A Message to Iraq, from Home
By Guest Blogger Candice Sabourin in Virginia
Recently I was "talking" to a buddy of mine, meaning we were e-mailing each other while at work. I learned a valuable lesson from the conversation: Never tell someone serving in Iraq, "But you don't know what it is like here for us at home."
The bitterness and resentment contained in my friend's response brought me to tears. Did I intend to offend or upset him? No, but I did so. He, in turn, informed me of my cluelessness. Was he right? Yes, and I needed to listen. Afterward, I could think only of how often I had told my soldier he didn't know what it was like for us at home. He must have felt the same as my buddy, but never said a word.
We at home never truly understand what our soldiers experience while away. That truth resonated with me during the Fourth of July. I went to Yorktown to celebrate, and e-mailed my soldier to say I was taking our daughter to watch the fireworks. I also told him that every Independence Day I think of my family and friends in the military. My hopes and prayers would mean even more this time, as I hoped and prayed for him.
As I sat on the grass overlooking the water, talking to my sister-in-law and niece and cuddling my daughter in my lap, I was unprepared for my reaction to the fireworks. Moments after the first one lighted the night sky, tears were streaming down my face. My mind alternately raced and wandered. I am blessed, I thought, to have been born in America and enjoy the freedoms guaranteed to me by the founding fathers. I am lucky to live in relative safety and comfort.
With the next burst of color, a boom deafened me and vibrated through my chest. "My God, what must it be like to be on the ground during a war?" I wondered. The heat, the stress, the lack of privacy, the sleep deprivation... And those are just baseline hardships.
My buddy was right. I never will understand. How could I know what it's like to lose a fellow service member? One who lived with you? One the same age as your daughter at home? How could I empathize with the kind of exhaustion that allows a soldier to sleep through the IDF (indirect fire)? How could I know what it is like to pray to see another day in a country where you and your presence are hated? I will not know.
It is hard when there's no word from your soldier. Nothing is of comfort until that e-mail or blessed phone call comes through and you know he or she is okay. There is no better feeling in the world than knowing your loved one is safe, if just for a moment.
There are many activities I cherish: kissing my daughter as I tuck her in; spending time with family and friends; watching my favorite TV show after a long workday; vacationing to get away from it all, and, for the most part, sleeping at night with the comfort of security.
I recognize our soldiers can do NONE of these things while deployed. Many others are aware of this, too, particularly those who have been through deployments before. Being a newbie, it hadn't sunk in totally for me. A lack of communication from a loved one does not indicate a parallel lack of care or effort.
So, to my "buddy" in Al Asad: Thank you for your honesty. I am learning a lot from you. You may think you are losing your gentleness, but you are an intelligent and kind man. Who else would have talked to a stranger, and been so open with her.
And to my soldier: I am sorry if my words or actions have caused you any pain. I love you and want to make this deployment easier for you however possible. You are a good man, and Goofer and I are very blessed to have you in our lives.
To the rest of our men and women: Be patient with us. You know what your days and nights are like; we do not. Out only concern is your safety, and the worry sometimes drives us to send "nagging" why-haven't-I-heard-from-you e-mails. Be safe and come home to your loved ones. God bless you all.
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