It’s personal this year.

Every other Memorial Day was for me a day of national pride. It meant pulling out the red, white, and blue clothing, and eating Dad’s steaks on the back deck. It meant being a little prouder of my dad because he served over 20 years in the Armed Forces, wearing the uniform. It was an exciting day.

Then, I married him. A Soldier. He’d been in for a few years, and was a Soldier of the new generation–the Soldiers who go to war. He’d been deployed multiple times. And I knew when I said yes to his invitation for a relationship, yes to his proposal for marriage, yes to his wedding vows, that he’d go again. It’s not a matter of “If.” It’s a matter of “When.” And he’s deployed again.

So, this year is different. Exciting? Yes. Patriotic? Yes. Sad? Yes. Because this year, I understand the sacrifice required in living this lifestyle. It’s a constancy of doing without, of giving up something or someone dear for the betterment of others. It’s comforting my daughter or family when I could use some comforting myself. It’s nights alone in bed, dinners at an empty table. It’s Sunday Church in a lonely pew. It’s treasuring five minute skype calls and cards that come in the mail with familiar handwriting scrawled across the envelope. It’s calling a friend when life seems dark, or receiving a similar call from a dear friend who just dropped her husband off. It’s constant prayer, hope, fear, and solitude.

For the love of a Soldier.

The last four months have been hard. We’ve kept a joyful countenance, moved forward and focused on daily blessings. But, there have been dark moments. Scary moments. Afternoons in pediatric cancer offices alone, getting that phone call from the unit that he’s very sick. Moments I didn’t think I could carry on. But, I did.

For the love of a Soldier.

He motivates me. He drives me. He wordlessly encourages me to move forward. When the nights are scary and the days are lonely, I trudge forward. Proudly. Doggedly. When I get the phone calls from friends, I commiserate. I felt the same way, I tell them. And then I vent myself. Get it off my chest, out of my heart. To keep marching forward.

For the love of a Soldier.

Because, if given the choice right now, would I do this again, I would absolutely say yes. My country is worth it. Our fallen men and women are worth it. My Soldier is worth it. I leave the negativity behind at the end of the day. Each morning is a fresh start. A new chance to make the day a better experience, to leave a stronger impact on the world around me. To hold down the homefront, to continue mission.

For the love of my Soldier.

This year, as I pick him up from the airport for R&R, I will remember all those who never got to come home. As I wrap my arms around his neck for the first time in months, kiss his face, smell him, I will think of the spouses who will never have the chance to do that again. Because they gave all.

For the love of their Soldier.

I will think of the brothers and sisters in arms who died protecting their country. Died protecting each other.

For the love of their soldiers.

I welcome home my hero. My Soldier, with the awareness of how blessed I am, how fragile and transitory this joy is. I will thank God for his safety thus far. This Memorial Day, I will garner strength, take rest, and gear up for the remainder of this deployment. I will stop, and honor those who have died while serving our country.

For the love of our Soldiers.

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