serial dating. However, I’m not one of those guys. I’m Commander of this unit and the only married member of the team. Well, at least I was married when I deployed. My wife, Lauren, was very vocal with her displeasure of my decision to stay in for one more tour. I had six months left on active duty, she’d stopped short of begging me to stay home.
Lauren wanted to transition into another position at work and wanted to start our family. She’d put off having a baby while she’d climbed the ranks in her job. She was now ready to take that step and wanted me to go along with it. Don’t get me wrong, I want to have kids and I made my suggestion as to how we could do this. She could transition and we could begin trying to get pregnant. She’s over thirty and has been on birth control since she was sixteen, the doctor told her it might take a while to get pregnant. Plus, at her age, the doctor said she might have trouble conceiving. So, I suggested we begin trying if we got lucky she could be pregnant while I was finishing up my tour. I’d be home in time for the baby to be born and it would work out perfectly. However, Lauren hated the idea. She said that our plans never work like their supposed to and she didn’t want to risk it. The arguments we had over this were brutal.
When it came down to it, Lauren was afraid she’d get pregnant and I wouldn’t come home. She made it clear she didn’t want to be a single mother and later explain to our child why I wasn’t coming back. I made the mistake of telling her she was overly dramatic. Yeah, that was a bad idea by the way. Neither one of us was willing to move on our opinion or position. My wife, who is very patriotic and loves her country, told me that the military had me for fifteen years already, they could afford to let me go. She said she deserved my undivided attention for once and I know she’s right. But this is my life, too. Being a Marine is part of my fiber, it isn’t something I can walk away from so easily.
Lauren moved out of our bedroom. She said she couldn’t bring herself to share the bed with me. I was angry but, more importantly, I was hurt. So much so, that in retaliation I volunteered for extra duty time. In hindsight, that might not have been a good idea. When I told her a few days later, she went from being angry to furious. She quit speaking to me and would barely make eye contact. In fact, on the day I deployed she didn’t even say goodbye. She didn’t kiss me or tell me to kiss her ass. I drove to the base alone, finally realizing at that point my marriage was over. In the six months that I’ve been here, I’ve not heard from her. No calls, emails or text messages. I tried sending her an email, but Lauren had changed her email address because the email bounced back as undeliverable.
I called my mom, she said Lauren hadn’t been in touch with her, either. I called her brothers, all four of them, and all they would say is that Lauren was okay. They never offered additional information or passed along any messages from her. I guess it’s just a matter of time now until the divorce papers arrive. I sat in my bunk daily and stared at the pictures of Lauren I brought with me. I still loved her and wanted more than anything to fix this. But evidently, the feelings were not mutual.
I tuck the photo back under my pillow and walk out of the bunkhouse. I’ve got a mission briefing, I just hope I get back to the picture and eventually to my wife.