“I know you understand what I’m saying. When [SGM] called me and told me about Chris’ injuries – you do understand what that meant to me? I know I might be giving my husband, my children’s only father, for the freedom of this country. I know I may never see him walk through that door again. I know what I am ready to give. I know that is my job here. I get that. That is my choice.”
A conversation between myself and a family friend, April 2010.
It’s not about the flags. Oh, it was a rough week. It has been a rough month. The hockey game was no help. Suddenly I felt that my job here within these four walls was closing in on me and I just wanted a gentle nudge in the right direction. I wanted help in figuring out which path to take. God love him – I didn’t want the answer to be ‘all of that’.
Sitting by a large window looking out onto the ocean, we were enjoying some rare time alone. I had driven the hour down to the armory to meet SGM and he had chosen a cute little spot for lunch. He was actively listening to me rattle down the list of things I have going on right now – the kids and school stuff, RM’s impending need for further surgeries, the bill, the projects around the house. We both ordered burgers. It was comfortable and easy. But as I began to seek out his thoughts on where to begin with it all, I was taken aback by his answer – all of that.
What? My head was swirling, my stomach withdrew into a curly knot and I pictured someone yelling, “Get the paddles!… Charging to 300!… CLEAR!”
SGM is an amazing man. I wouldn’t know where to begin to describe the kind of husband, father and friend he has grown to be in the last several years. And please do not ask me to describe the soldier he has become. It is unfathomable. He is That Guy. He writes letters to Sped Directors from the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) in Afghanistan. He kicks ass on two continents at once.
Last night I was overwhelmed at all of that. I know I am capable, but damn I am tired. And my job doesn’t come with an operations manual, performance reviews or a chain of command to pass up grievances. As my partner, I had just wanted SGM to guide me in a few of those directions, not all seventeen. The chest pains were winning. I was kind of angry. But SGM had some pictures to show me from annual training this past summer – his first as acting Command Sergeant Major. Um. Ok. Let’s look at pictures of you and your Commandering…
But as I kneeled on the living room floor this morning searching for a nugget of poop that had been thrown at me, I thought about the flags again. I can only imagine it is a natural response to all that is swirling around me. It’s not jealously. I am proud of all he does. It’s the missing answer to my question – What about ME? Where do I begin? What path do I take now?
It’s not about the flags and it’s not about the poop. It is about understanding that sometimes in a partnership, one may soldier on along a path guided by signs and maps or a GPS while the other walks a path unknown. The destination may be the same, but the journeys are worlds apart.
I know we both have made sacrifices for our family and our country. I am proud of my soldier, and I am proud of my own service, too. I don’t stand before a formation of fellow soldiers with flags waving behind me – but I do stand tall among a village of fellow warriors. We don’t have uniforms and we don’t have a marching band, but we are conquering the world every day. For our kids. For our fellow warriors. And like my soldier, we do all of that.
And we do it for love.