“I’m here!” I type back, hoping to see his response and hear the familiar alerting pop of the messenger. Nothing. I missed him. Again.
I hear the words form in my head. “What if that was the last time?” What if he dies on the side of the road in Iraq and I never had a chance to say those all important words?
“I love you, too,” I whisper.
And so my day begins, as every day begins: with fear and panic. That familiar feeling originally gripped me one clear day in September 2001; then again with the first deployment, the second, now the third. It lives seething and swirling, toward Iraq and Afghanistan the moment my husband enlisted and left to fight two wars.
Now, since the incident at Fort Hood, that fear has come home to possess our military families within the gate. The online chat rooms, websites, and military support groups are filled with fear, rage, disbelief, compassion, and visceral pain. All previews of the impending implosion writhing beneath the surface.
Driving through the gates of another base, I feel the thick, heavy silence. The questions of “Why?” and “How?” ruling our minds. We have done all we can to serve, uphold, defend, remain steadfast and loyal. Hasn’t that been enough?
Every military family held their breath while watching a tragedy unfold. All the while, begging the public to understand our pain. Not just document it.
I feel their pain. Hear their cries thundering in my ears. I fight the urge to curl up in a ball, hoping it all goes away and the opposing, relentless want to rip and shred until someone or something can feel the raw explosion in our already tired hearts.
But now is not the time.
For every family member who loves one in uniform, every wife, mother, father, sister or brother who has watched a loved one walk away from your empty arms, I implore you: do not give in to the hate you feel. Do not give in to the fear racking our bodies. Do not give in to the overwhelming need to give up and walk away, allowing another to carry an extra burden for freedom. We are already weary, already torn and ripped apart, each of us playing a vital role in these wars. I understand, deeply. With my husband deployed, now wondering if his fellow soldier could shoot him, I am ready to crumble.
I ask you, one more time, to rise, stand. Find it within you to push aside the fear and the hatred. I implore you; do not let it eat you. Do not give into the frustration so that only a few carry this burden. Do not hate a group of people who had no role in pulling the trigger. We all want our marriages back. Our sanity. A sense of peace and a moment to breathe. We all want our children to feel like children again, rather than “military children” set apart from the rest. Once again, too much will be asked of us as we pull that familiar concrete armor over us and rise as the ambassadors and heart and soul of America.
I have no doubt you will. As you always have.
For every civilian, every friend, every protestor, every media outlet in America, and our own President and First Lady, I beg of you, help us stand.
Now is not the time to “think of us.” Now is not the time to wonder “I just don’t know how you do it.”
Now is the time to reach out and touch us. Yesterday, at my son’s preschool a teacher reached out, her warm hand gripping my shoulder, and touched me. Her warmth and compassion released my tears. Finally.
Send flowers. Walk past your yellow ribbon and to our door. We need you to do this. We need a chance to feel our humanity when we have performed as an entity for too long.
Do not allow this to remain a “military tragedy.” We have put our lives on hold and on the line for every American citizen. Do not let our pain go unnoticed because another story becomes more “newsworthy.” Do not let us fall because we feel forgotten.
Remember us today and past Veteran’s Day. Because we need you. If you can’t drive to us, call. Listen when we finally break. See past our protective exterior and past our “can do” attitude and fierce pride. We are still standing, but not for long. Our legs are steady and true, but they are faltering. Our hearts are pounding with love for our country. But they are bleeding. We can carry the weight. But not right now.
I beg of you, rally behind us and give us new legs. Bleed with us. We need to hear you. We need to feel you. We may have put that line in the sand between us, but I am asking you to now step over it.
For every person welcoming home a soldier in the airport, we feel you. Every motorcycle thundering in front of a funeral procession, we hear you. For every person who creates postcards for our hurting children, stuffs dolls with images of their deployed parent, salutes a flag when a fallen one comes home to us, hugs a family member carrying the burden, we feel it. Do not stop.
America, we need you to stand not just with us, but for us. No, we will not ask for help. We will not reach out to you. We have already given all we have.
Put aside the politics, the newsroom breakdowns, the play-by-play tickers, and the right and left wing ideologies. Pull from your humanity. I beg of you. Because we cannot do this alone.