Former Times staffer Jan Wesner Childs, who now resides in Germany and maintains a blog about being a military wife and mother, poignantly details the emotion of once again having to endure her husband being deployed for war.
When my husband went on his first official trip as a Green Beret, to Thailand in 1997, he bought me a gold Special Forces charm necklace.
Ever since, I've worn it whenever we're separated — whether for a night or for a year.
I put it on again Jan. 6. I'll take it off sometime this summer, when he comes home from Afghanistan.
Yes, we have embarked on another deployment.
In the 22 years we've been married, Mark has been gone about half the time. Since 2004 he, like much of the rest of the nation's service members, has been in an almost constant deployment cycle — either getting ready to go, gone, or reintegrating into life back at home.
And just when that last step is done, the process seems to start all over again.
I'm not complaining. I have it pretty good. It's been exactly two years since Mark returned from the last long deployment. And this one is only six months.
Still, Mark warned me before he left that I shouldn't get complacent. I shouldn't expect this one to be any easier than the others just because it's shorter or because we've done it so many times before.
And he's right.
Every deployment is different, and each one has its own challenges. In Iraq in 2007, during the surge, I lived in constant fear that something horrible would happen to my husband. The kids and I didn't see his face — except in a few emailed photos — for 10 ½ months.
In 2010, during another 12-month Iraq deployment, I vowed not to let myself slip into that darkness again. I poured myself into supporting the other spouses in our unit, volunteering at my kids' school and sending care packages to my husband.
Both my parents died that year. It was not an easy time, but I didn't let it consume me. For the first time, I truly learned to let go of the things I can't control and to be very grateful for the things that I can.
Who knows what the next six months will throw at us. I hope it will be a breeze, it will go by quickly and Mark will be home safe and sound before we know it.
But, heeding my husband's advice, I'm not letting my guard down.
And, if the darkness creeps up every once in a while, that's okay. I just won't let it stay too long.
Jan Wesner Child's blog, Jan Can't Sleep, can be found at jancantsleep.wordpress.com.