It was 9:16 in the morning one day in July when my phone rang and a man asked if I had spoken to my husband in the last 24 hours even though he could see on the page in front of him that something had happened only 8 hours earlier that would change everything I thought and knew about life in the military family, about what true strength is, and what it really means to serve.
My husband had stepped on a 15 lb IED while on a mission and during a combat situation. He was still alive, but only just. That man coolly and calmly read a list of injuries to me and told me he had already been awarded his Purple Heart. Then he asked if I had a valid passport or if they needed to expedite a diplomatic one. Every wife of an infantryman knows what these things mean:
Your husband is not expected to live. We gave him the Purple Heart while he was still alive because we don’t want to give it to you at his funeral. We are going to do our best to keep him alive long enough to get you to him… So you can pull the plug.
But the man on the other end of the phone didn’t know my husband, and neither did any of the medical staff who were caring for him. I knew who I had married and that he was stronger than that.
When the commander called me to see how I was doing, I don’t think he expected to hear what I had to say. I told him to tell the guys that they had done their jobs, they kept Dino alive, and now they needed to stay focused on their jobs, on the guys to the right and left. I told him to tell them, from me, that Dino would be standing on the tarmac when they came home in 5 months and it was their job to be there to meet him. The commander tried to do give me a reality check, that it was very unlikely he would be walking at that point and it was possible he might never walk again. I told him he didn’t know my husband like I did.
When the planes landed in November, he was there to meet them, in his uniform, standing.