Lightning cracked over head, thunder boomed and the wind lashed the windows of the old stone house. The sky was an ominous green and after living in Kansas for so long Emmie knew to listen closely for the shrill warning of the tornado sirens. As the storm swirled dangerously outside of her windows, Emmie’s heart felt the sharp sting of the wounds she had carried for so long. She sat quietly on her bed staring at the blue suitcase just under the window in her master bedroom. She had to wonder how much longer they would let her stay in her borrowed house. She felt like a fraud, living in government quarters without her husband. But for now, he was classified as missing so she was allowed to stay in the old house she turned into their home at Ft. Riley, Kansas. A bolt of lightning lit up the sky, illuminating the suitcase and her heart told her it was time to open it. Emmie knew it would be one way to keep her connected to her husband of 23 years. Her heart ached, not knowing where he was and if he was OK, but if she could just find the courage to open the blue suitcase she knew she could find some solace. The thunder crashed loudly against the walls of the house just as she stood up to go and find her heart.
Emmie sat down gently in front of the suitcase and began unlatching the leather straps holding it together. Her fingers trembled as the latches came undone. The zipper was unused to being opened and it took a little coaxing to finally get it unstuck. Emmie’s heart pounded in time with the lighting strikes overhead as the lid of the suitcase revealed her life lived in letters. The first one to catch her eye was addressed to her from Captain Nick Reynolds. Emotions flooded through her as her fingers lightly traced the curve of the letters of her name written by her husband so many years ago.
She’d been brave for so long now. The visit from the chaplain six months ago seemed like a lifetime away. Every day since that day she worked to get up, put her feet on the floor and keep moving, always moving. She has had to stay strong for the kids. As an Army wife, she knew what she was signing up for, but she never thought she’d have to face the reality of knowing her husband was missing somewhere in Afghanistan and may never come home. For the past six months, she’s blocked that thought from her head, but lately Emma has been feeling less and less connected to Nick. She knew as long as she felt connected to him, he was out there somewhere, alive. She needed these letters to talk to her and tell her everything would be OK. She needed them to tell her that Nick would come home to her and their two kids.
Her hand shook as she pulled the letter from the stack and opened it. Her eyes flooded with tears as she read what he wrote in September of 1996, his first deployment after having kids.
Dear Emmie, Jenna and Blaise,
Well, I’m here, about 1,000,000 miles away from you guys and it really feels like it. I know this has to be the hardest thing about being in the army. Being away from your family is really tough and much harder than I thought it would be. I think it’s a combination of loneliness and tiredness that is really magnifying my emotions. But I’m not going to die. And I know that every day from here on out is one day closer to being together again.
On the upside it’s going to be great once you all finally get to come to Germany. Downtown Wurzburg is beautiful. I can see us spending a lot of time there, strolling around and seeing the sights. And the post is great too. It’s small and compact and has everything we’ll need.
I’m headed to my sponsor’s house for dinner tonight so I’ll fill you in on what housing is like. But remember, it will only be a two bedroom so don’t get your hopes up for a three bedroom.
I have no idea what the deal is with the deployment. It sounds like we leave mid-October and no one knows what the return date is. The unit there now has been there for a year. I really hope that doesn’t happen to us, but we’ll see. You know how it is, everyone is speculating about when and how long but nobody is basing anything on fact. We’ll just stick to our plan and remember that it won’t be forever. And then we can look forward to being together again soon.
I bought a calling card so I can call you. It costs $1.54 a minute. There is a plan that has something to do with a ring back system to the US. It’s only 37 cents a minute but I think you have to have your own phone to have it and I don’t have one yet.
I’m going to close for now. Give lots of love to the kids for me. I love you to the moon and back, times infinity plus one. I’ll keep writing as often as I can.
I love you,
Emmie sat quietly as a single tear slipped down her cheek. When she said “I do” to her soldier so many years ago she knew he would be living a life that included him being put in dangerous situations but up until now, he had stayed so safe. Was he still safe? As a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky, she clasped the letter to her heart and prayed he was safe as she drifted back in time.