The Night My Husband Left for War
I was going to write you guys a detailed blog post about Iron distance race nutrition and then I realized what day it was, so I scrapped that and now you're getting a post that has nothing to do with triathlon, although it has everything to do with Marinewife and why I created this business.
I'm about to spill my guts here and maybe even cry a little so be ready to bear with me as I recall one of the HARDEST 7 months of my life. Today I realized that it is 20 years to the day that my husband Paul Timoney left for Kuwait from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. Kevin, my oldest was just about to turn 3 years old, and I was about 11 weeks pregnant with Kelly Anne Timoney. Here goes.
The tensions between the US and Iraq had been building and I knew that there was going to be a massive deployment of forces to the Middle East, it was just a matter of time. When we started flying missions over Iraq and Kuwait I knew that Paul's days in Southern California were numbered. It just so happened that we had recently found out that we were expecting another baby. I didn't even try for this. At all. It took so long to have Kevin that I thought we just wouldn't have any more kids. Finding out about baby Timoney #2 was so much different than #1. It was a scary uncertain time and as I read that CVS pharmacy pregnancy test my heart sank for a second. I wasn't immediately overjoyed like I was with Kevin. I was flat out scared.
Thoughts about going through this process for the next 9 months by myself was completely overwhelming. So I went for a 7 mile run that Sunday morning to relieve the stress for an hour and think about my news. After about 2 days I felt better about the whole thing and realized that God had put so many beautiful people in my life to help me through this. Even though Paul would be leaving, I had many close girlfriends (who were like my sisters) to help me.
Y'all it got hard right away. Just about that second week after finding out I started to feel REALLY BAD. The nausea was overwhelming and I threw up at least once or twice a day for many weeks. I was losing weight like crazy and the only thing I wanted was chunky peanut butter and plain Cheerios. By January I was feeling depressed because things just were not getting better. One morning I had gone to get groceries at the commissary on base and the guy was putting the bags in my car. After I buckled Kevin in his car seat, I had to move to the front of the car to throw up. When I got home I threw up again on our front lawn and then again in the bathtub. Every single day I woke up with nausea and went to bed with it. It was frightening and persistent. I remember sitting on the floor in Kevin's room and I just cried. What have we done? It's not supposed to be like this. OMG I'm gonna be by myself soon for a really long time dealing with morning sickness and a toddler. Please God help me.
And he did. By week 11 I started to see some version of light at the end of the tunnel and the base announced that the MEF (Marine Expeditionary Force) would be leaving for Kuwait in early February. It was divine intervention that I was actually starting to feel better when Paul was getting ready to leave. The time leading up to the actual day of departure was hard. It's always best to stay in the present and not worry about the past or the future because you don't own those, but it was tough to not be concerned. This was, for the first time, the REAL THING. War is ugly and scary. Innocent people die and there really is no winner.
Our families in Philadelphia and Washington, DC were worried for us and everybody offered to fly out to the West Coast and help me. All of us girls in the neighborhood were slowly becoming husbandless as each unit deployed to the Middle East. My street was for the most part women and children.
The day of departure was actually at 3am in the middle of the night February 1st. Paul packed his seabag and went through all his gear laying everything out on the bed that night. We had to have his dad create a living will so that we had a plan in place in case he didn't return. 9th Communications Battalion would be leaving from March Air Force Base and all Marines had to be ready by 3:30am sharp.
Earlier in the day Paul gave me a little diamond band to wear with my wedding ring. He told me that this was my Valentine's gift, my birthday present, and my Mother's Day present because he wouldn't be home for any of those special days. We didn't really sleep much that night and I am not gonna sugar coat this one bit- it was scary as fuck. Not one of us really knew what was going to happen over there and all we could do was ask God to watch over our Marines and leave everything in His hands.
The absolute hardest though was listening to Paul try to explain to 3 year old Kevin Timoney that he might not see him for a really long time. His voice was pure and sincere, and he did his best tell Kevin in a way that a 3 year old could understand. He tucked Kevin in his bunkbed and if there was ever a time I felt like I was going to lose it, it was at that very moment. I remember standing in the hallway crying so hard my whole face hurt. The thought of a little boy not seeing his dad. It was a hurt like nothing I have felt before. Fear, uncertainty, the unknown, weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, some psycho named Saddam Hussein. It was all too much.
At that moment I remembered a prayer my dad had given to me. It was this little book about Psalm 23 explaining each verse in detail. Psalm 23 is about the Lord's protection especially when we are fearful and how God protects us wherever we are. I placed this little book inside the pocket of Paul's seabag and told him to read it when things were hard. And even when they weren't.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
So there I was 3am in the middle of the night standing in our driveway in base housing, BAREFOOT and PREGNANT. I wanted to remain strong for Paul and not cry but it was hard to hold back the tears. Imagine saying good-bye to someone and this time REALLY not knowing if they were coming back alive. They were off to do the real thing now. I knew that when we said goodbye that night I had to go back in the house and wake up in 3 hours to be strong for Kevin. It was just he and I now for some indefinite extended period of time, and maybe I would have this baby with my girlfriends in the room instead of Paul. You just do what you have to do.
When I woke up the next morning there were flowers and cookies on my porch from the girls on my street. We all did this for each other when somebody's husband left. It felt so good to know they cared and most of all understood the emptiness of that first day without your husband. I knew although I felt sad and alone, I really wasn't. I was blessed beyond words having my best girlfriends in the world live on the same street as me. We all had the same fears. It was the infantry and pilot wives I was most concerned for. Those were the Marines closest to the most danger and had the biggest possibility of being fired upon or shot down.
The weeks went on and I learned to manage life with a growing belly and a 3 year old. I bought a treadmill and put a TV in the garage so I could run when Kevin was asleep. There were several visits from family on the East Coast to break up the many months that went by. For that I am so thankful. The time came to see if I was having a girl or a boy and my girlfriend Jen went with me for the 20 week ultrasound. It's a girl in there! Somebody told me that you will always be more morning sick with a girl than a boy. Hashtag TRUTH.
CNN was on everybody's tv night and day during that time. (I don't think FOX existed yet) One night Paul was able to call me around 11pm CA time from Kuwait. While we were on the phone the reporters on CNN put on their gas masks as a great big alarm went off. The same alarm I heard on the other end of the phone with Paul. He told me he had to go and hung up quickly. OMG that was scary. He called back at 3am and told me that yes there was a missile fired on Camp Commando that landed about a mile from the headquarters tent. Holy shit.
In late July Paul got orders to Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington DC. They let him come home just about 5 days before my due date. Relieved doesn't even come close to describing what I felt when Paul got off the bus that came from March AF Base. I had a big belly and I was pretty tired but soooo thankful and so blessed. Yes a few of my neighbors had husbands who were wounded or killed, and I remember one in particular. The sand storms made the visibility next to zero in the desert and her husband was run over by a vehicle that never even saw his tent. Our kids used to play together and now they lost their dad. The real thing happens and some escape and some don't.
Kelly Anne Timoney was born August 12, 2003 at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. They told me not to drive for 2 weeks after they sent me home from the hospital. Are you kidding? Me not driving was not an option. My movers were coming in 3 days and I had to start packing for Washington, DC.
I know this article isn't at all the norm from me and for all you triathletes who were expecting something else, I do apologize. But I hope this leaves you with a better understanding of who I am and where I have been. February of 2003 will forever reside with me. So much happened and I made it through by the grace of God. I can make it through anything.
Ironman University Certified Coach
USA Cycling Coach