The day started out awkward right from the beginning. It was 'family day,' for the new Marines of San Diego, but that meant that Daniel couldn't leave with us that night. As I was standing in a huge crowd of people listening for the cadences of our new Marines, I felt my heart beating wildly inside of my chest. I couldn't believe I was going to be a mere foot in front of the love of my life and couldn't touch him. Not for awhile longer. The formation headed our way; Marines running, sweating and yelling in rhythm with one another. They were handsome, broken and tender in the shortest of shorts. I stood and watched in awe, and silent. And then he stopped, literally right in front of me. I don't remember why or what they did at that moment. I'm not sure what was happening because I wasn't in that moment.
In that moment I was on the dock of our lake, wrapped in his arms, safe and comforted. I wasn't alone or afraid. I was relieved and yet in the reality of that moment, still terrified.
Who was this new man? This new man had gained at least 30 pounds from being made to eat 2 meals for every one that the other Marine's were eating. He looked cold. Hard. Distant. I expected some of it, sure, but this was different immediately. His letters were wrapped in words of love and affirmation for me and yet this man looked calloused and warrior-like. He didn't make eye contact with anyone, or anything. He looked dead ahead with no emotion and no remorse. My shoulders fell and I sobbed, being thankful in the moment that he wasn't looking at me for fear that I was being far too weak to love this new man. My heart was breaking and I all I wanted was for things to go back to normal. Things never went back to "normal" after this day. Our normal shifted; changed. We made a new normal and to this day, Daniel is a different man than I fell in love with...in so many ways.
It's slightly foggy what happened next. I believe that the Marines went to change while the families went about looking in different areas of the base in which we were supposed to be meeting them. I don't even remember the moment when Daniel finally found us. I think he snuck up on his dad, but I'm not sure. What I am sure about is how heart-breaking the next few hours were for me. Everything about them devastated my world. Again, I received letters from this man talking about his great love for God and the extreme conviction that he had developed while being trained away from home. Of course he was being trained to go to war and survive any situation that was brought before him. I was naive and wanted to be. I didn't want to see him in a different light than the one that defined our relationship. I definitely didn't want to accept that his beautiful hands that had held me, comforted me and reassured me so many times could now possibly take the life of another human being...with little to no remorse or emotion afterwards. But it was quickly a reality to me.
When Daniel began to speak on that day on the base in San Diego, I wanted to hop right back on the plane and head for home. I wanted to mourn the loss of the greatest love of my life. He spoke with such strong, determined language. Language that a man should never use in front of his mother; Marine or no Marine. But he did. He talked about filthy things, with terrible language and disgraceful humor.
This was not the man that I had known. And even in his letters, he maintained this charade about himself, which left me feeling betrayed and misled. I hated to hear him talk. He wouldn't touch me, and there was definitely no affection. There was no hug, no kiss on the cheek, no hand holding. Some of this was normal and even required, but I had seen pictures of other girls with their Marines on this very same day during their visit and their day seemed much different than mine. Maybe it was because of our relationship with the Lord and one another. Daniel knew that he was conflicted and I'm sure he was ashamed. Maybe I brought the conviction in him front and center. All I know is that I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be home, in my bed, curled in a small ball. I wanted my life back.
But my life with him was all I remembered and all I had been holding out for. All of it was going to change and I was devastated.
I couldn't be with a man who behaved this way. He was a stranger to me. I definitely couldn't marry him and build a future with him if this was the way he was going to live his life. He was so changed that I honestly didn't even recognize the tone in his voice. The day blurred on. I tried enjoying my time with him, but the change in his appearance and his demeanor left me much less thrilled than my anticipation had initially longed for. I was sad and empty. We left the base that evening, before sundown. I had to spend the whole night with his family alone before picking him up the next day after his graduation. I remember getting to the hotel and calling my mom and a couple good friends and crying for hours. I pleaded with them to help me find a way to love him and accept him. I wanted to be home and hated that I was trapped in San Diego with this guy that everyone else seemed to immediately adore. His dad was full of such pride and his mom seemed unfazed. He had accomplished something great and life changing, after all. And they are his parents. They didn't care that his entire faith had been tampered with and this his spirit was so broken it was almost beyond repair. They just saw this successful Marine with a bright future ahead of him. It was their greatest day.
And by far, my hardest.
It wasn't just the way he talked or the language that he used. It was everything about him. I could tell right away that it was going to take months, even years to repair the emptiness that was all of the sudden present in his being. I know now that it's all normal and it's not all as bad as it was in that moment. The next day proved to be much better as Daniel showed me in more than one moment that the man I loved was still in there somewhere. It was on graduation day that we also experienced our first 'alone' moment in 3 months...
It's worth reading, trust me;)