Our initial agreement was that he would leave the Army when his first term of enlistment expired. Five years of service was a reasonable sacrifice. We both had careers on the outside before–I was a real estate broker and he owned his own business as a general contractor. We kicked around the idea of flipping properties–buy foreclosures, fix them up, sell them for a decent profit. Everything was groovy until the housing market crashed. The economy tanked soon after and we were scared about trying to support the family on the outside. We actively searched for alternate plans.
His enlistment expired during his first deployment in 2008. He was given the choice to re-enlist for a bonus or be retained by the Army under stop-loss provisions. The obvious choice was re-enlistment. He gave the Army just enough time to complete the deployment and apply for a change of MOS (Military Operation Specialty–your job description). Although I loved our infantry family, I was unwilling to endure another deployment like his first.
We searched all of the options, but switching MOS from infantry to any other career path was nearly impossible. At that time, the Army needed more folks on the front line. Once they got their hooks into an infantryman, they were loathe to let him switch to any other job. After months of searching for alternatives, we finally stumbled upon the Interservice Physican Assistant Program. It was perfect.
Long before he joined the Army, my husband was a volunteer fireman and paramedic. He enjoyed treating people in crisis. Although he was funneled into the infantry, he had enlisted with the hope of becoming a medic. The PA program covered everything we needed–he would become an officer, no longer be infantry, get to practice medicine and have a PA license that he could use outside of the military for a lucrative career. If selected, we would owe the Army five or six more years, which included time for the school.
It. Was. Perfect.
I started hounding him to get his application together as soon as his boots hit US soil. Applications for the program are accepted only once a year, by March 1. It is one of the most difficult schools in the military, requires the largest application packet, and just a few of the applicants are selected to attend. We worked on the packet together; it took several months to assemble all of its necessary components. He submitted it in March, 2010. The IPAP selection board convened in June that year.
In September, the long-awaited announcement was made.
He was selected. School started in August, 2011. Our lives were about to change.