They say that Ranger School is not for the weak or fainthearted. It wasn’t until after my soldier started the course, I realized the saying applied to not only him, but to me as well. For those of you who don’t know what Ranger School entails, let me give you a little peak into their world.
Imagine being graded on extremely difficult physical tests the entire first week straight. With no breaks, hardly any sleep, & barely any food. Plus, Georgia heat & humidity… You’re tired. You’re sore. You’re hungry. But, you still have to complete a timed 12 mile ruck march. Much of this march is uphill… & if you don’t pass, they let you go… & that, my friends, is only the beginning of Ranger School.
The First Week
The start of the course I felt completely fine. People told me I would miss my husband, & to just stay busy. We did three years of long distance, so a few months apart was nothing in comparison. Plus, Zack is a tough guy. He was going to be perfectly fine out there. By the end of the very first day we got word that around 100 people were already recycled from the course (didn’t pass) I was a little taken aback, but wasn’t surprised that Zack wasn’t one of them.
As the week rolled on, it seemed like every day I got word that another one of mine or Zack’s friends got recycled. People I would have never expected to recycle were getting recycled. RPA’s got one friend, land nav got another, one got med dropped, etc. It also seemed like I was hearing more stories of people getting hurt in Ranger School, than stories of people actually passing. Naturally, the worry started to set in. The night before the killer 12 mile ruck march, I started to really feel my anxiety kicking in. I knew that all of the boys were exhausted & in pain… & there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. My imagination ran wild, & I worried about Zack’s knees buckling, him passing out, etc… It was the absolute worst feeling, & I just felt helpless.
That night I prayed over & over again that Zack would get through the 12 miler without getting hurt. Honestly, I didn’t even care if he got recycled. I just wanted him to be okay; that was the most important thing to me. Tears filled my eyes before I passed out on the couch, but my heart was still trusting in God that he would take care of my Zack. I woke up in a haze, & checked my phone. No call. Which meant Zack passed the ruck! & since he passed, that meant he wasn’t injured or hurt! Thank you, Jesus!
Focusing on Positivity
Zack would get one day “off” at the end of phase one, & I was determined to make it special. Darby is known to be extremely physically & mentally demanding, so I wanted to help where I could. The next few weeks were spent brainstorming ways to give him encouragement, rather than dwell on worrying about what condition he was in. I worked on Open When Letters nearly every night, & tucked them safely away for him. Then, just before the pass, my best friend Caitlin & I made a bunch of signs, & goodies for our guys. We knew they could use all of the encouragement & love they could get!
When I saw Zack again, I was soooooooo glad that I went above & beyond to make the pass special for him. He was only gone for three weeks, but had already lost a lot of weight. You could see how hard Ranger School was on him. & the poor guy was sleepy. So so sleepy. He told me that all week they got 30 minutes of sleep each night, & one night only slept six minutes…. Six…
Zack happily stuffed his face with all of the goodies I made him, & asked me to keep all of the posters. He also was really excited when I showed him all of those Open When Letters I’d worked on for weeks. If I had spent all of my time during that first phase just worrying, I wouldn’t have been able to put my time into these little projects that meant so much to him. The little projects that he said helped him go into the second phase in better spirits.
What makes me happiest is taking care of Zack, so naturally, I couldn’t help but feel sad after I dropped him back off. His safety was out of my control again, & he was back to scary Ranger School. The absolute hardest part about my husband being in Ranger School is knowing that I can’t take care of him while he is out there. When he is with me, I know he is safe & okay. But when he is out there… I know he is exhausted & in pain… & there is nothing I can do about it.
I’ve learned that this is something that I have to just take day by day, & continuously trust in God to take care of my Zack. Instead of dwelling & worrying, I have to focus my energy on positive ways I can actually help my soldier. I may not be able to be there physically to protect him, but I can at least use my words to protect his heart. That is something that I can do. I’ve accepted that letters are my way of taking care of him while he is in Ranger School. I make sure to only send him encouragement to help him stay positive, & motivated. Doing this helps me stay positive & motivated, too.
Ranger School is a journey, for not only Zack, but for me as well. It is 100% not for the weak or fainthearted. Our Ranger Students have to be tough, & so do we!
♡ Valerie Karen.
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