The end of the era of the dreaded brown envelope that is. The brown envelope containing a letter that calls my husband to army reserve duty each year. Israel has a universal draft, and in theory upon discharge at the end of their three-year compulsory service all combat soldiers must then perform one month of reserve duty each year until they reach the age of forty (other types of soldiers age out at other times). (There are also a lot of shirkers but I'm in a good mood right now so I'm not going to talk about that.)
Each year since getting out of the regular army my husband has been called up for periods of time ranging from the occasional training day to a week's training to the dreaded 28-day call up. Israel is still a small country though, so even when he's gone for the full 28 days there are usually days off and some time to spend at home. I can't even begin to comprehend the year-long overseas deployments that many American military families have to contend with. Still, it's still hardly the month's entertainment I would have chosen for either of us, especially with small children at home who miss their daddy and with a mom who could really use the extra grownup around. It wasn't all awful. The young guys get the worst of it, those with more seniority are better at working the system in their own benefit. A few years ago he was sent to a base just half an hour away and managed to rig things so that he worked a double-shift every day but came home every afternoon at 4, in time to pick up Itai from nursery school. I think we saw more of him that month than we did the rest of the year. Of course there were also the years that he was sent to some very unpleasant places, not to mention the time that several of his buddies out patroling in a jeep got shot. One is still in a wheelchair. I try not to think about that either. Or the time he got an emergency call up notice to go to Gaza on 12 hours notice. I was 5 months pregnant with Itai and not feeling at all well. Two days later we realized it was because I had the chicken pox and was sicker than I'd ever been in my life! That one was a stellar example of how things should work though. All the guys in his unit got together and took over all his shifts so that Jay could come home early to take care of me.
Last February Jay turned forty. The rule says that to be discharged you must be forty in January, when the year begins. I mentioned that Jay turned forty in February, right? Now the big question came. Would the army be so stupid and wasteful as to call him for a week's training this December, knowing full well that he was going to be discharged just a few weeks later? That is the sort of thing armies the world over are known for after all, Israel certainly hasn't cornered the market on military idiocy. Fortunately, common sense has prevailed and they've informed Jay that he will not need to spend a week crawling in the mud this year, that since he's about to be discharged they won't in fact be calling him. No more letters in brown paper envelopes for our house. He's done his twenty years, the archaic tanks he was trained on have long since been sold off for movie props. Enough. It's time to step aside and let the younger guys carry the load. I'm proud that he did his time respectfully and fully and didn't shirk, but I'm glad as hell that it's over.
Now if my son would just continue to believe that the best job in the army is in computers (and thus safely behind the front lines)... And who knows, maybe by then there won't be a need for an army anymore after all... (What did you say? La la la, I can't hear you. I've got my naive liberal pacifist fingers stuck firmly in my ears...)
The Writers Island prompt for this week was The Letter.