Brooke Rice, 19, sits down in front of her computer waiting for a special call at 11p.m, a call that she gets only once a day for ten minutes from a man fighting for our freedom. Unlike many girls who have boyfriends that walk them to class or just take them out on a date, she does not get to see him for the next 10 to 12 months.
She moves over to her bed and begins to wonder and worry why she has not heard from him tonight.
“You know, I was remembering now of that one night he came to surprise me. I wish I could go back to that night,” says Rice.
That night was one that she did not expect. Brooke was expecting her boyfriend Michael Eller, a 22 year old army specialist, to show up the next day at her dorm, a week before he was to be deployed. Her suitemate, Alexis Marrero, and Michael had made a plan to surprise Brooke a day early. It had been a while since she had last seen him, since he was stationed in Washington a few months before. Alexis and two more friends took Brooke to a dodge ball game at Southeastern University was having that night.
“I was just sitting there and thought the game was stupid and Alexis pulled out her camera and asked, ‘who’s that guy at the door?’ and then I looked around in a room full of 60 guys and I saw him by the door. There he was standing in his uniform with a bouquet of roses.”
That weekend, though, was bittersweet as they were saying their goodbyes in person for the next year.
Eller was deployed the next week by the army to Kuwait.
“It’s really difficult. It’s a constant battle every single day. Every single day is another day I can’t see him,” says Rice.
She continues to stare off thinking about him.
“Sometimes we have a lot of communication problems,” says Rice. “The connection on the internet is always crappy and we never get to talk long.”
Although communication can be difficult, Google has given men and women in the military a phone number where families and friends can leave texts and voicemails for them that they can see online. She just left him a message on that system.
Even though she knows he will call her tonight, she also has a fear that he might never call again.
“I use to fear of him getting hurt. I’ve talked to other people about it that have had family members deployed to Kuwait about my fear. They assured me he’s going to be ok because it’s a “safe place”. But I still dread getting that phone call,” says Rice.
Though she says the army treats them well, she has one major issue that has been on her mind for a while.
“They don’t have a set date when they come home. They always change the day. Sometimes they say it will be a month more than what they originally said,” says Rice.
Through the circumstances, Rice tries to stay positive and sends her boyfriend letters of love and encouragement to keep his spirits high as the holidays come around.
A week ago, he sent her a special journal that he found while walking in town.
“He wrote in it and told me that I could keep it for myself, or we can write each other back and forth with it,” says Rice. “He wants to do this so our children can read it and it will be something to look back on and see everything we have been through.”
Although this hurdle in their relationship will last a few more months, she is assured of one thing.
“I know that our relationship will be stronger at the end of this deployment. We will be able to conquer anything after this.”
As soon as she says that, her phone rings. It’s Michael.