Monday, November 26, 2007

The Very Long Awaited End Of An Era

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.

19 comments:

Emah S said...

Mazal Tov on the sikum! My husband found out that he had in fact been discharged while living overseas and he was a bit sad when we made aliyah a year and a half ago (return for him) that he didn't "get" to have a month off of work and life stress! Me? I was sighing that big sigh of relief that I'm sure you're sighing right now.....temporary as it may be with young boys in our home. But I like your approach and I'd be happy to "La, la, la, la, la....." and not hear the others right along with you! :)

enjoying your blog........

a writer's woolgatherings said...

I can't imagine how difficult having your husband gone for such an extended time must be. My husband often travels for work a few times a month, but he's never gone for more than a few days at a time. Even then, I feel like I might go crazy.

I am so happy that he's home with you now. :-)

paisley said...

wow... that is a life long commitment isn't it... i had no idea.. i am so happy for you that it is over... will the same rules apply to your son??? goodness.. what a thing to grow up with hanging over your head.....

J. Lynne said...

This is such a touching post. I'm so happy for you that it's over. You know, I worry about you sometimes when I hear about the bombings. I can't imagine what it's like living through all of that. I think you are so brave and admirable.

UL said...

I am so happy for you that it's all over Robin, I cant imagine the worry you must've gone through all these years...I would die of worry..superb post. Thank you.

~Virginia~ said...

Must feel great to know that it's over! Huzzah! :)

Reiza said...

Oh wow. That sounds awful. I didn't realize the military there worked that way after active service. We're afraid that dh will be called up in the next few years, but it's typically not like that here. There's no reserve duty or anything like that here when you go inactive after your active duty time (unless you volunteer for it).

Officially, dh has 2 years from his date of separation where he could be called up, but with world events the way they are, that's not a guarantee. We know a few people who were activated after those 2 years.

Mazel Tov on ending that chapter of your lives.

If you make room, this naive liberal pacifist will join you on that bench. :-)

Marja said...

Oh what a huge relieve that it is over after all these years of stress of imagining what could happen. Wish you all the best thanks for sharing and I hope that your young boy will live in peace

Jo said...

Yep, I'm glad it's over too. I wouldn't have coped nearly so well.......and how I remember you and those chicken pox.

mother in israel said...

My husband was exempt from the army but my boys are reaching that age--Mazal tov on being done for now.

keith hillman said...

A very touching piece. Now it's over you must look with tremendous pride.

Darcy said...

Ah thank goodness for 40. So glad it's over Robin! Oh-and I have naive liberal pacifist tendencies as well if you didn't know. Soul sistas we are! LOL

tumblewords said...

That's a long time...thank goodness you have that behind you now. And I pray you are right about the need for armies - anywhere. Sure seems like we are old enough - just not smart enough, I guess. Nice post!

Phyllis Sommer said...

mazel tov on this milestone in your lives...may peace come speedily so computers are the only work left in the army...

many blessings to your family.

Lea said...

I knew about the once a year duty, but I had no idea it lasted until the age of forty. Oh Robin, I too am glad that there are no more brown envelope letters and I'm singing lalala right with you...

Robin said...

Thanks everyone, I'm pretty glad he's done. He didn't often go to truly bad places (if I were the Army I wouldn't want Jay protecting me either LOL, I love him but GI Joe this guy is not) but any time you're sent in somewhere with a gun it's a risk. One I'm immensely glad is over. Now I've got 11 years before I have to start worrying about my kids...

The army may yet complicate these last few weeks, but hopefully that will remain on the PITA, screwing up an important meeting level of things, nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Good times! I wonder when ours will come. My rav-seren is older than your husband, in his middle forties, but still doing his voluntary duty. He can't let go yet of the responsibility and the many things he learned over the years.

While his uniform is still waiting on the ironing board for me... our eldest son is getting ready for his giyus.

I wonder whether it will ever stop. While I'm very proud of him and his sense of duty, I feel life here is very difficult sometimes.

I remember hoping that some kind of peace would emerge until my children grow up... and here they are, lined up one after the other, about to serve their country within the next few years...

...and I'm scared!

Lila

paris parfait said...

Well that is fantastic news for your husband and your family! All that worry takes its toll. Peace. Shalom. Paix.

Jenn said...

20 years of service - that is an amazing feat. My husband travels some with work and with three boys it is hard, but I can not imagine him being gone longer that 5 days. When he is gone, I think a lot about single moms and US military families - I just do not know how they do it.
I love reading posts about your life in Israel - I love learning about day to day life in other places.