Recruiting Duty: The End

This post contains opinions from a Christian perspective. I hope you stay and read it regardless if you are a Christian or not, but fair warning! Happy reading!

Three years ago I sat in my car, hugely pregnant, driving back to North Carolina. I had gone home to visit my family over Thanksgiving. My husband was out in San Diego at recruiting school. I had one responsibility while he was gone – don’t go into labor. I was two weeks away from him coming home and not in labor. It was a good day.

The ride home I drove in silence and thought about recruiting duty life. We had found out a few weeks prior that we were being sent to Wyoming. Far away from home. Far away from comfort. Far away from my reality. I had much to look forward to. The birth of our first born, the return of my husband which would be our first real Christmas together, and the excitement of a new adventure.

The next month and a half flew right by. He returned, my midwife scheduled my induction (the kid wasn’t coming before we had to move), and the movers arrived. I was 10 days postpartum with a breast pump attached to me as my entire world was packed up.

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Grandparents, aunties, and friends were devastated that we were moving this sweet little newborn thousands of miles away. And despite a few tears on the journey, we were ready to face it head on.

We arrived in Denver on February 1, 2013 to check-in. I sat in the RS for 7 hours. There were delays with check-in, because it IS the Marine Corps afterall. Thank goodness for the comatose newborn phase. Eventually we were free to make the second leg of our journey up to the place we would call home for the next 3 years – Wyoming.

Because I was hugely pregnant there were no trips made out to Wyoming to try and secure housing. Everything was done online and I severely underestimated what 1,100 sq feet looked like. We walked into our tiny, shoebox townhome. I wept for a good long while and three days later my husband left for work while I slipped deeper into my postpartum blues.

My idea of recruiting duty was shattered only two weeks into it. On Valentine’s Day I had made a lovely dinner and dessert for us. The baby was asleep. I sat and watched Downton Abbey while texting my husband every hour or two wondering if he was still alive. Crickets. Nothing. I received a text message from my husband’s SNCO’s wife wondering if I had heard from James. I hadn’t. Neither had they. Panic mode. About an hour later he finally calls me back to tell me he wasn’t dead, but was in his first appointment and turned off his phone. The walls came off people.

For the first time in a long time I went straight crazy wife on him. I can’t remember what exactly I said, but let’s just say if he died in a horrific accident on the way home I would have regretted every single word for the remainder of my life.

That was the moment … The moment I realized that my 9-5 idea of recruiting duty was far off from it’s reality.

We all have that moment, don’t we?

A few months later I wrote a blog post about the military and a wife emailed me to scold me for not capitalizing the “m” in Marine. She was older, her husband retiring recently, and she could have shed wisdom and light. Instead she reprimanded me and told me that her husband was on recruiting duty years ago and I’ll survive this. She could have reached out to a younger wife, she didn’t. Of course I emailed her back and gave her a few shakes, but in that moment I realized just how on my own I truly was. Not even some salty wife would come alongside of me and tell me, lovingly, that it will get better. That life will go on. That this is as temporary as it is necessary.

My husband and I refer to the Wyoming days as The Dark Months. By the grace of God, and a very amazing CO and SgtMaj, we were moved down to Colorado. They didn’t have to. They could have sent him back to the fleet. They could have let his career burn and dissipate. They didn’t. And on September 20, 2014 I teared up a little as we crossed over the Colorado state line. In the rearview mirror were some of the darkest months of my life and my marriage. In front of us lay hope.

I wish I could say it got easier. I wish I could say that he made so many contacts and appointments that he was writing 5 contracts a month and we were going on leave after leave. That we were rolling so deep in those contracts that he only worked 5 hours a day and our life became what I thought it was going to be all along. I WISH I could tell you that the remaining year and a half were the best of our lives and we love recruiting so much that we decided to give career recruiter a shot.

It didn’t.

It never did.

And while we did consider a career of this for him, our hearts weren’t here. His heart isn’t here.

I remember sitting in a spouses meeting with the SgtMaj and CO and the SgtMaj saying, “Recruiting duty isn’t worth your marriage. The Marine Corps is not worth your marriage. If this is killing your marriage – leave. I want your Marine to come to me and tell me that it is ruining his marriage.” From that day on all I thought was, “This isn’t worth my marriage. This isn’t worth my marriage.”

Once or twice I stood in my bedroom packing a bag. Praying that God would give me the courage to stay. I put the clothes in. He sat on the bed and watched me, unsure what to say. He was like a hollow shell. Depleted. Unable to fight. All of his fight went into the cold calls, the hours spent traveling all over Wyoming and South Dakota trying to find that next contract, and the frequent butt-chewings from his command. He sat, he watched me pack, and he had tears in his eyes. He was as worn as I was. And in the midst of packing and praying I recalled it … “Recruiting isn’t worth your marriage.

I stopped. I stayed.

I didn’t walk away from him that night. I laid down next to him and I joined in the fight.

This wasn’t taking my marriage. It wasn’t taking my best friend.

I wasn’t going to allow a temporary discomfort to steal my marriage. 

My husband needed me to step up. He needed me to take care of everything he couldn’t. He needed me to be there. For years I needed him. He was the hero. He was the guy who stood on the wall and slayed the dragons.

We are often told that marriage is 50/50. We must each go halfway. I’ve found this to be untrue. That night my husband showed me that he needed me to go 90 as he barely struggled to get to 10. Did it mean he loved me less? No. He loved me more. Did it mean he was falling out of love with me? No. He just needed me to be the firm footing.

So for almost 2 years I’ve had to do a little bit more. I’ve had to give up a little bit more. I’ve had to learn to eat dinner before he comes home at 10PM. I’ve had to learn to juggle the kids and the cars and the house without his help. I’ve had to learn to leave him out of the equation for most things.

A few months ago I received the text we all want to receive … “We have orders.” I told my best friend and my sisters that I will probably bawl my eyes out eventually. I loaded the kids in the car and we headed to ChickFila. In the drive thru Matt Redman’s song “Never Once” came on. By the time I made it to the window to pay I was bawling my eyes out in complete and total euphoria.

….Standing on this mountaintop Looking just how far we’ve come Knowing that for every step You were with us…

More sobbing.

….Scars and struggles on the way But with joy our hearts can say Yes, our hearts can say…

Hysterical crying.

…Never once did we ever walk alone Never once did You leave us on our own You are faithful, God, You are faithful…

Tears mixing with snot and going into my mouth. The Chickfila girl is scared.

In 5 weeks movers show up to my house. We are on the other side. As he is leading his Marines and searching for those contracts in his final month, I’m smiling ear to ear. We did it.

To all of my younger wives who are new on this duty. To the ones who are struggling to stay. To you who are waiting for a text message letting you know that he is still alive. To you wondering if you’re even needed …

Stay.

Please stay.

This isn’t worth your marriage.

This comes to an end. Commit to leaving hand in hand.

How poetic this journey. We started at only 3 feet above sea level in North Carolina. We finish in Colorado where the Rocky Mountains serve as the constant backdrop.

There are many things I am thankful for. There are many things I’ve learned on recruiting duty. Our marriage is stronger. My love for him is indescribable.

But … I’m so glad I stopped packing that bag. 

I’m so glad I stayed.

The view is incredible from the mountaintop.

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 -Kelsea

18 comments

  1. Joanta says:

    Kels- you are a strong woman who I have loved to watch grow up 🙂 I could never do what you have done.. nor do I feel God has ever called me to that. What he calls each of us to do– as wives– to submit to our husbands and to be their help mate, I believe God looks upon you and says well done my good and faithful servant. I can’t wait to see you on this side of the world.. love you.

  2. KaLeigh Mckenzie says:

    We are just finishing our RD tour and I read this with tears pouring down my face. I absolutely could not have said this better myself. This is an inspiration.

    • Danielle, Sami, Hilary, Kelsea says:

      Thank you KaLeigh! It’s an exciting time for both of us! Back to “normal” Marine Corps huh? Lol

  3. Brittanie says:

    As a wife to a recruiter for the Marines, our time is almost over we have 6 months left. I’m so thankful and humble for the experience my husband was able to gain while here. There were 103749292073 of nights that I was packing my bags and leaving because the 9,10,11pm nights were becoming the worst nights of my life. About a year into it I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and now things are so bright. We have almost made it through the darkest days of our lives and we will only leave this duty a stronger family and a stronger husband and wife. This duty won’t break us!!! Thanks for posting this I know tons of military wives will know every feeling you have had in the past few years and lots can relate to you, I know I do!!

    • Danielle, Sami, Hilary, Kelsea says:

      I’m so glad you’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! It’s been quite the journey, hasn’t it? Just a few more steps forward!

  4. Amanda says:

    Oh my goodness. Thank you for posting this!!! We are halfway done with recruiting duty and I can’t wait to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You spoke straight to my heart and I will definitely be sharing this. We WILL survive this!!!!

    • Danielle, Sami, Hilary, Kelsea says:

      Courtney! Thanks for reading. 🙂 Sorry I didn’t get to meet you a few weeks ago at the ball. I hope the next four months go quickly and smoothly for you guys. See you on the east coast hopefully!

  5. Melissa says:

    Thank you. I am an Army wife on recruiting duty and I am near my hometown but with two kids and post partum anxiety…the ride has been so incredibly hard. We are halfway through to new orders and I am counting the months. But thank you for your words. They hit home this week most of all.

    • Danielle, Sami, Hilary, Kelsea says:

      Hang in there! That postpartum anxiety will make all of this that much worse – speaking from experience. You’re almost to the other side!

  6. K says:

    When I got to the part about marriage not being 50/50 I had to put the phone down and cry it out for a good ten minutes. I’ve struggled with this on recruiting duty. This blog post spoke to my soul. Thank you for sharing this part of your life.

    • Danielle, Sami, Hilary, Kelsea says:

      Oh girl, yes. When I realized it I had a good cry too. The good news is we have a chance to recorrect that thinking and make our marriages more realistic! I’m so glad you stopped by and you were touched by this.

  7. Lisa says:

    I’m a salty wife that would love to have been there to give you a hug instead of a reprimand. But I wasn’t and you are left with the memory of just how lonely and frustrating being a Military wife can be at times. But you clung to your vow to God and your man and that makes me cry. You know God brings beauty for ashes and one day there will be a young wife that needs you to come alongside her. She will be in that valley and God will say, “Yes, that’s my girl” and grin all over you as you reach out to her. Enjoy your new orders, God has plans for you.

  8. Ashley says:

    My husband just finished recruiting duty in June. I just bawled reading this. Seriously the worst three years of our marriage!! Our son grew up thinking it was normal for daddy to be gone all the time and that hurt! Thank goodness our kids won’t have the memories of that awful duty! People have tried telling me it’s all your perspective. I don’t believe it. It’s definitely not easy on the Marine or the family. Especially not with the awful command my husband had.

    Congratulations on surviving! 😍

  9. Lauren says:

    Ohh girl a friend just posted this, our recruiting journey ended January of 2012, USMC as well (Wisconsin). I feel I could’ve wrote this article myself our thoughts and stories were so similar. What a struggle, but what a reward at the end. Amen sister, you made it. We made it.

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