March 25th 2014, the day I sent Dana off on a seven-month deployment, was a low point in my life. I vividly remember the emptiness and sorrow in my heart as I watched her walk down the jetway, away from her family…away from me. I also remember how incredibly difficult it was to maintain composure while giving a TV interview just as Dana walked out of sight, it was all I could do to hold back tears. I struggled to hold myself together long enough to walk back to my car before breaking down in tears. Many of us have been to this dark, empty place before; it's definitely a low point for many military marriages.
Ok, Ok…put your “tiny violins” away. I'm not writing this for your pity, I'm writing because today, March 25th, 2015, was a great day. A blessed day, and I'm not usually that spiritual. Today I was asked to participate in the Valero Texas Open golf tournament as a guest caddie for PGA Tour Pro Charles Howell III. (Thank you John Hancock at USAA for making this happen!) It was an incredibly unique opportunity that required me to walk the course with him while carrying his heavy-as-shit golf bag as he prepared for this weekend's event. First, no, I didn't give him any advice other than to avoid 281 during rush hour since he was planning on going downtown to see the Alamo. Second, the JW Marriott's TPC course is BEAUTIFUL! Anyway, while hauling Charles's heavy-ass bag around (have I mentioned how heavy his bag is?), I learned he has two children and been married for over 13 years. Now the life of a pro golfer is fairly different than that of a military family; however, his job does often take him away from home and it can be quite stressful. (sound familiar?) So I asked what advice he would give a young military couple on how to maintain a strong, healthy marriage. He thought for a moment, looked around the putting tee box, and stressed emphatically with his slight southern draw how important it is for a young couple to have similar beliefs, goals, and outlooks on life. “I didn't realize how fragile a marriage can be until I recently started to notice how many of my friends on tour were getting divorced,” he followed. We talked for a while on divorce rates amongst both pro golfers and military members, and his maturity on the subject really impressed me. So then I asked for him to give ONE piece of advice for military couples to help keep their marriages healthy and strong. Charles recommends keeping it simple. “We are constantly growing as people, but a way we make sure we're growing together…in a similar direction and not apart, is to frequently let each other know we're thinking about the other. A simple text that says, 'Hey. How are you?' or 'I am thinking of you right now.' Those little things throughout any day are always great because I know that no matter what she's doing, or what I'm doing, we're in some way doing them together.”
That's some pretty solid advice and something that my wife and I have been doing even through deployments (email, not text). It doesn't take much to show love and appreciation and you don't always need a dozen roses or sparkling jewelry. Just a simple thought can be the best present. Now, this would be a great story if I told you at just that moment my wife sent me a text…she didn't. However, I knew she was home safe from deployment and currently entertaining friends who are in from out of town. Which gets me back to my point, life changes constantly and just because your life sucks today doesn't mean it will suck tomorrow. Last year it was just my dog and I, eating frozen dinners in a big, empty house. Today, as I walk a beautiful golf course with one of the game's best players, my wife and friends are waiting for me at home with an ice-cold beer and great conversation. Military family life is challenging and isn't for everyone. But it's not always so overbearingly difficult; there are several times of pure joy and happiness. Some days you just need to weather the storm because eventually your situation will flip 180 degrees.