Every year, I get dressed up, get my hair done and stand proud next to my husband. The only time, outside of our wedding, I get to see him in his dress blues will be at Marine Corps Ball, and when he has funeral detail. This year, he did both. This year, I saw him spend a week preparing, making sure every detail was right, every ribbon in its correct place, his shoes were shined and his white gloves spotless. He spent a week on the phone helping gather these things for other Marines who might not have them ready.
This year, a Marine my husband admired, looked up to, and idolized died. He survived multiple combat tours, he is said to have taught my husband all that he knows about how to be the best Marine he can be and this year, he lost a battle against his own body and succumb to cancer.
My husband had seen him just weeks before. He refused to not be present at a few things he needn’t have been at, despite his failing health. He was a Marine I had long hoped to shake hands with and thank for teaching my husband how to live up to what he thinks of as being the legacy that all Marines stand for. I had hoped to one day meet the man that had helped make my husband the man I know, I love, and I honor.
I never got that chance.
I never got to see this Marine outside of pictures. I never got to let him know all that he has meant to my husband and, by extension, me. He will never attend another ball and his funeral was one that reminded me of the solemn presence my husband blues can often be.
My husband has worn his blues to only three types of events and they are the only three types of events he ever will: Weddings, Marine Corps Ball, and funerals. In the years to come, the days of weddings will decrease as more and more of our friends have married now. One day, we will no longer attend ball each year, and one day, the blues I have come to love will only be brought out in times of sadness to honor those we love. Then, one day, to honor my husband in his final resting place.
Each year at ball, come November, I shed a silent tear during the ceremony when we pay tribute to the table that is set for those who can no longer share the day with us. I shed a tear for those I know who have lost the ones they love, for whom the table has been set. And this year, it will be with renewed sadness that I will cry at the thought of those who can’t be there to celebrate the birthday of their beloved Corps. One more down, countless to go.
My husband is so dashing, Marines so handsome, in their blues. But there are times of celebration and times of mourning that those blues will see before they are permanently retired themselves. And this year, the wound feels too fresh for us to be celebrating while also remembering the Marine who helped my husband become the man he is today, and missing him, because his last ball came too soon, his last fight was one we weren’t ready for, and his absence will be felt for the rest of my husbands life.