Disclaimer: While I don’t normally like to get too personal in these ramblings, sometimes there’s no other way to say what needs to be said. Permit me to be personal, if only this one time.
Nearly ten years ago when the planes hit the towers on September 11, I was changing the letters on the school marquee to announce the coffee house being sponsored by the drama department at my high school. I watched in confusion as the details unfolded, and I wondered what application these events would have to my own life. I cried for the families at the time not only because of the tremendous loss they suffered, but because I knew that the road they faced was a dark and unpleasant one. And one they would have to travel alone. No matter how patriotic I became or how many American flag t-shirts I purchased I would never be able to fill the void created for those families on that day. My hands were tied, and there is nothing I hate more than being powerless.
Over the next few years I watched as our nation activated its military in a way with which I was completely unfamiliar. And while it all seemed vaguely real (I had heard of people in my hometown deploying or a friend’s cousin’s cousin’s nephew being sent overseas), it still didn’t seem real that it was happening in my lifetime. My life progressed regardless of what was happening across the globe, and I never felt much connection to what was going on. I graduated from high school and moved to college, and the world kept turning for me. But one day things changed, and the whole concept of September 11 and the War on Terror wore a new face.
I fell in love with a man in a uniform, and I knew that things would never again be as easy for me as they had been. When we got married, I knew deployment was a reality I would have to face with him, and so I bound my heart to his and watched as he prepared himself the best way he knew how. We spent a year apart, and although it was stressful and difficult, painful and uncomfortable, I still consider that a small sacrifice. I know men and women who have watched their spouses deploy three, four, more times than they care to think about. A year seems pretty small in comparison to what they’ve given. But they keep going, spouses and soldiers alike.
It’s been awhile since I’ve heard the name Osama bin Laden. For awhile it seemed like people had put him in the backs of their minds. Sure, his name pops up on September 11 as we commemorate those who died and those who go on living without them. But what about the other 364 days of the year? Army life became the mission of my family, whether that was before, during, or after a deployment. The reason for deployment seemed lost for awhile.
Now that the spearhead of the attacks has been effectively eliminated, I am reminded once again of what all this is for. I am reminded of the way I felt that September morning; I am reminded of how I felt watching my husband go off to war. And I am reminded of how much my life changed between the two events.
The road may not be any less difficult for those who lost someone that day. It may not be any less difficult for those who lost mothers or fathers, sons or daughters, sisters or brothers, husbands or wives on foreign soil over the past few years. But somehow I feel like I understand it a little better. And it is my hope that these families will derive a new sense of hope, a new sense of pride from the news we have today, knowing that it isn’t all for nothing. Knowing that we will never forget.
Bless our troops, and bless this country. I am proud to be an American.