I didn't know about it until I saw it - when he took his multi-cam jacket off after we returned to our new home. And then it all came back to me - how he only skyped with his arms covered after R&R. How he was always in perfect uniform or a sweatshirt or long sleeves of some kind. He would usually take that jacket off any chance he got but for whatever reason he didn't when he returned to theatre. Sure, I noticed. But I didn't think anything of it.
I didn't think he was covering something.
My husband has three tattoos - all that have always been able to be covered by the short sleeves of a t-shirt. A cross, an airborne tab, and the cross rifles. He had always said there was just one more that he planned on getting some day. Just that one more and then he was done.
This wasn't that one.
And it threw me off for a handful of reasons: One - I didn't have a clue he had even considered getting one. Two - It was partially visible past the sleeves of his shirt. Three - Because of what it said.
C returned from his first deployment to Baghdad many years ago with every soldier he was responsible for. The other PL's informed me of how intense his patrols were when we were all talking the night they returned home. They joked about how he was the "luckiest unlucky guy in the unit". His patrols went under intense fire, encountered numerous roadside bombs, IED's, you name it and they all came home. Alive.
C returned from Kandahar, Afghanistan just days ago with every single soldier he was responsible for. They all came home alive. They all came home without injury.
I cannot tell you how very grateful I am for those two facts.
C's new tattoo runs up the inside of his right arm and reads: Remember the Fallen.
We cannot know what goes through their minds. We cannot know how they process the deaths of fallen friends. And I have struggled with this over and over again because C's experience is a little different. His soldiers that have sacrificed, his that have gone before all of us, for all of us, did so when they were not "his" soldiers. They gave all the deployment in between - when he stayed behind because I asked him to. When he was not with them. But they were still very much his soldiers and his friends and his comrades.
They stay with him.
We cannot understand what goes through their minds. We can never know.
But I know how much he must carry them, still carries them, will always carry them.
Remember the Fallen.
They did not forget you.