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     It's one of the first words we teach our toddlers. "Bye!" We look at them in someone else's arms--- a grandparent, day care worker, parent- and smile and wave, teaching them to prepare for a transition that life will reteach them many times will never look the same as it does to a baby. 

     My Marine was my last kiddo-- the third--and was six weeks premature (even though he was nearly 8 lbs) so he was, needless to say, a Mama's boy. He was the leg-clinger at daycare, the sobbing, bawling heap of a mess on Sunday when I tried to drop him off in the nursery, the one who told me he didn't need to go back to kindergarten because he had learned to whistle so he knew it all. That child never did like goodbyes, but he learned to accept them.

      Goodbyes often took different faces. During his high school years, it was that " Bye Mom" every morning, followed by a silent prayer that he would be home in one piece that night. 

       Two weeks after he turned 18, it was that " Bye Mom, I love you." that he bid a trying-to-hold-back-tears Mom at MEPS while I watched my pride and joy swear in, promising to die if that is what his country needed of him, pledging to learn all he could and do his level best to make sure that never happened, and knowing that the man I would see in 13 weeks would never again resemble the lanky, baby-faced boy I was sending them. I sat there trying to memorize every curve and line of his face like I would never see it again...and in ways, that was true.

       After boot camp, he informed me that Marines do not say "Goodbye", they say " See you later". So, our goodbyes never looked the same. Instead, they looked more like two people trying to pretend that they were only parting for a few hours instead of months at a time. They did not resemble a mother sending her son off to places around the world that have people who have the sole mission in life of making our goodbyes permanent. Our goodbyes were cloaked in the denial of care packages sent with bits of home. Birthdays missed, weddings, funerals, babies born that could only be witnessed from afar....a picture on Facebook or a video emailed half a world away. 

     Goodbyes now were more than painful. They were excruciating. My baby that once would pucker up his quivering lip in fear that I was no longer existent in our simple game of 'peek-a-boo' was now learning the full cruelty of Goodbye as he fought back tears, beat himself up over "what could I have done to stop it" and bid a brother in arms a tearful, heartfelt goodbye at the extinguishing of a life too soon. Goodbyes were said by the bedside of an ailing grandfather, with an out-of-breath Marine who barely made his flight across country wanting desperately to get one more chance to tell him how much he loved him and what he had meant to him. Goodbyes were now delivered by Red Cross messages on deployment, informing him of family members who would never be here to welcome him home again. 

     Goodbyes were now invading other places. They were being said to his former life. Friends at home who no longer understood or could relate to this hardened, mechanical ghost of the person they grew up with. Interest like baseball and hanging out with cousins, that were no longer priority when you have spent so much time with the horrors and cruelties of this world. Goodbyes are everywhere--- in his past, in his present, and in his future. 

    He will have decisions to make--does he say goodbye to this life that he has learned to love and go back to just being a civilian. Can he? Or does he say goodbye to the assured family holidays, get togethers, birthdays, celebrations, Sunday dinners and trade it in for this lonely, sacrificial life that has become more than just a part of him? Only he will know. Either way, it will be another goodbye of sorts. And in the meantime, there will be more Goodbyes and "See you laters" to endure. 

    And as sad and bleak as it all sounds, there is truth in the saying " Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise". Because on the flip side of all of those "Goodbyes" are "Hellos". And those.....THOSE, make the Goodbyes bearable. 

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Comment by anotherlovinmama on December 10, 2014 at 5:49pm

Julie, thanks so much for your encouragement!  You don't know it but you've encouraged me through a lot of my Marine experience so far - I've read MANY of your comments on this site and appreciate your guidance.  So glad your son is well and moving forward.  Blessings to your family!

Comment by anotherlovinmama on December 10, 2014 at 5:45pm

Oh, hundais2, it made me a little sad, too.  And if I had read Txteacher1's blog in May when she wrote it, I wouldn't even have had the same response because our son had not deployed yet.  Many of the same issues/feelings were there then, but now we have the added issues of him being very far away, in a very dangerous part of the world, very little contact due to communications restrictions, frequent tragic news reports...I am heartbroken also at not being near to him, not being able to have a deep conversation with him, not being able to make things safe for him.  I have to remind myself that I am so blessed to have been able to do all those things in the past; that even if he wasn't in the military the issues might be the same because he is a man making his own way in life.  Because of his commitment to the Corp, I must also sacrifice in different ways.  It's not easy but I'll do it until the next precious 'hello'.  Keep your chin up, hundais2.  When you can't keep your chin up (we all have those days), come cry on our shoulder because we can personally relate to the longing and heartbreak you're feeling.

Comment by 1~17smom (Julie) on December 10, 2014 at 5:36pm

(((anotherlovinmama)))  I walked in your shoes through two long deployments to Afghanistan.  ALL my empathy is with you.  I know you are living with what I call the "deployment music" always playing in your head.  Sometimes it's loud, sometimes it's playing in the background, but it's always there.  It's hard for anyone to understand until you've lived it.  If you ever need to "talk" friend me here at MFN and we'll connect.  My son decided 4 years was enough, and he EAS'd in January 2013.  His adjustment to civilian life has been good, relative to what I've seen other Marines go through, but it's never easy.  I have to agree with you.  They are fundamentally changed by this experience.

Comment by hundais2 on December 10, 2014 at 4:23pm

PS  I needed two boxes of tissue

Comment by hundais2 on December 10, 2014 at 4:22pm

I want more hellos than goodbyes.  I read this blog and it made me sad.  I know our life with our son is never going to be the same.  I wish it could be but I know its not.  This makes me sad.  I just have to get used to the fact that this is a choice my son made and I just have to support and pray and love him even more.  BUT HONESTLY I AM HEARTBROKED WITHOUT HIM

Comment by anotherlovinmama on December 10, 2014 at 3:49pm

To Txteacher1 - Well, let me grab another tissue and collect myself...I only just read your blog (7 months later) because it is featured in the MarineParents newsletter.  Even so, I almost didn't read it because...you know...very busy...haven't taken down Thanksgiving decor yet...heating system broken & waiting for repairman...and the MAIN REASON: I assumed it would be a simple, heartfelt "I miss my Marine" write-up (which is perfectly legitimate (I sooooo miss my Marine!).  However, though I join others in those same thoughts and feelings, I simply did not want to read anything that didn't 'get down to the nitty-gritty '- which is that there are deeper thoughts and feelings that I usually hesitate to share for fear of causing fear or worry in others.  So, I was very touched by what you shared; grateful that you did not leave out the things that some may find hard to hear.  When our loved ones join the Corp they fully commit their lives to the service of our country and whatever sacrifice or suffering that may involve.  As those who love them so much, we share in some of that sacrifice and suffering.  Before our son signed on the dotted line we had honest talks about what he was committing to; being killed in action is not the only possible tragic outcome to his commitment.  Even in non-combat duty our service men and women could be at risk for terror attacks, kidnappings, torture, deadly disease, deficient troop backup, and equipment malfunction. When our son was still in boot camp we heard reports that Marines had been killed in training accidents here in the U.S.  Our son is now on his first deployment; a fellow Marine in his Unit was killed within the first few months.  I pray for solace for those grieving families (and all grieving military loved ones) and know very well that I could one day be in that same situation.  Additionally, as hard as it is to face the risk of our son giving his life for his country, we had to address the possibility that he could return home visibly intact but suffer from PTSD or chemical exposure ailments that would be every bit as debilitating as visible wounds.  The fact that our son understood these risks (as much as one can without actual experience) and still was willing to commit his life to service for all of us is very humbling.  What he probably did not expect is that the nature of military life, training, & experience would change him somewhat as a person; that civilian relationships would no longer feel the same as before.  The challenge for us, his family, is to be aware of the enormous difference between civilian life and military life (and factor in any traumatic experiences he may have along the way) and try to adjust and help him adjust to the change in our relationship dynamics.  Our Marines always need to know that they have our love and support.  The reality of the sacrifice and danger that our Marines face is hard to think about.  The reality of the loss and changes that they/we may suffer is hard to think about.  But the reality is that we can't help but think about those things.  To share those thoughts with others who understand the realities we all live with is helpful to me.  I hope my blunt words have not caused concern or worry for anyone reading this, but I can't imagine that the very same thoughts haven't crossed your mind many times.  My son is in a dangerous place right now; not to voice my thoughts about that won't make it any less dangerous.  To know we are not alone in our hopes and fears for our Marines is what this forum is about.  Thank you, Txteacher1 for sharing your Marine mom's heart.

Comment by Swazzymom on July 29, 2014 at 4:48pm

Well said!  I think it is harder for the ones left behind in someways.  Our Marines are going off on this grand new journey that THEY choice.  We have accepted it because we love them and support them. 

Comment by GiGi on July 26, 2014 at 12:17pm

That's a tough one to read. My son and youngest is leaving tomorrow at 5pm for bootcamp. The "See you later" will be Monday morning at the airport. Thank you for the heartfelt words.

Comment by Chase'smom on July 5, 2014 at 11:45am
Oh my goodness so well said and as I read I saw my son and I, he to was a mama's boy :) & always left the house saying good bye send that he loves us. My son leaves in 44 days for basic & my husband and I are dreading the goodbye but we are so very proud of him & his new adventure ahead of him. Thank you for this beautiful message and god bless you
Comment by vmghka2 on June 11, 2014 at 9:55pm

With tears falling down my face, I thank you!

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