The last time my husband deployed to Afghanistan, I tossed some of his t-shirts into the laundry, just so it would feel like he was home when I folded the load. I’m one of three Americans who don’t drink coffee, but when he is deployed, I sometimes fire up the coffee maker. That way, the house smells like he is home.

One time, my five children and I made a red, white and blue paper chain with a Bible verse written on each link. It seemed like a good idea at the time, to hang it in the kitchen window and remove one link each day, counting down to his return. But after about day 56, I’d stand at the kitchen sink looking at that paper chain with less of a fond gaze and more of a defeated glare.

We just want our daddy.

When my husband’s father was serving a year in Vietnam, my mother-in-law tells the story of how my husband at age 3 would run out into the yard and shout up at the airplanes in the sky, “You bring my daddy back!”

Forty years later, his own daughter plays Daddy’s Coming Home. She runs to the front door and pretends to hug him. Our toddler once said, “When Daddy coming home? It taking wong.” Yes, it is taking long. And your weary mother is crawling to the finish line, in boot-camp-elbow-lurch style, as if to say, “Must. Warn. Others.”

People have asked me if it’s a challenging, delicate transition for our family when my husband comes home from a deployment. I respond, “Not at all. The transition consists of me falling at his feet in utter exhaustion, broken and humbled by his absence.”

The award for my least-favorite supportive comment from well-meaning civilians goes to, “It’s only 90 days? That’s not very long.” Has your husband ever gone away for more than three days? If not, just go back to cutting me off in traffic with those yellow support-our-troops magnets.

Army, Navy and Marine wives, you’re allowed to tell me 90 days isn’t long.

Skype and e-mail save my sanity. We’ve come a long way with technology because when my husband was deployed 20 years ago, he sent me a fax at work. I was tickled pink because normally, I’d wait three weeks. Then a pile of 12 letters would come in the mail, all in the same day.

I try to be grateful for the 15-minute morale phone calls, but they ought to be named something else entirely. The Defense Department, strangely enough, hasn’t asked for my input. I have a few suggestions if they ever do:

• At 15 minutes, I’m just getting warmed up.

• Stop toying with my emotions calls, or

• Children, it’s time to throw a 14-minute hissy fit.

As I gradually began to accept the raw unpleasantness of my military-wife reality, the thought finally conked me over the head that whenever my husband is off at war, so am I. We wives are fighting the battle of keeping the home front peaceful.

Our guys are highly trained for their jobs. They are forever getting qualified and re-qualified, pre-briefed and de-briefed. I mean these guys are ready for war.

Are we?

I’d say in the past I’ve simply reacted to the deployments and not very well. But war is no surprise to God. In Ephesians, He encourages us to put on full spiritual armor by staying tight with Him and reading His Word.

My eyebrows went six different directions in amazement when I first noticed a passage in Isaiah that says, “God is thy husband.” I’ve taken that one to heart. I run to God when I wish I could be with my husband. I talk to the Lord when I’m lonely.

We are among the elite women like the ones in the Old Testament whose husbands were away fighting valiantly during all those wars that never seemed to have an end. It’s an honorable job we have, to be supportive of our husbands.

If every military wife gave up today, the stress would get to every service member, and our nation’s military would collapse. Right now. Today. So hold your head high, dear military wife. Stay strong for your husband because you’re his special everything. More than that, you are keeping America together.

[This column was published in the June 2014 issue of National Guard Magazine. Jennifer Houlihan’s husband flies C-130s for the Air National Guard. Find her at Triumphant Chicks or on Twitter @HoulihanJenn.]