It’s so easy to forget. That’s what I hated about this country while J. was deployed. No one seemed to realize how real all of this war was (is) to so many people. For most, its a debate – an argument to win. For some of us, it’s a way of life.
I was so emotionally wiped after 13 months of bracing myself for what I might see on the news, what I might hear among military friends, what J. might say the next time he called, or who might be on the other side of a ring at the door – I was so wiped, that when J. came home, I went into a sort of "ignorant" mode. I wanted the bliss of all those words spilling out of reporters’ mouths not having anything to do with me anymore. The anxiety comes back every time I watch it, hear it, or have to get into a discussion about it with a civilian friend. And to cope, I turned it all off. Put my fingers in my ears, and chanted "na na na na naaaa. I. Can’t. Hear. You!" (I literally did this when J. would start in on some news story). J. still soaks it up. He’s fascinated with what’s going on – especially now that it appears the U.S. will be spending more time and money on the very mission J. spent a year on (training the Iraqi Army). He has a lot to say about it, and since he was there doing exactly what we’re proposing the U.S. do on a ramped up scale, I guess he should. But it all gives me a stomach ache.
This week it hit me that I have to get my fingers out of my ears. We’ve personally invested quite a bit. But even more than that, I have friends who are still enduring the agony of this all. This surge – these additional troops being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan – are not additional at all. We’re not culling from some new source (ie drafting) to scrape up more soldiers. We’re putting more weight on the same exhausted people. With barely a break from the last deployment, soldiers are leaving earlier than scheduled for the next one, and are staying longer…soldiers and their families are heroes for what they endure. But they are not superhuman. And yet, they’re continually asked to bear "just a little more." The weight of worry, of separation, of the kind of conditions soldiers are subjected to for months on end …there’s only so much you can put on a person before it becomes too much. Which is why its my duty – everyone’s duty – to help these families bear it a little more easily.
How? By paying attention, and letting it really matter. By sending a heartfelt letter, or a care package. By listening to your friends in the military rant and cry, without judgement on this war (after all, military members are proud of the work they are doing). By suppressing the urge to give advice, but just being a shoulder to lean on. Simply put: by just caring.