A year ago April 13, I got one of those phone calls we all dread during deployments. You know the one — it starts out with, “Mrs. Hughes, when was the last time you talked with your husband?” It ends with “tourniquets have been applied.”
The kids handled the news better than anyone else. “Daddy was fighting the bad guys and his legs got hurt. Mommy has to go take care of him.”
To them, it made perfect sense. Several days later, I was on a plane to a hospital, and my children were at home with my aunt, whom they had met exactly once.
I left in the middle of the night, not knowing when I would return. Over the course of the next two months, they had 5 different caregivers in 4 different homes, over 3 different states. When they finally returned to me, we hotel hopped for several weeks before moving into a temporary apartment, and eventually moved into a new house. It would be several more months before we received our household goods.
During this time my oldest daughter started sixth grade, a daunting year for any young lady. She is thriving, though, with an active social life and excellent grades. My youngest daughter started pre-kindergarten, her first experience in a school setting. She, like her older sister, is a socialite with excellent grades. My youngest son adjusted quickly to daycare, even though he had always been home with me. They accepted our new path with graceful enthusiasm.
My husband’s recovery has been arduous, made more difficult by his right leg, which was crushed but not removed. I believe that our children have been bolstered by his courage — by his refusal to quit and his insistence that we all laugh through the pain. We, in turn, are bolstered by their unbridled joy in his recovery. The picture below is of the first time my kids saw Daddy walking unassisted after his injury.
Today we celebrate his Alive Day with tremendous gratitude. Our entire family was given a second chance a year ago — we were given more birthdays, Christmas and family dinners. We were given a chance to grow through our losses — to discover strength and courage individually and together. We were given another day to say “I love you,” to revel in each others’ accomplishments. Not everyone receives this precious gift and we will not take it for granted.
Our children absorbed the catastrophic changes this year as though they were small bumps in the road. In them, you can see the strength of military children everywhere. They are the epitome of resilience. Not only do they “Adjust, Adapt, and Overcome,” they giggle (the infectious kind that you want to scoop up in a bottle and save for later) every step of the way.
Megan Hughes is an Army wife who is currently holding down the homefront in San Antonio, Texas.