Most of us never know, we have absolutely no concept of what our military goes through because they serve our country. We are are happily unaware unless it is one of our loved ones that is in harms way. We coin phrases and fly our flags as the feeling moves us. But, most of us have absolutely no clue.If everyone knew, there would be more parades, more people saying thank you. More celebration of our hero's returns and more weeping for the one's that don't.When I was a girl, the idea of serving our country was an honor. In my family it was almost expected.
But then the 70's happened, if you are old enough to remember Vietnam, the draft and Watergate you know that patriotism in this country took a nose dive. People stopped flying their flags, they hated our soldiers and no one said thank you anymore. In the 90's our Commander and Chief cut our military to the bones. Now the men and women that serve our great country are used up. Even though they join willingly they don't go to war on their own accord. They know this is a probability but most do not want to go. They don't want to leave the life they have anymore then you or I would. But they do it, because they must. Our country has asked them to go and they go.
What happens after they go to war, is a very personal thing to them. Experiencing a war zone is something that only those that have been can truly understand and appreciate. I can not ever describe it for you. I can only tell you what I have seen as an after affect upon my son's return.I know the impact on my family but I can not tell you how it feels to have my spouse at war. I can not tell you what it feels to have my parent not return. It is happening daily...most are not even aware anymore. The media, the government, they are not covering this war like they did with Vietnam.They want us to be numb to it all and we are.
My sister and my son have both served and they have both been overseas. My son went to Iraq twice and my sister to Iraq and Afghanistan.
While I can not with 100% certainty tell you how they feel or what they had to deal with. I can say that having to go live under a constant threat and seeing men and women not return has affected both of them deeply.
My sister told me that it takes a long time for her to be able to sleep at night after she returns home. She is a single mother of three, when she deployed she had to find people to care for her children. They were separated for a year the last time. I can not imagine what it felt like to her to not be able to see her children for an entire year.I do know what it felt like to me when my son was in Iraq. He did not want to worry me so he always minimized what he was going through. I stupidly I followed his movements by watching the movements of the unit that his unit was attached to. I did it by watching for casualties from that unit. I searched daily for them on the Faces of the Fallen and I knew where he was and that he was seeing activity. I say this was stupid because, knowing is much worse then not knowing.
I knew when he left for Iraq that he may not return, it is a possibility for anyone, military or not that is in a war zone. The possibility tore at my heart, my children are my life. But knowing that men were dying around him, knowing that he was seeing and dealing with death on an almost daily basis was crushing. Well meaning people would call me and tell me when Marines died. Then there was the time that I got a condolence call...a soldier with the same name as my son was killed. I have no words to tell you how that felt. There was only one other time I felt worse. The pain a parent feels when their child is in danger is extreme to say the least. The pain a parent feels when they lose their child to death is unreal, it is the single worst feeling I have ever felt in my life.I was fearful of answering the door or picking up the phone, I did not want it to be real. I knew they would make notification with in 24 hours, so when that did not occur, I looked on line and found the other Brandon. He was Army and from the East Coast...I am ashamed of the relief that I felt, when I discovered that it was someone else's Brandon. That shame will stay with me for the rest of my life.
When my son returned home he had changed, he was suffering, I just did not know how much. Brandon was angry, we were instructed not to ask why. Those that love the ones that go to war are supposed to wait until they, the men and women who went, want to talk to you about it.The agony of the wait is incredible, you want to heal their hearts and you can only helplessly watch as they self destruct.My son was not able to sleep if no one was up on watch. So, for two years I sat up all night and it was because of that he was able to rest a bit. Another thing I recently learned is that he doesn't want to be encumbered under blankets in case he needs to rise and get out of the room quickly ,so he sleeps on top of them. During the last four years I noticed many other alarming signs in his behavior and quietly encouraged him to go speak to people that knew what he was going through. However he saw that as a sign of weakness and refused.He said he could cope, I didn't think so. Living with my son was like knowing there was a bomb in the room, you never knew if he was going to explode or what was going to trigger the explosion. I knew it was because of the deep pain he was feeling.My son felt guilty that he had come home, he felt that if he was there, he could save his brothers.At the same time he felt guilty that he did not want to go back.
My son doesn't consider himself a hero, most of them don't. But they are, how can they not be? He does consider the men he served with as brothers, they have a bond that only those who has had to trust their life to another can understand.They have a quiet acceptance of who each person is and a deep understanding of what they are going through. Their love and bond is unbreakable, this is a family I am not a part of. Sometimes I am glad ,but sometimes I wish I could be a part of that most special pact that only those that served can have.
I am a lucky woman, my sister and my son came home. Both for good, neither will deploy again. My son left the Marine Corps and is currently in college and my sister will retire with in the next 12 months.
Recently, Brandon did go to the Veterans Administration and has sought out the help that only people that have been there and know can give. I am starting to see my son return, and for the first time in a very long time his relaxed and easy smile is back. I have missed him so much.
So the next time you see a man or woman in uniform or you know some one that serves or have served. Know it is not just a job and walk up, shake their hand and say thank you.