This week, we have witnessed the anniversary of the day the Iraq War (officially) began.
My memories of this time are emotionally difficult to recall. My husband and I had just completed our wedding vows nine days prior to 9/11. Nine days. For those nine days, life was its normal, messy, wonderful self. The tragedy of 9/11 changed everything. Although my husband warned me, constantly, against worrying…I worried. I knew what was over the horizon, and the view was not majestic. I was frightened. I was angry. I was saddened. I knew my husband was on his way to war. He was about to journey to a place where I could not follow. A place from where he might not return.
At the very moment my husband’s plane took off, I put on my military wife hat. After all, I was now what the Marine Brass called a “spousal unit”. My husband was about to place his very life on the line, so I became all that was supportive. All that was courage. My feelings were left to simmer on the back burner, along with my pregnancy. I worked full-time at our community hospital. I raised our four-year old. I saluted the flag, sung the national anthem, wore my flag pin. There were yellow ribbons everywhere I turned. I wrote letters, hundreds of letters. Our first son and I drew pictures to put on home-made cards. I spent a small fortune mailing care packages filled with cookies, magazines, baby wipes, and photographs. Our second son was born. He was colicky.
New day. More working. More letters. More child rearing. More letters. More crying. More letters. More praying. Always…more praying.
I was hurting, but I smiled. I hustled through my day, no matter how exhausted.
My existence became the origins of a cool bumper sticker….
Support the Troops.
As the wife, or spousal unit, of a United States Marine, I have the greatest respect for all of our troops. They fought valiantly. But this is not for them. Not today. Today, those who have always seemed invisible, are seen. They are recognized and appreciated.
Families of military members have an experience that few have. We are not given the luxury of supporting the troops at parades or town celebrations. Supporting the troops is our way of life. We, who were sickened by rampant news coverage, were glued to televisions. Each night, we feared that our loved one would be among the killed. Our husbands or wives would become statistics. We were afraid to answer the phone. We cringed whenever the doorbell chimed.
Worse, we lied to our children on a daily basis. We told them… “Daddy is just fine. Don’t you worry. He’ll be home before you know it!” We told them…”Mommy is so brave, nothing can touch her!” We told them the worst sort of lies for the best of reasons.
During that horrible time, we knew only one truth: We loved and we feared.
With fear consuming us, we carried on.
We continued to work. It was difficult. But, we managed.
With our hearts literally shredding, we moved forward.
We continued to raise our children. It was difficult. But, we managed.
Our pain was unbearable. Our burdens were back-breaking. We were proud.
Incredibly, we were invisible. We were seen, yet unseen. For years, our sacrifice went unrecognized. For years, our stories went untold. Even now during “Military Families Week”, we are the shadow of our loved ones.
Who in America cares about this?
How many give serious consideration to this hurdle?
And how many times must we go through this, anyway?
If we are lucky, our loved ones return home. If we are strong, the stress won’t destroy us.
Sometimes, despite our resolve, we are devastated anyway.
Military families, I am among your number. I am a part of the fabric of your struggle. You have my undying support. It was yours ten years ago. It is yours today, tomorrow, and always.
I, on behalf of our country, would like to thank you for your service. I would like to thank you for being the glue that holds a deployable family together.
Today, your voices are heard. Today, your cries are felt. Today, your faces are seen.
Your sheer grit, your determination, your love of country…are not invisible today.