Truthfully, there were prob'ly over a dozen things we talked about when considering reenlisting. The current job market was one of the biggest. We were still sure we were going to just make a break for it and plunge into whatever was out there in Harrisonburg.....hopefully with a piano studio to help us get moving while Ben picked out a career to go to school for. We learned on April 20th that things were changing in the Army. They had reached 75% of their enlistment goal for the ENTIRE YEAR by March, and were raising the standards for their enlistees. No more lateral transfers (switching from Army to Navy), no more Individual Ready Reservists, and if you were within 180 days of your ETS, you were *out*, no longer eligible to get back in! Not only that, but all of the enlistment bonuses were being cut by 50% on the 24th of April!
This gave us serious pause. We had been hearing rumors of the Army being flooded with enlistees who couldn't get jobs anywhere else. Ben was making a good income now, had spent 5 years training in this field.....it would be financially wise to just stay in and finish his career out. 15 more years and he gets a pension! (Retirement at 38 would be AWESOME.) But, we knew we couldn't make this decision based simply on finances.
We started praying super hard. We decided that if we were going to stay in, we needed to go ahead and reenlist before the bonuses got cut. That gave us 5 whole days to decide this. :( We spent long hours in conversation with friends out here, active duty, some retired, some civillian. Family life in the military is tough, no doubt. But people get tough breaks all the TIME in life. Who *doesn't* struggle just out of college with a huge debt to pay back and only one skill set to do it with? (Usually without the complications of family on top of that!)
We realized we were looking at hardship.....either way we went. That sort of neutralized that aspect of it for us. Asking a father/husband to leave his job of 5 years, pick a completely new field of work to enter into (one that he prob'ly won't enjoy as much), incur school debts, and just plain start over is a LOT to ask. Honestly......I felt ashamed to be asking it of Ben once I considered it in this light....just for the sake of living close to family.
Deployments: Yes, they are inevitable. They're the horriblest part of this lifestyle by a LONG shot. I want to insert something here, though, at the pinnacle of this topic: After having lived through one, I realize that this kind of separation is just one of thousands of ways God allows tribulation to touch our lives. Even part-time singlemotherhood can be overcome by God's grace. Not just overcome, too, but TRANSFORMED. God does promise us that He will work ALL THINGS together for Good for His people.
I know beyond any doubt that there will always be two ways to look at a devestating thing. You can sit in your cell, stare at your shackles, bask in the comfort of the outrage and sympathy of your friends, and quietly endure it......or you can open your mouth and sing praises to the Eternal God, who ransomed you from your sin, and has promised to never forsake you.
That......is what I have learned. I would never *choose* a life of separation (deployment) as my top pick for "tribulations to endure." I know they're one of the toughest. The divorce rate in the military is 80% just to prove it. But, once God began nudging us towards this Mission here in the Army of being light in darkness, I stepped down off my pedestal of Reason, and set down my rights to a Proper Family Life, and allowed God to make what He will of my marriage. It is not as if it is in my power to make my marriage perfect just by being in proximity to my husband.
The same is true for Violet. It is Christ at work in her which is going to nurture her, not necessarily the constant physical availability of her parents. I gave her back over into the Lord's hands, and told Him that Ben could pray for her soul just as easily in Iraq as he could by her side, if He so desired.
Hopefully, he won't have to keep doing that. After this next deployment, Ben will attempt Special Forces once again, and if he succeeds at that, we will be looking forward to 6-month (or less) deployments.
By the way, if he makes SF, we will be considering reenlistment again in 3 years.
So there you have it. Most of it, anyway. I hope our East Coast family can come to forgive us for robbing you of our presence yet again! :) We will be back to visit periodically. Thanks to space-A flights for making that an option!