Anna Chlumsky Pens Heartfelt Essay For Veterans Day

Photo: REX USA/Picture Perfect.
"If long-distance dating is a sport, deployment is the X Games." Anna Chlumsky uses this apt metaphor in her new essay for Glamour, in which she details the emotional challenges she faced when her then-boyfriend now-husband Shaun served in Afghanistan in the Army.
Her story is specific to her and her husband's relationship, but resonates with anyone who's had a loved one overseas. It's a mix of fear, anticipation, and a habitual marking of calendars until the next time you can speak to each other. " We both grew while he was away," she wrote in the essay. "I learned I had the stuff to make it through tough times, and that kind of courage is indispensable. Over that year, we allowed ourselves to cry, to fear, to get nervous or jealous. If we hadn't been honest about our feelings, our foundation would have been a shaky mess. But overall, that deployment was all about steadiness, courage, candor, and focus. And some major love, of course."
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Chlumsky was fortunate to have her husband return safely. But, she notes that Shaun wasn't the same. "He would startle himself awake in the middle of the night. Although I couldn't empathize, I could certainly sympathize. How can anyone expect our soldiers to come back from war the same as when they left?" she wrote.
An especially powerful moment in her essay is her detailing of her husband's return. "I'm standing by the bottom of the baggage claim escalator at LaGuardia, a neon blue Cinnabon sign to my left and the continuous whir of belts to my right. I am waiting to welcome Shaun home. My heart skips at every new pair of pant legs descending the escalator. I am terrified I won't recognize him," she wrote. And, she admits that when he did return, it felt almost awkward between them — like she was welcoming home a stranger.
Chlumsky's story is one of many stories wives, husbands, boyfriends, and girlfriends of military members experience every day. Her essay reminds us that, while many soldiers have returned from deployment, they still struggle to adjust to life back at home. You can read Chlumsky's full essay on Glamour.com.
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