If you’re not a non-fiction fan, or don’t usually read non-fiction, I urge you to pick up this book. As a military spouse, I found this hard to read – but I knew it was something I should read. It reminded me of how delicate life is, and each time my husband deploys there’s always the fear, however slight or unfounded, that he may not come back. Artis Henderson’s husband Miles was a helo pilot, a much more dangerous job than what my husband does. I am grateful that he does something relatively safe, and have always wondered how these women sleep at night, knowing that their husbands are constantly in harm’s way. That requires quite a bit of bravery and strength on their part. Henderson is a graduate of the Wharton School of business, at UPenn. She had always dreamed of being a writer, yet she was taught to be very practical, so that dream was pushed to the back burner.
Her father was also a pilot, working for a small commercial line; he also had a small plane of his own that he flew out of his family’s own remote property. When Artis was only 5, she and her father were taking a short trip, just for fun, when his plane crashed. She wasn’t badly hurt – but her father was, for him it was a fatal injury. Could this have possibly foreshadowed her own husband’s crash years later? It’s something that certainly shaped her life. It’s something that makes recovering from the death of Miles sort of familiar, as her mother had been a young window herself.
After she first met Miles, she had no idea where military life would take her. She also had no idea the type of sacrifice she would be making, supporting a military spouse. This is something I definitely related too, this feeling of a life that is not quite your own. We do what we can to support our spouses, and this calling that they have to serve, and a job that they love doing. However, there is always this sense of waiting, when will I have a normal life/career/a husband who comes home every night for dinner?
She writes of her feelings before they were even married: “I began to worry about what it would mean to be tied to the military. How would I navigate this life for the long haul? Where would my own dreams and ambitions fit in? When the brightness had disappeared from the day, I turned on the porch light and sat in the yellow glow, waiting for Miles to come home.”
This is a way of life, not one that is easy to get used to. They decided to get married before he deployed, they didn’t want to wait until he came back. Going back and forth from one base to the other, she works a variety of jobs – none of which are truly worthy of her time, and level of education. While he is deployed, she is told by his unit commander’s wife to censor what she says, don’t say anything that may stress him out or keep his mind off his mission. I have also heard this speech and find it ridiculous. Of course you want to tell your spouse everything, good or bad. That is your husband or wife over there, someone you share everything with.
She had sort of imagined what it would be like to have those soldiers knock on her door to tell her he was gone. She panicked when they were there, in real life, and it was nothing like she had pictured. “There is no greater hurt than knowing you have been loved and the source of that love disappearing.” Not being with him in the last few days of his life, or not knowing the real details of his death was incredibly difficult for her. She wanted him to be at peace, to truly honor him, and most of all feel that in the last moments that he wasn’t scared. Even though they were married for less than a year, the grieving process was much longer. The military’s investigation into the crash took longer than she wanted, as she was ready to get some type of closure. I hope that people read this and remember the sacrifice that people make to serve this country – service members and their families as well. I hope too, that they can be encouraged by Artis, and the incredible life that she made for herself after this tragedy.