A Minnesota PBS Initiative
The War Existed and We Didn't
She vividly remembers when they were in San Diego the night before his deployment: “It was really sad and scary. I didn’t sleep that night. I basically watched him sleep.”
The next day, they went down to the aircraft carrier where they were going to be deployed on to say goodbye. She says, "The last thing that he said to me was 'I’ll be back' which I held on to desperately."
When Jerry came home, she describes it like a scene from a movie- running into his arms, and him spinning her around. But it was 15-18 years before he talked about his experiences. And Jackie never asked him to. "I was told not to ask by other military wives. "When he speaks now, I listen closely because I always find out something else."
As a military wife with a deployed husband, she felt intense loneliness. “It was extremely lonely. No one got what I was going through. It was such an unpopular war. Nobody thought about the wives back home. The war existed and we didn’t.”
A group of military husbands and wives got together one a week to debrief, the guys in one room, girls in another. She felt that this helped their relationship after the war. "We are fortunate, we could resume our lives without a lot trauma."
It was extremely lonely. No one got what I was going through. It was such an unpopular war. Nobody thought about the wives back home. The war existed and we didn’t.
She wants people to know this: "Those who are left behind also have a story to tell."
And she offers this advice to those with a deployed spouse today:
"Seek out what you need. Get a cup of coffee with someone. Try not to isolate yourself. And I hope that you have family and organizations that uphold you."
She smiles when she says that she and Jerry have been married for 52 years. "We're one of those military couples that made it and I am so grateful for that."
Story Themes: Audio Tapes, Family, Helicopter, Jerry McClees, Love, San Diego, TPT, Video, Wife