Kirstin Mix 93Ox 94C, a veterinarian in Houston, met her future husband, Mike Williams 92Ox 94C (above), at a party in Haygood Hall at Oxford College. She continued to veterinary school at the University of Georgia and he to medical school at the University of Miami. They were married in December 1999. Williams was deployed in February 2005 to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. He is now stationed in Farah, Afghanistan, with a medical unit. In this heartfelt essay, Kirstin reflects on what life has been like at home since Mike left.

‘While he’s been gone’

When I found out that my husband, Mike, was going to be deployed to Afghanistan for a year, I felt anxious. Mike is a physician and a captain in the Army, and we were aware of the possibility but I didn't know if we were prepared to face the reality. I wondered how we would manage being apart for that long, if it would change our relationship or test our marriage in ways we hadn't anticipated.

Mike left for Afghanistan last February. Some of the difficulties I've faced during his absence were expected. I expected to miss Mike a lot during the holidays and on our anniversary--and I did. I expected to miss talking to him every day--and I have. Mike knew he was going to miss out on a lot during his deployment--and he has. He hasn't even met our new niece yet.

Some of the difficulties I've faced were less expected. I didn't realize how much I'd miss the day-to-day interactions, all the "little" things, like the big breakfasts Mike used to cook on Sundays, going to the bookstore together, or arguing about which radio station to listen to in the car. I miss having someone wonder whether I'm going to be home late from work and asking how my day has been. Sometimes, I miss Mike intensely, such as when I attended a recent wedding. Sometimes, I just miss hanging out and joking around with my best friend.

Since Mike has been deployed, I've realized just how little most Americans' lives are impacted by the war. Many people know someone who has served in the Middle East, but knowing "someone" is not the same as having your spouse there. I wonder whether most Americans can articulate the reasons behind the war.

I wasn't alive during the Vietnam War, but when I read about that time it seems there was a sense of urgency for resolution of the war. I suspect this was because so many young men faced the possibility of the draft (and so many families, the possibility of a son, husband, or brother being drafted).

Today, because the draft is not in effect, I think there is a feeling of security. That, coupled with the fact that most Americans have not had to make any personal sacrifices, seems to have led to an indifference toward the war. Sure, everyone wants the war to end, but how many have gotten personally involved?

I think most people support the troops, whether or not they support the war. Mike came home for two weeks last summer and while we were walking through the airport, strangers walked up to him to shake his hand. In one airport, people applauded for the soldiers.

Every morning, as I commute to work, at least a third of the cars I see have yellow "support the troops" magnets. I appreciate the well-wishers and I'm sure many of the soldiers do too. But supporting the troops means more than putting a magnet on your car or shaking a soldier's hand. It means taking responsibility for the choices our government has made and is making. We, as Americans, should be committed to keeping the soldiers as safe as possible. We should put them in harm's way only when faced with no other choices and we should get them out of harm's way as soon as possible.

Mike has been deployed for nine months and should be back home in about three months. I can't wait to see him again. We have been able to communicate by e-mail, and that has been a comfort. As difficult as it has been, I'm very proud of Mike--he's worked hard in Afghanistan. Although this has been a challenge, I know both of us have learned a lot about ourselves and each other while he's been gone.



© 2006 Emory University