It was a warm May morning on Kelley Hill, and people filtered in under the neatly placed canopies on Sledgehammer Field. I said some quick hellos and waved as I scanned the rows for my husband and our seats. A name card with “Mrs. Pirog” caught my eye, and I grabbed the program placed on my seat. I triple checked to make sure my phone was on silent, continued looking for John and waited for the ceremony to begin. Sitting in front of me was the spouse of a retired senior Army leader. She glanced my way and smiled. I smiled in return, we chatted briefly and I buried my nose back in the program. Army ceremonies are something you take for granted when there is no white space on your calendar, but once the frantic days pass and the calendar clears you see time spent surrounded by Army family and traditions with different eyes.
The band played, the ceremony started and we watched our friends say goodbye to a unit they built and loved for 28 months. It was the end of an era for our Kelley Hill Crew. John was the first to pass his guidon, and we were watching our friends take their turn. Like many military ceremonies changes of command are emotional, and I rarely can get through sniffle or tissue free. Immediately after the ceremony concluded the spouse with the kind smile reached back, grabbed my hand and said, “Do not let these people slip away. At this moment you feel like it will never happen, but it does. Don’t let it happen.” I squeezed her hand and nodded. I also bit the inside of my lip to keep the tears from welling up, again. She was right, and I knew exactly what she meant.
The Army brings people into your life for short periods of time. You build months or years of your life together, and then PCS season arrives. Abruptly, you rip up carefully nurtured roots and attempt to keep them alive with notes, letters, calls and sporadic visits. The same months and years that created lasting bonds now separate you, but time has no effect on friendships based on trust, love and shared secrets.
Her words stayed with me during the summer as I made my reluctant rounds of, “See you soon!” It has been two years, and I have done my best to hold on to those who have been there to carry me. A card, text, call or Facebook message can turn around even the crappiest of crappy days. It is nearly impossible to keep up with day-to-day happenings, but I am always there to, “Remember when?”
Reunions are worth the wait; when you hug a friend who truly knows and loves you, no words are needed. They are there, they did not slip away and they never will.
“A friend shall forever be my friend, and reflect a ray of God to me.” ~ Henry David Thoreau