Skip to main content

By: Lt Col Jesse Arnstein, USAF Ret

The simplicity of life is refreshing. Some people talk of the benefits of simplifying their lives and “downsizing.” Deployed life is zero-sizing! It’s all geared toward having total focus and time for the mission, which is  absolutely vital because mistakes can have dire consequences and sometimes be the difference between life and death.

Despite all the benefits of living like a child under Uncle Sam’s roof, I miss living with my immediate family: Jill, Aaron, and Sarah. An uncle can spoil you, but I still long for home. Jill made me a precious photo book picturing the best of times in 2013. On Friday nights I sit in my bed and slowly turn through the 20 pages—memories of a wonderful life that now seems so distant. I see my dear wife, son, and daughter in my arms at the Jersey Shore. A snowman between Sarah and me on a frigid day. Our family trips to New York City last winter; atop a skyscraper; at Rockefeller Center; standing under an awning emblazoned with “Blondie” (a pet name for my wife). Me and Aaron with ear-toear smiles at an Oakland A’s baseball game. The children and I huddled under a blanket at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Being a child is liberating, but I miss the comfort and love of my true family. Before I left New Jersey, Jill and I adopted a song that captures our feelings of being separated by the military: Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues.” The video portrays a young man drafted into the Army and going through boot camp in the early 1960s and his sweetheart back home missing him. For each of them, everything has changed, but in contrasting ways. For the boy, his environment and everything around him is foreign. For the girl, the surroundings remain the same, but it has a different meaning since her love is now absent. The only thing they now share is longing to be with one another.

It’s been over two months since Jill and I parted. Sometimes I’ll play the song and think of Jill, New Jersey, and what a different life and environment I have now. It reminds me that even though 95% of the time I am focused on the military mission, the people and lifestyle I left behind are very real, and life goes on for the ones I love.

The bittersweet song also reminds me that the deployment and simplistic lifestyle are temporary, and if the Almighty is willing, I shall return to New Jersey and embrace my wife like never before. I so look forward to the day that I will dance with Jill to this song at my welcome home party.

Originally published in Shavous 5783 issue of the Jewish American Warrior.