My childhood fantasy was to marry a military man who served our country. He would work long hours, and I would go to college. We would ride away in the sunsets across the world together, and raise our children in a home that respect’s the values of being an American. I would lead in an association for other military wives, and he would climb the ranks to become an officer. I had everything delicately planned out in my head as to how I saw my adult life unfolding.
My childhood dream turned into a nightmare that almost cost me my American Dream.
Ernie’s is a local sports bar near Fort Hood, where all the soldiers go on a Friday night to collaborate with each other and unwind after a long week. I moved to Killeen a year ago, after an impulsive decision to leave my hometown in pursuit of an adventure. This place gave me a job on the spot because I am young, spunky, and attractive. It is not a permanent job, but it will help me pay the bills for now. I am a single mother with two children who recently lost her day job. Waitressing is quick money, and I am must provide for my kids.
The men that come here are not total slobs. They harmlessly flirt with us and tip us well if we bring them a beer before they finish their last one. It is a half hour past one, and out of the corner of my eye, I see him walking through the door. I force myself to look the other way after seeing him stumble. He is attractive but highly intoxicated. I am not impressed with drunks.
We have one rule among us girls at Ernie’s, and I have never broken that rule for anyone. We do not date anyone that comes into our workplace for drinks. At 2 am, we laugh and toss the slips of paper with phone numbers into the trash.
Tonight would change all of that.
As I was retrieving a drink order from the bar, I felt an arm wrap around my shoulders and his voice in my ear. “Hey Anthony, say hello to my future ex-wife!” I turn around to see him standing there awkwardly with his arm around my shoulder. I cannot fight the attraction. I snap back at him with a sharp response, “Ex-wife huh? I could be the best thing that has ever happened to you, sir!” His smile is intoxicating, and that cocky attitude is hard to decipher as a warning when you are only twenty-two years old. Two weeks later, he moves into my house, and three months later we are married.
He is full of thrills and excitement with his careless personality and unconventional ways. The children are quite fond of him. For some reason, he does not have much to call his own. His truck is broken down, and he travels lightly.
I can overlook these warning flags because he has a reasonable excuse for everything. I believe everything he says because I love him and he lives each day as if he will die tomorrow. That must be the reason for all the weird things about him.
We receive orders that he is leaving for his third deployment in Afghanistan. My heart is prepared to support him from Texas while he risks his life each day across the world. I wipe the kid’s tears away as he packs his belongings. He makes my soul melt when I see him in his gear. His words are like music to my ears. We are going to have a good life together I just know it.
Less than 24 hours from departure, he blasts through the front door in a rage. Talking to him right now is impossible, but I manage to gather enough information to know that he is not being allowed to deploy because of some underlying medical condition. I am shocked to see him reacting so violently, but it is understandable. This is the moment Dr. Jekyll turned into Mr. Hyde.
The months ahead are difficult because he is losing his mind. I am witnessing a man shutting down on the world, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. He describes his feelings to me by explaining how he is the coach who has trained his team all season only to miss the championship game at the end.
He stops attending drill and hardly goes into work at all anymore. I cannot imagine anyone in the real world getting away with the lack of responsibility he is demonstrating. His violent spurts of anger and rage are becoming too much for the children and me to handle. He turns to alcohol for relief but finds more sorrow instead. He will not acknowledge he has a problem. I am not coping with this situation well. The kids and I are walking on egg shells in our home, and we are completely isolated from society.
I dropped out of college to go back to work because he blows all his money and the bills are stacking up.
The abuse started with the cat, and I wonder how much longer it will take for him to snap on the kids or me. I cry my heart out to him hoping it will wake him up. My heart is bleeding to save this marriage I committed to but how can I stay in a house of abuse? He finally crosses the line and scares the daylights out of me. My face swells from days of sobbing. I have lost weight, and my hair is falling out. I love him so much, but my gut instincts are saying run! I must be strong for my kids, but I cannot hide the pain inside of me.
I decide to leave for the weekend to clear my head and process everything that is going on at home. I go back to my hometown without him knowing. I realize how strange it is that I am married and he has never allowed me to come home since we wed. No one that I know has ever met him. My friends are concerned that I am in danger. Somehow, I allow them to influence my decision not to return to my husband.
My marriage was over.