Very rarely do people give the right response when they find out my husband is deployed. And there are really only a handful of responses that I feel are appropriate - or really just one. Very rarely do I get it - and when I do I truly thank them for their words.
"Thank them for their service," "I will be praying for their safety," or quite simply a "Thank you" they want relayed. And when these kind, understanding people say these things you can see it in their eyes. Sometimes almost tear-filled because they understand that completely what our soldiers are knowingly sacrificing for them. It is rare, it is beautiful, it almost makes up for the far too common inappropriate ones.
"Oh, that's terrible!" She sighed when she realized where the hand and foot print covered package was going. "That is just awful that he has to be there." I knew it was coming and I gripped the counter slightly, mentally preparing myself for what was about to follow.
"Isn't it just awful that they have to do something so pointless? It's just stupid," she continued placing the labels on the packages that had been put together and donated by a youth organization. They had come up with over 30 boxes packed to the max for C's soldiers. So many we asked for addresses from others we knew were deployed. "And for WHAT?" she continued.
It didn't phase her a bit. She didn't seem to catch onto that fact that she just insulted me and my husband. "It is just insane that these men and women have to leave their families for nothing. He must hate it. It is so dumb." She still continued with checking customs labels and re-taping. I was just glad she wasn't really looking up.
I wanted to say something but I couldn't. I DO believe that people's opinions can be changed given accurate information but the effort to explain is time consuming and they have to want to hear it. They need to be open. This was not the time, this was not the place, this was not the person. The conversation moved on - eventually.
I try to be as graceful in this life as possible. And so many things in it are far from graceful. But to those who are not in it, to those who don't understand, I try to keep grace. There is never a time when it is more of a challenge to do so.
So many people are incredibly misinformed, or aren't informed at all, and simply decide that what our soldiers are doing is "pointless" and "dumb." And people are entitled to their opinions but to express that to an Army wife, or heaven-forbid, a soldier befuddles me. Who does that and thinks its appropriate? TONS of people. They apologize for him having to do something so "terrible". Well, I am sorry he is defending that person's idiocy.
I fully understand that so many people just do not understand what they are doing there - because they aren't in it - and that is the only thing that prevents me from saying everything I think of what they just said. But please understand this:
Many of these soldiers joined during wartime and those who joined before have reenlisted or re-signed since then. My husband joined three years before September 11th but has re-signed his contract twice since we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. No one forced that upon him. Do not diminish the service of our military men and women by acting like this has been forced on them. They chose this, knowingly, understanding what they were about to face. They choose it everyday, as well as their families. No soldier joins, especially now, not understanding that there is a war going on. If they weren't willing to fight - they wouldn't volunteer to do so.
Do not forget September 11th. Our soldiers remember. Those who joined the day after remember. And don't think for a moment that that doesn't still matter. We have not had an attack on our soil since then. Thank a soldier for that.
I miss my soldier every moment. My children miss their father. It breaks me every night when my son repeatedly presses the button in the teddy bear that holds my husband's voice. But I do not resent him or this country for taking him from me. This is my reality. A reality I also chose when I chose him. I am proud of my soldier. I am proud of his sacrifice. I am proud of his choice. Do not apologize for our separation. This is our reality. I recognize it. I live it as greatly as I can. I will thrive in it despite the challenges it presents.
There is good being done in those countries by our soldiers. Every job they provide to an Afghan civilian, gives one less penniless man for Al Qaeda to recruit. One less recruit to fly a plane into our buildings. One less tragedy that pauses our lives. There is so much more that our troops do than what people hear on the news or read in the paper. They are not just killing Taliban and hunting down members of Al Qaeda - there will always be more. They are weakening their hold on these poverty-stricken people. They are giving other options to survive in an area that has depended on these extremist to survive for decades and decades. They are giving options in a land that never provided another choice. Do not be misinformed as to their mission. There are many - they are all vital to our safety and our survival.
"And for what?" she had said. "What is the point?"
THAT is the point. For us to never feel what we felt on that day again. For us to never feel the absolute terror. For our children to survive. For our children to live in the country that we knew before September 11th.
This war will end. It will end when all that can be done, has been done. And if another comes - these men and women will stand up again ready to defend. Our freedom is never guaranteed. Our freedom is always at risk. Do not allow that promise of freedom to cloud your understanding of what it requires to sustain it.
My husband is a soldier. He does not demand your apology. He does not demand anything from you.
Do not look to me with sad eyes. Do not offer me words of regret. They are not welcome here.
Offer your gratitude. Offer your support. Offer your prayers. All of these will be taken. All of these will be appreciated. All of these will be relayed to the men and women who deserve them.
Please keep all other opinions to yourself - and if you can't, pray that I can continue keeping grace.
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.