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You could say that when I married my husband I also married the Army.  The Army provided us the opportunity to travel throughout the country, but the Army also took away opportunities because of deployments and training exercises.  Through the good and the bad, there it was.  I have never been one of those wives you hear about on social media sites complaining or, better yet, calling my husband’s command complaining about his work hours.  Nor have I been one of those wives who wore my husband’s rank on my chest thinking I was better than the wives of his Soldiers.  I have never regretted my husband’s service to this nation and we have had some trying times.  I can’t tell you how many birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, recitals, graduations, and other special events he has missed because of “mission requirements.”  I always knew he would miss out on a lot of my and the kids’ lives.  Missing out on these things affected both him and I a lot.  He was ready to call it quits after 12 years of military service.  Yes, you read that correctly!  Mentally, he was done.  This was about 8 years ago and it was time to make a major decision—re-enlist to stay in the Army and retire OR cut ties and move on.  He already made his decision and was preparing for life after the military.  It was me who pushed him into re-enlisting.

We had two young boys at the time and I was pregnant with my youngest.  This was also around the time when the housing market crashed, we were in a recession and good jobs were scarce.  Actually, just about any job was hard to come by.  Once he told me his decision, I worried day and night.  I worried about money.  I worried about bills.  I worried about where we would live.  I worried about jobs.  I worried and worried and worried.  With the Army, though separation was always difficult, I didn’t have to worry about those things.  He even told me that maybe I wasn’t trusting God enough when I voiced my concerns about us “throwing those boots over the wire.”  I am sure there was a lot of truth to that statement.

Needless to say, in the end we made the decision to stick it out.  The last 8 years since Clay reenlisted on the Block O in The Shoe (Ohio State football stadium) have been a mixture of many emotions.  Despite the deployments, overseas tours, trainings, military separations, and long hours, I have been incredibly blessed.

During my time in Ohio while Clay was an Army Recruiter, I met some wonderful people.  My friend Melissa is one of those wonderful people.  Despite the distance, we have remained in contact with one another and I have been blessed to call her friend.

My sweet friend Beth has been one of my best and dearest friends who I also met in Ohio!  We have been able to keep in touch and even see each other a few times over the years.  Her hubby and mine are also good friends.  Regardless how much time passes in between seeing each other,  it’s as if no time has passed when we come together!  I never understood how my husband could carry on a conversation with one of his military friends whom he had not seen in years, but acted as if they were talking yesterday.  Throughout my friendship with Beth, I finally understood how he was able to do that.  I truly love that part of military life – making friends that last forever!!!

 

When we moved to Fort Bliss, Texas, my husband deployed within 2 weeks of us signing for our house.  The days that lead up to him leaving were spent unpacking late into the night.  He spent hours doing what he could do turn the house into a home before he left.  There was no last minute date nights and no romantic moments.  We were both exhausted.  We also had three young boys.  My youngest (Nemo) was only 6 months old and if you recall from HERE and HERE, Nemo had been very sick.  It was a heavy load to bare between my husband leaving, my oldest (Bookworm) recently diagnosed with Aspergers and my youngest with his health concerns.  I went through a whirlwind of emotions every hour of every day.  I was mentally and physically exhausted.  I was still attending to Nemo’s needs.  Bookworm had reached his most severe point.  I was thousands of miles from friends and family and we couldn’t travel.  One day I had to go to ACS (Army Community Services) and while I was there I saw a flyer for PWOC.  I hadn’t even considered going before but I was drawn to the flyer.  However, I loved my time at Fort Bliss.  It was there I was finally able to get Bookworm the help and services that he needed.  It was at Fort Bliss that Nemo began to overcome his problems.  It was at Ft Bliss that I first attended PWOC (Protestant Women Of the Chapel).  If you would like to read the history on PWOC click HERE. Also, watch the following video:

 

The first day I attended PWOC, I found myself in the Bible study class led by my sweet friend Diana Jeurgens.  In case you didn’t know, she also wrote Wife of a Soldier, a Journey of Faith. The Bible study focused on being a Godly wife.  You can read more on the Bible study HERE.  This study was really what I needed!  The ladies were discussing how to be a Godly wife and mother.  I lost it.  My frail emotional state became noticeable as the tears flowed down my cheeks.  It wasn’t long before I was surrounded by sisters in Christ who were praying for me, hugging me and just being there for me.  These sisters were my rock throughout my husband’s deployment.  They brought me medicine and sprite when we were sick; brought us food when I couldn’t go to the store; held my hand, laid hands on us, called me, and, most importantly, befriended me.  I love these ladies and will always have a special place in my heart for each one of them.  During my time in PWOC, I was afforded the opportunity to attend Regional conferences.  What an amazing blessing and opportunity!

 

I have attended PWOC from coast to coast since leaving Fort Bliss.  Each PWOC is different.  However, I often get the opportunity to reconnect with ladies because of the military!  The common connection between these ladies of faith has been our love for God.  During my time in Washington I took probably my favorite Bible study—-EVER.  My friends Jeannie and Carriann led the study on being the Bride of Christ.  You can see the study HERE.  We studied Jewish traditions and customs and wove the New Testament and the Old.  It was an absolutely beautiful study and I was so blessed to be a part of it!  One of the things that made the study so beautiful was that fact that Jeannie was born Jewish and raised Jewish.  She later became a Christian and has such a testimony.  She offered so much knowledge in the study that I am forever grateful.

I was blessed to travel with PWOC from Washington to Nashville, TN, for our International Conference.  I met wonderful PWOC ladies who were stationed all over the world that came together to worship our wonderful God.  It was one of the most amazing, Godly experiences I have had.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that would be the last International Conference.  Unfortunately, when the military begins budget cuts, religious activities are usually hit hard.  PWOC falls under religious activities and the organization was cut drastically. Thankfully, the ladies there have such a love for Christ, they have found ways to keep it going.

I often tell ladies that PWOC saved me.  I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown.  I truly believe with all my heart that God put that flyer exactly where I could see at the exact moment I needed to see it.  God led me to the ACS building and put me in front of that flyer.  One of the great things about PWOC is how this group of ladies help a new spouse (either new to the Army or new to the Army post) bond and connect with other Godly women with each PCS.  If you are a military spouse, I urge you to find your local PWOC and begin connecting with Sisters in Christ.  You will not regret it.  These lovely ladies volunteer so much of their time for women like me and you.  They are the definition of “pay it forward.”

Naturally, when I visited my husband in Korea, I really wanted to attend PWOC at his location.  I love the PWOC, just don’t ask my hubby what he calls it! LOL!!  Clay found their FaceBook page and researched their meeting times and location.  He told me he would go to the gym while I went to my “hen meeting.” 🙂  It never dawned on me that this would be the last time I would attend PWOC as an Active Duty spouse until I was there.  When I walked in and sat down in the chapel, I felt such peace.  Peace I had not felt since we left Washington because most churches outside military towns just don’t know what to do about us.  Don’t take it the wrong way because I have met some great ladies in churches not close to military towns.  You can read more about that HERE.

Anyway, as I sat in the chapel in Korea, the thought of this being my last PWOC as an Active Duty spouse finally hit me.  I am excited to be buying a house, excited to be finished with deployments and separations, and excited to know my husband will be home at a decent time and watch the kids grow up.  As much excitement as I have about these things, I am going to miss some of the things I will be losing.  PWOC is one of those things.  It is ironic that my last time attending PWOC was also my first time attending PWOC in a foreign land.  The very first time attending in Korea, yet the very last time as Active Duty Army Spouse.  I managed to somewhat keep myself together though. LOL  Everyone was so nice and the Bible study was beautiful.  JUST beautiful!  I was gifted with Korean chopsticks which was incredibly nice!  They introduced me and I spoke to the ladies about how bonding the PWOC has been for me.  They were glad I came.  I had many say they would be praying for me, for us, as we transition.  I believe they will because I know the ladies from PWOC.

When Bible study was over Clay meet me at the Chapel and took some pictures.  The thought of no longer attending PWOC as an active duty spouse finally hit me with the force of a Mack truck.  Walking across the parking lot I cried.  I grieved.  It was like burying a friend.  PWOC has brought me through some of the hardest times of my life, has held my hand through the “See ya laters” and the “Welcome Homes.”  PWOC held my hand in the happy times and the sad times.  I have grown in my faith, been challenged, and been loved.  I am incredibly sad to say “see ya later” to that season.  I know that I will probably attend on occasion as a retired spouse, but it’s not the same and a totally different season of life.

After we left PWOC we ran over to another meeting for Clay.  Here we had to fill out some financial paperwork before he could be given his retirement orders.  We figured that it would be a while yet before he got those final orders.  In this meeting we asked about the orders and as soon as we signed the financial papers, Clay was handed his official retirement orders.

There it is.  After 20 years, many moves, a LOT of states, several countries, several deployments, ups and downs, happy and sad, waiting, waiting, waiting, promotions, ceremonies, formals, parades, and PTSD—-just like that we had final orders.  Just like that the end was in our hands.  Just like that, 20 years of life on one sheet of paper.

 

And then I cried….again.  I cry now not because I am not trusting God, it is because I trust Him that I cry.  I know that through all these years God has kept us in His care.  We have not moved to one place that He hasn’t ordered.  We have not taken one step that He wasn’t there to carry us through.  I am no longer worried about post Army.  Although this transition will be a huge adjustment, I know that whatever happens, God will not leave us nor forsake us.  He does not have plans to harm, but to prosper.

It is now less then 120 days before Clay comes back from Korea.  I will probably share next week a HUGE announcement for us post Army life.  I know that in every step though that God has led us!  I will continue to do what Diana Jeurgens suggested in her book and “Bloom Where I am Planted.”  The Army has taught me a lot of things and I am incredibly blessed for those lessons to take into post Army life.

 

So join us in prayer as my husband “throws his boots” over the wire and we bid a fond farewell to the United States Army.  Almost to the day of Clay’s final day on Active duty, my nephew will leave for basic training.  The circle of life continues.  We will be there for his graduation from basic training, Lord willing, and my husband will critique his uniform, his salute, and pretty much everything else. 🙂

 

In Awe,

Laura Prater is a long time Army wife, her husband just retired after 20 years Active Duty this past July. She, her husband, and family are still very active in the military community. Laura is an area volunteer for National Military Family Association and also contributes occasionally to MilitaryOneClick as part of their Blogger Brigade. In addition to all this Laura is a homeschool mom to their three boys. You can find Laura sharing her favorite recipes and chatting about faith, family, all things homemaking, and homeschool over at her other website www.awefilledhomemaker.com