- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

My wife has been roundly criticized by our family and neighbors for "going off to war," while she has a husband and children at home who very much need her care. But it's not so simple as that. She was a happy, overweight 40-year-old housewife and mother of five when the terrorists struck on September 11, and her response has been a pure maternal instinct. In her, the terrorists inspired not terror, but horror and a sense of urgency. "They've invaded our country," she said, immediately and perceptively. "We've got to stop them, for the sake of our children."

Her first calls were to our local churches, to volunteer in case any of them were going to help the victims in New York. But there was no need for volunteer workers. She had served in the Army from 1980-85, so her second instinct was to call our local recruiter, who told her that yes, they were in need of people to re-enlist.

For six months, she and I walked and ran the local streets, and she suffered through a badly sprained foot, as she worked to lose enough weight to meet the Army's stringent requirements. I had a hard time keeping up with her. But she persisted, and on March 15, 2002, 17 years after being honorably discharged and after 15 years of marriage, my wife took the Army oath as a member of the Army Reserve.

She entered at her old rank, E4. Her old MOS (occupational specialty) in military intelligence listening for Soviet radio transmissions had been "obsoleted" because of the fall of the Soviet Union, but she was eager to serve in any way possible. She eventually went into the medical field, and by last Thanksgiving she had completed the Army's program of training to be a field medic.

In the process, she completed a four-month AIT (advanced individual training) course, which is every bit as demanding as basic training, and for which she earned 23 college credits. Afterward, she was commended in front of her fellow soldiers by her commanding officer for having improved her score on PT (physical training) tests from 144 (on a scale of 300) to over 260. She outruns, out-works and outhustles many 20-year-olds.

Late in January, we received a certified letter notifying us that she had been "involuntarily transferred" to a military intelligence unit located some 280 miles away from our home. We'd seen how others in her unit were being called up; this letter meant she was going to be activated and deployed.

We did not expect it, nor did we plan for it. She had already been offered, and had verbally accepted, a fulltime medical position with our local reserve unit. Her new orders specified an activation period of 365 days. She was ordered to report in early February, and we as a family drove her there to her unit. It was a bitter, tearful goodbye.

I have been blessed at home by family and friends who have let me cry my heart out to them. I miss her sorely, and I do not look forward to a year spent without her. Fortunately, our children have inherited some of her inner strength. For her part, she asks herself every day, "What am I doing here? I'm a housewife." But, as she has said repeatedly to me and to the kids, "We have to do the right thing as much as we can."

I don't know how she is managing to endure. She is motivated by a bedrock faith in the providence of God, whom she believes will bring her home safely. She has not had a day off since she arrived at her unit, and she has consistently worked 20-hour days, helping to prepare for deployment. In her spare moments, once every few days, she calls me and tells me how hard it is, and how much she misses all of us.

She had been scheduled to depart in early March, but for us, the diplomatic posturing may have a silver lining. Her departure date has been postponed, and her unit has a few spare days they hadn't planned on. It is possible she may be able to visit home for a few days. "It would be so hard to leave again," she said.

For my beloved wife, a consummate soldier, her duty and her mission must be accomplished, to protect our children and our chance to grow old together in peace. A job must be done, and she does not shrink from it.

As Secretary of State Colin Powell has commented, military force is a last resort, but it "must be a resort" in dealing with the threats that face America today. America cannot be strong without the strength of soldiers like my wife, who truly are America's finest. She and the soldiers she is working with are literally exercising all of their strength, individually and collectively, at great personal cost, to make sure that our country is defended, and that our children remain safe from terrorist threats, far into the future.

She is my hero, and I am proud to be her husband.

John Bugay is a free-lance business writer in Pittsburgh.

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