"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.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Thankless Job

"I mean what do they really do anyway." I didn't really say anything for a minute. I counted to ten in my head (literally). I remember how easy it is to have this perspective. I wonder if that is what I would think if I hadn't lived this side of it before. But I didn't know what to say because there was SO MUCH that I could say. But could I say it calmly? Questionable. 

My friend was talking about Rear-D (rear-detachment - the ones who stay behind during a deployment to handle this side of things).  Her intentions were not malicious and she didn't have any idea what my experience was with this. I am sure I would have said the same thing BUT my husband was the Battalion Rear-D Commander for the the last deployment at Fort Campbell.

I cannot even begin to explain what that job did to my family. It may have been one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced. I wouldn't wish it on anyone - a-n-y-one. And we heard this question far more than I care to admit. And for all I know my husband did it differently than most - was more involved - but I don't know. I just know how Rear-D was for us. I know how hard he worked. I know how much this took up our lives and I know I never want to go through it again.

It's a thankless job. It's a forgotten job. There are things that happened that I still have issues with forgiving - but  I'll get to that.

My husband never wanted this job. He could have turned it down. He was being pushed to turn it down by part of leadership. But I fought hard for him to take it. I wish I would have known ...

Yes, let me say from the get-go, that they stay home. They stay safe. They are not in harm's way. But I guarantee, as an infantryman, my husband would take a helmet on his head and gun in his hands anyday over this job. He went to court and testified in child-custody cases. He saw the dirty, dirty things that can happen in poor marriages over a deployment. He removed cheating spouses from barracks. He was mediator in financial disputes. He was in the middle of divorces. He witnessed and testified about child neglect. He had a child dropped off at his office because his guardian just "didn't want to deal with him anymore." He discharged unfit soldiers (nearly 100). His phone rang 24/7. He took off just half-a-day when our son was born (yes he was was here - thank God - but he had other things that were important to other families). He listened to spouses yell on the other end of a telephone for God-only-knows-what reasons. He called the families whose son or husband had lost both of his legs, or had shrapnel in his chest, or in his eyes. He went to the home of a colleague's spouse to deliver news of injury because that's how he would want me to be told. He visited Walter Reed. He hugged families whose soldier had been killed. He held the hand of his fallen friend's mother. He stood near the casket of soldiers that had been his soldiers the last go 'round. He had to grieve (you don't have time to grieve in combat). I can't explain how difficult that grieving was for both of us. He received those phone calls. He made the phone calls. He was the hated person on the other end of the phone. He made sure hundreds of families didn't fall through the cracks. He made sure they knew when their soldier was coming home - hundreds.

And maybe that doesn't seem like much but I saw this change my husband. It aged him. It tested his faith in people. I would do anything to take this experience from him.

And after the soldiers came home and while he was at Air Assault, his desk was cleared off, put in a box, and dumped in the hallway. When he came back a printer was sitting in its place.

It is a thankless job.

But I know this will make him a better leader. I know that he has learned so much about how he wants to be and how he doesn't. I know he is a better man for surviving this, for doing a good job in a horrible situation, for learning from it. I know this has changed him and I know he will find the good in it.

So please don't think they do nothing. If you think about it, shake your rear-d's hand, send them an email, tell them "Thank You," because it means a lot. They work hard when they would rather be doing anything else - at least C did and I am proud of him for it.


  1. Thank you.

    Every soldier serves a purpose.

    Your soldier did that job so that "questioning" person could sit in comfort and ask you that question...what a crazy life we lead.

  2. Hi,
    I've been thinking about your blog a lot the past few weeks, but especially when I read the paper this Sunday. There was a section in there on soldiers who were killed in combat... just a tiny little column on like page 3 of a major metropolitan newspaper. To the editor I am sure it was just what he or she needed to fill up a 1" by 5" space they couldn't sell an ad for. Usually this is the stuff I just skip over, especially since there were no pictures involved, but I read every single one of them and thought of some of the things you have posted recently.
    Thanks for bringing some cold hard truth and perspective to the military life for people like me who are clueless.
    I'll keep you and your husband in my prayers.
    Meegan @ Big Blue Whales


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