An Open Letter on Sacrifice
I’ve been accused of wearing my veteran status like a coat, which I don for political convenience. So, let me lay it aside for a moment. Let me speak instead as a member of a military family. If Donald Trump wants to know what sacrifice is, and he seems to need some education, look no further than a military family.
Imagine your spouse, your parent and the hours they work, extend those by four or six hours on a normal day. Now add missed weekends and holidays, something so common that having them home is notable than their absence. The phone rings in the middle of the night and a father or mother isn’t there in the morning when you wake up. Your goodbyes ares a kiss on the head while you are sleeping. If you are fortunate, you will see them shortly, if not it may be months or ..or never. Explain to your child why Mommy or Daddy is gone, again, that is a sacrifice.
Pack your life into boxes and move around the world every two or three years. Leave schools and friends behind and start over again and again. Do it before Facebook and email so when you leave them, you know it is forever. Like you or they never existed. Attend six different schools between First Grade and graduation. The only consolation is you are just one of the New Kids in school, each just as a frightened and lonely as you.
Live through the months, or years without your spouse at home to help. Pay the bills, keep the house, see to the children all alone while your husband or wife is deployed. Imagine the years before email or video chats, waiting for a scratchy phone call over satellite likely to disconnect in mid I love you. Or when letters sent from around the world carried the love and longing the soldier feels and hide the fear they cannot express because they don’t want you to worry. You hide that fear causing you to worry every moment, a fear you hide from your children so THEY won’t worry. The worry your child feels because you are worried and they don’t know why.
Learn to watch television for news about the war, keep a map in your head of where the fighting is and where your loved one was the last time your spoke to them. Read about the range of missiles in the desert and measure it against the distance between them and your father. Stop in front of a television every time you pass to see if some new horror descended from the sky in the middle of the night half a world away. Now, double that, one for your husband, one for your son, each far from home and in harm’s way. Live with this for six months.
Watch the faces of other families in their pain and loss and live with the secret relief that it wasn’t you. This time. Live with the fear of next time.
Lose your child, your spouse, your sibling, your parent in service to their country.
A Service we didn’t volunteer for, aren’t paid, but we make the sacrifice too. If we are fortunate, the time we lose with our loved ones is finite, if not, it’s forever. So, we ask again. What have YOU sacrificed?
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