I’d attended a few formal Air Force Academy events as a date to my brother’s friends when they were cadets, but I’d never been to an Army ball. Nick pulled his service uniform out of the closet, updated his medals and ribbons, and polished his shoes. I shopped for a ball gown, had my hair done, and pulled out the sparkly jewelry.
There’s a stubbornly independent streak that runs deep through my core, and that has kept me from wanting to fall too easily into the Army world. Every now and then, though, I have a mini-tranformation, and afterward, I realize that I’ve relaxed into the Army culture just a little more.
From spending time with some of the other wives that night, to seeing Nick in his service uniform, to — yes — tasting my first Army grog, the redeployment ball was one of those rare occasions when I felt myself warming up to the Army. We had fun with our Army friends, we celebrated those in the room who had returned safely from Afghanistan, and we honored the fallen, as well.
Having waited for nine months for our soldiers to come home from Afghanistan, the spouses and significant others in the room that night had earned our figurative deployment stripes just as our soldiers had earned the literal ones on the sleeves of their service uniforms. That realization may have been the turning point for me in my feelings about the Army: For the first time since I started my journey, I felt like I truly belonged.