There’s a picture hanging on my fridge. It was taken the day before the Yankee’s deployment – exactly one year ago today.
We were at our favorite beer and pizza place, having a drink on a Monday afternoon. It WAS 5’ockock somewhere – just not on our coast. Because, let’s face it…. for the childless couple about to start their third combat deployment, the day before the departure is best spent doing ordinary things that most people take for granted. Even if alcohol at 2 pm is involved.
I look at this picture, every day. It was one of those good shots – of two of us ….his cheek pressed to my forehead, smiling directly into the camera. Yet we were completely clueless about the tragedies and heartbreaks that would soon come to pass – while he was posted half a world away. Oblivious.
This snapshot serves as a constant reminder of how quickly things can change, how life takes you in a completely different direction from where you thought you were headed. Like a car spinning out of control, wheels slipping, brakes squealing and – WHAM! Before you know it, you’re in the ditch! No way of understanding how, when,what, or – most frustratingly – why. I look at that picture, and think of who I once was. And I think about the hard road ahead of that couple, innocently waiting for their beer. I look at that picture, and see a completely different person from who I am today.
(I prefaced this post with the above story…it’s the precursor to what’s ahead.)
On Friday, N’s squadron hosted a dedication ceremony atop Mount Soledad for two of it’s Marine’s killed last summer during combat operations in Afghanistan. Both men were exceptional Marines, pilots, husbands, fathers, sons, and friends.
If we could all go back in time, change the events as they happened – I know each and every one of us would do so in a heartbeat.
I think back to the day when I kissed my husband good-bye, where my last words were tearfully whispered, “I will love you – forever.” Through the spring/summer/fall of 2010, I would often think back to those words. They haunted me – increasingly more with each additional helicopter incident overseas. Did I jinx it? Did I say the wrong thing…?
Somewhere – during the months of July and August 2010 – I changed. SO many of us changed. Tragedy, loss, sadness and fear will do that, I suppose. For me, it came in the form of political indifference. I used to be so passionate about politics, kept up with the latest news and information. But I grew increasingly wary.
When my nights were filled with relentless nightmares revolving around never seeing my husband again, and days were spent fearful of a knock on the door – I cared less and less about what politicians were saying and the lip service they provided. Hearing our condo’s elevator mechanism start up would trigger heart palpitations and sweaty hands, and one September afternoon when UPS unexpectedly rang the bell – my knees buckled before I could answer the door.
I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with politics, politicians, and those who make empty promises; empty pledges of support to our military and military families. War is horrible.
The sad truth: we are a nation at war. I found this quote by Clausewitz while rifling through one of the Yankee’s military history books. It reads:
“War is the continuation of politics by other means.”
For the troops deployed and on the ground in a war zone, war looks very different from what I’ve seen and experienced on the home front. Yet the two are one and the same. Because in the end – we are all human.
During times like these, I want to believe in the best of people, that human nature is inherently good, and that everything will be okay. But it’s tough – when I’ve seen the aftermath of tragedy and loss, and I’m scared for the future.
I’ve questioned my faith – because if there was a God, then how come horrible things happen? – and mourned our loss of innocence…of believing that everything will be okay. I’m no longer ashamed to admit that reality TV – especially the BRAVO network – has provided the best escape from life’s heartbreaks and worries. I spend 60 minutes with the “Real Housewives of ______________”, and I spend 60 worry-free minutes period.
Until UPS rings the doorbell.
Clearly, I’m not a fan of politics, and at this point – am insulted when people assume that I support ___________________ because we are a military family. Yes, my vote typically cancels out the vote of my husband – however, as a professional Marine, he keeps his political beliefs separate from his military duty. And as his spouse, I support him because I love him and am so proud of him, not a political ideology.
I wish that those who make decisions about war and military affairs, would have firsthand experience with the grief and sadness it causes. It’s easy to make a political statement when you have never met and will never know the people (and their families) who serve in our armed services. They are more than statistics, more than just numbers.
And yes, I am totally realistic: I KNOW that there are very bad people in this world. I understand that – and I know these people do very bad things. That is undisputed.
And therein lies the conflict: What do we do and how do we go about doing it?
I am grateful for those brave and courageous souls who choose to serve our country. Because our freedom, our way of life, is based on their selfless sacrifice.
But it’s heartbreaking to see and experience the aftermath of lives lost. My jury is still out on that one – and I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever fully understand. As someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, this has been an incredible challenge. I want to believe that everything will be okay, that life and all things GOOD will prevail – but I know firsthand that that’s not always the case.
Friday’s service was the first time since the squadron’s return from Afghanistan, that we – the families and our Marines – have been able to jointly attend a ceremony for the two Marines whose lives were so tragically cut short. It was a beautiful morning – the Pacific sparkled brilliantly to the West, while the sun popped through the white puffy clouds skirting in on ocean’s breezes. It was wonderful to spend the morning, remembering two incredible Marines.
After the ceremony, N and I took time to walk atop Mount Soledad, hugging old friends and meeting new ones – all the while grateful to have each other (even if I did yell at him while driving to the site…). But we are, in part, products of those amazing individuals who have influenced us. And even though they may not physically be with us, we will always carry them in our hearts. That’s something that no politician or political ideology, will ever be able to take away. With love to the Wiesel and the Bear.
Dealer 54: We Will Never Forget.