Interview with Amanda Huston
–by Kristen Tsetsi
“Trying to stay positive about heading into another deployment, but I do have my moments,” writes Amanda Huston in a January 7, 2011 entry on her blog page, Combat Boots & Diamond Rings. “I keep reminding myself that Paul says it’s a different type of mission then he has ever done before. Gone are the days of Front Lines & Infantry, now we are only office work. So with this in mind I am learning to retrain my brain to think positive thoughts…”
In another entry, this one posted on January 11, Amanda writes about two days of fun with friends (a late night watching the BSC National Championship followed the next day by a friend’s birthday celebration) and little sleep.
“You might ask why, if I am so sleep deprived & tired, do I still agree to all these activities. My friends from Football night already have orders & will be PCSing (moving) during the summer” Amanda writes. “Bekah is also married to a soldier who has orders & they might be moving as well in early summer. So I won’t be turning down any invitations to go out & play with my girls. Because I know these moments are getting rare & soon will be gone.”
Amanda has been married to her Army husband Paul for 15 years, so it’s safe to say she’s used to making and saying goodbye to friends, seeing and then saying goodbye to her husband.
LIFT: How many times has your husband been deployed in x number of years?
AMANDA: Three times between 2003 to 2010 – 7 1/2 years total time frame we have been in deployment process.
LIFT: People say it gets easier every time. Does it?
AMANDA: NEVER- I always hate when family & friends think out loud to me that it has to be easy, you’ve been through this before. That last time I checked with my Army Wives (friends) around the globe, it NEVER gets easier, and it never will.
LIFT: How would you describe what you think and feel for the duration of a deployment? That is, how do you sleep/how does an average day feel/what do you feel that people you encounter may not necessarily see?
AMANDA: I rarely sleep more then 4 to 5 hours a night, if that, depending on what type of deployment we are having. By “we” I mean the whole Battalion my husband is deployed with at the time. Sometimes it is really quiet and you let your guard down only to be smacked back into reality the next minute with the dreaded phone calls of our unit being hit by wounded soldiers or death. So sleep is often a luxury that I welcome when it does come. Because your life will never be the same after a deployment.
I also dread the last few turns in the road on the way home every time I leave my house during a deployment.I am always scanning the area for that vehicle that will hold the soldiers in their Class As who could change my family’s world forever.
I don’t think I have ever said that out loud to anyone or typed it before. But it is a fact during a deployment.
LIFT: What do you think others – civilians with no connection to the military – think of the military family? That is, how do you think they perceive them, or what do you think their idea is of the lifestyle?
AMANDA: I am lucky to live in a small town that is very military friendly, and they support us all! But when I travel home sometimes to visit my parents, I witness the population in general has grown accustomed to the war. I often feel a real disconnect, because everyday life in America goes on in all these towns that aren’t near a military post, but for me the worry never stops. If someone asks where my husband is, they rarely say more than, “I’m sorry he’s gone. That stinks.” Then they move on to, “It’s so great that you can travel while he is away!”
Really?? I would rather never travel again if it meant my husband could be home with his family for two years in a row.
I think civilians often think, “You knew what we where getting into when you married a soldier.” But no one ever expects to live with constant fear and worry that your loved one will never return. Some days I feel the love and support overflowing from civilians, and some days I think they feel we have no right to complain. So, more often than not, I won’t complain to a civilian – only to other Army spouses.
LIFT: People who find the idea of recognizing (not honoring, but recognizing) the Military Family as TIME’s Person of the Year unrealistic might say the military family hasn’t had its own impact on our culture – not the same way the military has. How do you respond to that?
AMANDA: That’s a great question. I feel I myself have impacted our culture for a very long time as a military spouse, as have my children. I have been an FRG participant since about 3 years into our 15 years of marriage. I help new wives learn how to live in the community with civilians and utilize their community resources outside of the Army post. If we didn’t have volunteers to do this job, we would have a lot of lost spouses on military posts who never venture outside the military world. That alone impacts the civilian world – we generate a lot of business for the community by shopping locally and not always on the post.
My children understand and set an example sometimes for adults when they are in public about being respectful of our nation. They sometimes can be the only children to remove their hats and place a hand on their heart when the National Anthem is played repeatedly at events because the sound system is messed up. This happened at a local parade. By the third time the National Anthem started playing, my children where the ONLY kids I saw who were still standing at attention and not talking. They may have affected one person in our community with their behavior, and that is making an impact,
LIFT: What do you wish more people understood about the military family?
That we are adaptable, but not always as strong as we look. I say this with all the love in the world for my fellow military spouses. We move for a few months for our spouses’ schools, then move again to a new duty station, then move again if they deploy and we decide to return home. We learn to adapt pretty quickly to whatever the military throws our way, but it doesn’t mean we are always okay with the new situation. I want to be strong all the time for my soldier and children, but I have learned that for my own sanity it’s okay to admit I am not okay all the time.
It took awhile and a couple deployments under my belt to be able to say, “I need help. I’m exhausted!” Most of us want the civilian world to think we’re strong and can handle anything. But sometimes it does get overwhelming and you have to admit to yourself that you and your kids may need to ask a friend or family member for help.It doesn’t mean we can’t handle being a military spouse/ family – it means we are human just like everyone else just trying to make it in the world.
LIFT: What bothers you the most during deployments?
AMANDA: I think the thing that sticks out most is the fact that I am married. I wanted a family and a spouse to help raise my children. During a deployment, we may get to talk with my husband some during the week,but he isn’t the one here daily in their lives making the big decisions that will impact their future.I don’t fault him for that at all, he would much rather be home dual parenting. It is just a simple fact that we are single parents that aren’t suppose to be single parenting.I give all the respect in the world to those single parents who do it day in and day out who had no choice.
LIFT: What elements of being a military family do you most enjoy?
AMANDA: Some Military spouses are going to think I’m nuts, but I have grown to love other Army wives. The friendship turns into more of a relationship like family. It’s amazing how it grows and at a rapid pace. How that person you spend more hours with than your own spouse sometimes can have such an impact on your life. They move or you move, but you never stop thinking about them when put in a situation that brings on a memory.
There are Army wives I have known since before my husband and I got married, and some I have known less than a year. I know that, to this day, if something ever happened and I needed them, they would be there .
I know that not every military spouse thinks this way and prefers to live a civilian life versus military- but not me.I love that my children can play at any time with other military kids and those kids don’t think twice when they are told “My dad’s on a trip.” They respond with, “My dad is, too. COOL that they are together, huh?”.
The camaraderie among military families is amazing and hard to beat!
Learn more about Amanda Huston.