If you spend thirty minutes with me - give or take - you will learn that I am a die-hard sports fan. I love my Saints. I love my LSU Tigers. And one of my best memories is going to Wrigley Field with my dad to watch the cubbies play ... well, lose ... but still.
A photo popped up in my newsfeed today that Drew Brees shared of a female marine hugging her son. The back of his shirt said, "I have waited 221 days to hug my mom."
It is a beautiful and heart-crushing image. It gives me goosebumps, brings tears.
Everything about that picture is beautiful. Everything about that picture is saddening. Everything about it is worthy of pride and honor.
The most recent comment posted below the image (and there were over twenty-thousand) said "Mothers should stay with their children," and a little higher up, "What mother abandons her child for 221 days?" and more and more and more just like it. She was called irresponsible and unloving. That beautiful, beautiful image of pain and sacrifice and absolute joy was judged and twisted and dishonored.
I don't have the words to explain my complete disappointment with the people who shared such hurtful and irresponsible words.
It takes but a moment for me to be reminded that there was a time that I may have uttered them.
So often the images are of the men - the husbands and the daddies and the brothers. And while some will say the same things about a father leaving a child, it is nothing in comparison to the public beating our women who serve this nation take day in and day out.
No soldier deploys for selfish reasons. No soldier wants to leave his or her home, his or her children, his or her world. No soldier strives for that.
But each and every service member has chosen something greater. That doesn't mean they have chosen something over their children, their spouses. It doesn't mean they have chosen to put something in their place.
Wars are not fought by childless men. Wars are not fought by childless women.
Military children hurt. There is no question. I have held two kiddos while their daddy boarded a plane to Kandahar. I have taken pictures of a daddy holding his new baby for the first time. I have watched friends' kiddos crawl to a man they had never met before.
Military children hurt.
But, oh, how they thrive! How they learn to cherish and love! How incredible it is to see how much love they can hold, how quickly they can remember, how deeply they can understand that their family has chosen to serve a nation. How much they learn what it is to put others before yourself. How much our children learn to give to those who need, to cling to those around them.
Military families work hard to build a firm foundation. To give that to our children. Our children are resilient and strong and oh-so brave.
They learn what service is from the best role-models children can have - their mommies and their daddies.
These children are not abandoned. They are NOT abandoned.
How strong the women who raise their right hands and recite the vows must be. How much they must hear and try like hell to ignore. How much it must hurt to have a stranger judge them. The stranger that they have sworn to protect.
Because someone has to. Someone must.
To the service-women of this nation - you have my profound gratitude. You have my prayers. You have my support.
I know how beautiful that image is. I know how much pain exists in the words "I have waited 221 days to hug my mommy." I know you are selfless. I know you love your children with the fiercest love.
I know you are protecting them in a way so much of this world can't understand.
Thank you for having the grace to serve honorably, to love these children as only their mothers can. Thank you for your service - for your selfless service.