By: Bassy Pekar, Kadena AB
There is this nameless thing in our home, in our lives, taking our space and our time. There is this nameless thing that we can’t quite pinpoint, yet often look to with accusatory eyes and a blaming finger. With no single word to label it, we call it, simply, “military life”. It is there when our family vacation gets cancelled, and it is there when non-duty days become workdays extended by overtime. It is there when we foolishly attempt a Sunday outing, and it laughs mockingly when our plans are once again cancelled. It is there when people leave our lives as quickly as they entered, and it is there when moving dates are delayed and PCS orders changed. Because that’s the thing about military life: it’s always there, reminding you of its power and its unpredictable nature. This thing is in our lives, dictating much more than any outside force should have a right to.
We fought in the beginning, military life and me. I was determined it would not get the best of me, determined I would be the controlling force in my life and not allow this newcomer to hold that title. I came first, I thought righteously, I will be the victor. Yet, military life just laughed and quietly went about its way to prove itself triumphant. It subtly wove its way through my life, tugging on threads I thought secure and creating patterns and designs I did not want. I began to wonder if I had what it takes to survive this lifestyle, to accustom myself to a life where I have little control of what will happen and where we will live and if our children will be able to attend a Jewish school. It worried me, the endless possibilities of what military life can bring. It frightened me, the realization of how little I can control. All the ifs and the buts and the maybes, all the things left up to the hands on top pulling the strings.
I was told my family will be moving to Okinawa, Japan, a place so far from home, both in physical distance and cultural lifestyle. We were given a house on base and placed with the task of making it a home, forced to be satisfied with its odd shape and thick concrete walls. I was told to be ok when my husband gets a 4:00 AM call that has him running to his office for an emergency counseling session, to be ok when they send my husband to a different country to visit deployed units. I was told we will live in Japan for a set number of years, and I was told that number can change at any given moment. And when the military decides it is time, we will pack up all the pieces that represent our life and ship them off to our next home of the military’s choosing. It’s ironic, really. I never considered myself to be one of those people, the adventurous travelers who laugh in the face of the unfamiliar. I never considered myself to be the type of person who would willingly sign up for a life of PCS moves, deployments, and constant TDYs. I never thought I’d be ok with agreeing to a life where all major and minor life occurrences are dictated by an outside force. The truth is, I’m still not sure I am.
I don’t know what the future will hold. Military life, proving itself victorious in our fight for control, assured me of that. I don’t know where we will live and if we will have access to kosher food. I don’t know how long we live in Japan and when my husband will deploy. Yet, there are things that I do know; there are things that I can control. I know what wherever we live we will make it a home. I know that life will always bring adventure and excitement, that we will always have opportunities to create new memories. I know that no matter what military life throws at us, we will embrace it, appreciate it, and find the joy in it
Originally published in The Three Weeks 2020 issue of The Jewish American Warrior.