Our Selfless Soldiers

My childhood memories are quite different from many people I know. Talking of their childhood, many of my friends speak of one house, one town, one life. Picket fences, gardens, and old trees exist in their memories. Names of long-time acquaintances roll easily off their tongues while thousands of memories dance simultaneously through their mind. My childhood was different. To date, I’ve lived in seventeen homes, resided in thirteen towns, and have lived many lives.

The colors brown and olive drab have always made me stand a little straighter; I still find myself listening at five o’clock for that bugle to warble through the air. When I enter grocery stores, I still reach down for my wallet. I feel right at home surrounded by large gates and barbed wire. An American flag waving in the wind still causes me to stop a moment and stare. Airport security and travel are second nature to me. Out of all my friends, I can pack a suitcase fastest: for a thirty day break from college, I was always ready to leave within half an hour. The majority of my language consists of acronyms and I still get the itch to leave every two years.

Despite the incessant moving and changing of scenery, there is one constancy burned in my memory. The PX’s and Commissaries were only secondary to this monumental source of pride. As a child, I was almost constantly surrounded hundreds of men in military uniforms, supposedly creating a homogeneous effect. However, there was one man who, regardless of the weight he carried or the workload on his shoulders, walked a little straighter and a little more dedicated than those around him. He always valued every soldier as a person and extended respect to each one. This man always left an office full of women crying in the wake of his PCS’s and unknowingly left an unsurpassable legacy behind him. Watching him operate always left me silently stunned. He spent 22 years as an Army Officer, a shining example to every soldier he worked with. And I had the honor of calling this amazing soldier, my father.

I am now grown up, but still find myself silently stunned by this man. As such, I have a profound and abiding respect and pride for the military. I now stand a little straighter at anything American. I try to thank every soldier I meet for his or her service in honor of our country. And God has now given me the honor of having another amazing soldier in my life.

Maybe this is why my blood runs cold when people, especially Catholics, criticize the military. In their minds, soldiers are “over-eager to go to war.” Our service men and women are, supposedly, trained for war only. They are not at all capable of attaining and instituting peace. I was appalled recently when one young Catholic suggested we had made a mistake entering war, because maybe Iraqis were better off before Hussein was de-throned.

I understand and bear no hard feelings when people debate and disagree on the current war. I myself am not completely thrilled our soldiers are over fighting in such horrific conditions and risking their lives everyday. But, my patience ends when debate occurs over our soldiers.

After finishing twenty-three years as an Army Officer, my father retired and began working full time for the Veteran’s Healthcare System, so he could “serve those he served with.” Oftentimes, my family will go and join my father for lunch in the Canteen. Anyone questioning the price the service men and women pay should do the same. Men slowly moving along in wheelchairs without legs, women writhing in pain waiting patiently to see the doctor. Blindness, deafness, death.

These brave men and women leave so much behind to answer the call. Saying good-bye to their towns, homes, and families, they deploy from six months (Marines and Navy) to fifteen months (Army). And some, they never come home. I have to face this, as my fiancee is a Captain in the Army. I have to understand that I may lose the man God gave me before it’s time. But, that is what God calls him to do.

Are my fiancee and father war-hungry? Not a chance. Rather, they heard the call to defend their country and it’s freedom and risked all to do so. Are they killing machines, only trained to shoot people? No way. The two most inspirational, calm souls I have met are my father and my fiancee. Do they thrill at the chance to deploy? Absolutely not. That is where their selflessness lies. They don’t do it because they want to, but because they are needed.

Thousands of men and women have perished in our Fight against Terrorism. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers. Some left behind babies and children. So, when my husband inevitably deploys, will I stand by happily and watch him go? No. I will feel as though my heart and soul are being ripped out of my body. But, I, too, will make my sacrifice as an Army wife. I will watch my soldier go. I will keep my home and family safe. And, God-willing, I will see my soldier come home. That is when my Captain will be eager. This is when I will be excited.

Whether or not you agree with the War, I ask you all to stand behind our troops. As Catholics, we are creatures of charity and love. Support these men and women who are fulfilling their God-given vocations. When you pass a blind or lame veteran while walking into Wal-Mart, do not look away. Stop, thank them for their service. They did not have to fight. They did not want to leave. But, they answered the call and kept our nation free. May God bless them for that.

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