Thursday, November 1, 2012

Recycle Land

What?! Recycled? No, no, no, not him, he's too strong, he leads too well, his peers all like him....

Well, ladies, I don't care how strong or tough your men are... sometimes at Ranger School, it's all about numbers. If RI's need to have 30 men recycle, they're going to get those numbers. B. gave me the reasons he recycled -- and as luck has it, it was just a bad draw of RI graders. He got the same one twice -- and that fellow was PCS-ing to Hawaii after that, so he failed everyone he graded. B. then had 1 shot with a "fair" grader... who wasn't so fair. "Big giant douche," was what another squad mate of his said.

The fact of the matter is, recycling is tough. Very tough. Tough on you, tough on him, tough on anyone who happens to cross your path. And, in fact, this post has been sitting in "draft" mode for almost 2 weeks now, because I truly didn't know how to approach it.

Here's how it ran with me/us. Class of 11-12, on Friday, began calling to let their loved ones know they got their GO. My phone stayed silent. Eerily silent. Then I get a text from another SO -- "I'm so sorry, girl. He recycled."

Just like that. My first reaction was relief that I knew for sure; the second, unending sorrow for B. I've seen him at his worst when things don't turn out well "because of something he did." He gets furious with himself. I've learned to just not speak and wait for him to pull himself out of his funk, which he always does. But imagining him dealing with this letdown, I knew what he'd think -- he'd feel like he let me down. He'd be embarrassed, ashamed, and feel worthless, and nothing I could/can say or do would change that. Trying to change his mindset would make him feel even worse because he'd be letting something affect his mind that he didn't want to affect him.

All Friday night, my phone didn't ring. It came to be about 11 pm my time, and I went to bed, with the phone on loud, right next to my ear. Still nothing. I was tortured, guys. Everything I had heard said that I should have gotten a phone call that night. Why wasn't he calling me? Was he just too ashamed to talk to me? (That thought killed me, we've always been pretty good at communicating what was going on, no matter how difficult it might be to spit out.) Did he just get one phone call and used it on his mom? (That was a better thought, but I hadn't heard from her, so who knew what was going on...)

Saturday morning I got a call from Katy -- M. had reached out to her to let her know he had recycled, and that B. was in the barracks with him. I had a huge sigh of relief, and now I knew 100% that B. wasn't moving on to Florida phase. I had gotten most of my bad feelings out of the way, and spent the rest of Saturday just waiting for B. to call me from Dahlonega. Pretty rough, but by no means as rough as Friday night's wait.

Saturday evening, circa 6 pm or so, I got a call when I was at my parent's house. My mom looked at me expectantly, and I just said, "It's him." Then I dashed off to the guest bedroom and took the call. "Hello?" I just heard the hesitation in my voice. The nerves. I'm sure he did, too, but if he did, there was no indication.

"Hey babes, it's me."

And just like that, the worry, the stress, the fury at the "Man" all dissipated. Absolutely nothing mattered except that I was hearing B.'s voice for the first time in over 3 weeks. I'm sure I said something like, "Hey, how's it going?" or something equally lame, but his next phrase was, "So I'm guessing you've heard the bad news?"

"Uh, yeah, I have.How are you?" I could hear him deflate on the other end. What was me bracing myself for a bad reaction sounded a hell of a lot like disappointment on his end. Oh, shit.

"Yeah, man, it just.... sucks." Shit, shit, shit. Way to go, asswipe, make him feel like crap, that's being supportive. And what did I do next? Act sympathetic? Nope. I made a joke.

 "Ha, I'll bet. Well, it wouldn't be Ranger School if they just let you skate on through all the phases. They had to make it hard for you somehow."

By the grace of God, that got him to laugh, and in an instant we were back to normal. Or as normal as a long-distance military couple enduring Ranger school could be. I told him how so incredibly proud I was in the next breath, and how much I loved him. I could hear him sound relieved, and I started peppering him with questions to take his mind off of what was, on my part, a major screw up (I've got to watch my tone....).

Eventually we got around to what had happened. Basically, there were RI's who sucked, and RI's who majorly sucked. Then there was the RI's who majorly sucked AND were leaving the 5th RTB to PCS to Hawaii, so they didn't give a tiny rat's ass about who they passed and failed... so they just failed everyone! B. got that last guy (who's PCSing to Hawaii) for two of his three graded patrols. Odds were stacked against him, even though he should have gotten 3 different graders all 3 times. The fightin' side of me wants to go talk to this RI who just failed everyone, but not only is that psycho, it's also not my place. But it makes me feel good to say "I'm gonna kick his ass!", so there, I just did.

So, for a week, B. called me every night, which was awesome because he even got to call me on my birthday! The Birthday Song never sounded so sweet as it did when he crooned it (hahah, okay, maybe not actually a croon, but that's what it sounded like to me).

Friday, October 26th was the last time I talked to him on the phone. On Monday, October 29th, I got his letters that he had written during down time in Recycle Land.

One paper was his reaction to having just found out. Another was more reaction. And another was more reaction. The other six (yes, SIX) were all what he did during the day. But the first three... would break anyone's heart.

The day that the guys from his squad moved on to Florida, they made the recycles serve breakfast to them -- as if to reinforce the mentality of "you're worthless." Then the recycles ate alone as all their friends moved on to the next phase. Cruel, sick, horrible, but such is Ranger School.

You see, what he hadn't told me over the phone, everything I had suspected was bothering him, was in those three letters, plus so much more. Emotions and memories I didn't even know would affect him. So, after the window in which to talk to him on the phone closed, I was reading these raw emotions, something I had never done. In the 3 years we've been together, I had never heard him so beaten down, embarrassed and just.... not him. He had felt he let me down (he said that at least four times), and how he knows I expected better of him (right, like he could have done anything to help his situation) and all this other stuff.

But, the next letters were all super upbeat, almost happy that he was a recycle. He got 3 square meals a day, he got a ton of care packages the last day (even though they told them they'd get them daily.... that's another spot of contention for me...), and we got to talk every night for an hour or more about our day, our future plans (woohoo, New Years Eve celebration!) and so on. So, things were right with the world when he went to tackle Mt. Yonah for the second time.

What to take from all this: This was clearly just my experience. I know B. pulls out of his funk quicker than the average male. Trust me, I've dated the average male. B. has got a pretty good handle on his emotions and psyche, and it's one of the things that makes him incredibly strong. He's also got a good meter for my emotions as well. Our conversations weren't all about him. He made them about me, too, which is incredible, and true to his style. But other guys might not handle this rejection, so to speak, as well. Just know your man. If he broods, let him. If he vents, let him. Whatever works, go with it. Watch your tone, don't make the mistake I did. You can't show him your facial expression to show you're not disappointed, just nervous -- make sure your tone says that for you.

And most of all.... just be supportive. It's rough, I absolutely agree with you. If you're reading this, you're probably looking at where to turn during this Purgatory phase -- and I'm happy you are! Because this is the place to vent and to ask questions regarding yourself (for now). Until he's out of Ranger School, our comrades, the other Army SO's, are our battle buddies. For him, now, we're just the one-woman cheerleading squad. 

And that's okay.

Stay classy.



Katy S. said... encapsulated the highs and lows of the whole recycle experience so well. I wish I had your writing as a resource going into all this!!

Katy S. said...

Also, M decided to burn his first several letters responding to being a recycle rather than send them, so I didn't truly know the depth of the disappointment and the psychological degradation they had to overcome! I admire their strength all the more, and thank you for sharing your heart and your experience.

Amy said...

Added this to my Ranger Blogroll! Feel free to check it out. :)

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