The Loving Separation: One Marine’s Perspective

The alarm blares at 5:00am, like the screech of a chicken indignant that the world is still at rest.  But, the hallowing scream is a relief from the restless prison of the past two hours.  I awake, relieved.

I have everything laid out and packed, so I won’t be late.  I lightly kiss and breathe the words goodbye knowing that I will see her later at our farewell.  When the car door shuts finality sinks in.  It is warm and comforting.  I didn’t wake anyone; no complications were had.

And since I am already gone, nothing is holding me back.

After a few hours into the sunrise, when all the trucks are loaded and the Marines are counted, families begin to arrive.  The Marines are eager to depart, but happy to share these last few moments with their families.

Weaving through the crowds of kisses, tears, and prolonged embraces Marines introduce their families to their leadership.  Their Squad Leaders, Platoon Sergeants, and I reassure them we will take good care of them.  A promise we cannot guarantee, but we mean it all the same.

When she finally arrives, she knows to wait her turn.  My duty is to my Marines families and their confidence as we depart for war.

When I finally find a window, I am a bit resentful, but only slightly.  I have already left.  I have been envisioning this for months and have come to terms with this deployment weeks ago.  I know I have to go.  I know the sacrifice of missed memories, shared experiences, and lost chances.  But I can tell walking towards her that we are already separated in time and space as the tears well up in her eyes.

I can only walk so far before I reach the end where my world finishes and hers begins.  I can’t walk over without being completely disarmed and I can’t go forward without protection.  She has to take those last few steps with full streams of tears.  Only in the last few days has she begun to struggle with the quivering idea.  She is now becoming fully aware of this question as she wraps her arms around me.

How can you on this one, but no particular, morning say goodbye to someone you love for seven months?  You hug them drawing their body into yours so their impression will remain with you while they are gone.  You kiss them on the cheek so tenderly, as if you are kissing the lightness of their spirit, knowing if this maybe forever, so that their spirit will have something of you to hold onto.

You say I love you, not looking at them as if the deepest omission of truth between you and the world.

You say it as the most vulnerable notion, a complete surrender.

But if I ever want to see you again, I can’t be vulnerable.  I can’t surrender.  I have to survive.  I have to be strong.

The sounds of these wails are clamoring.  They are clawing at your endurance.  Violence is stirring, but you try to contain it.  You don’t want this last moment to end in conflict.  You love everything of her.  Every ounce of hair, the tilt in her face, the blink of her eyes, the connection in her hands, are your ornaments of faith.  The grounding force makes you whole.  You don’t want the current confused state to be lasting.  You don’t want any regrets.  I swallow those sounds.  I push the words.  I force the embrace.  I know this already.  I knew it weeks ago.  There is no way to say goodbye.  No one is loving separation.

Love is a bond.  We are made whole together.  Separation tears that apart with our souls in full objection.  We may refute it, deny it, and even try to take ownership of it.  We yell at ourselves “Fine if this is going to happen then I am going to do it” and break it off prematurely.  There is no gentle way to fracture a soul, so don’t do it.  Don’t separate.  I leave every morning to go to work.  I leave for a short trip.  I leave for a quick errand.  “Goodbye, my darling!  What would you like for dinner?”  What would you like for dinner?

If goodbye is appropriate, then say it with that same sense of lightness or joy that soothes the mind and calms the soul.  Return is imminent–or is it? Do not try to predict the outcome of departures.  Be at one with whom you love because you will always see them above.

No one is loving separation, and I don’t either.


Charleston Malkemus is a Captain in the United States Marine Corps who served two tours in Iraq. Charleston has just published a touching collection of his heartfelt love letters he wrote to his love Talle Gilmore while serving in Iraq – CharlleThe Making of a Real True Love Story. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and now lives with his future wife – and the love of his life – in south Florida.

For more information on Charleston and Talle’s epic romance, visit their website:

You can read Talle’s article here.