On occassion I post very personal things - this is one of those posts. This month, we have been blessed with visits from some of the troops that we have supported during their deployments. We first met through letters. Now, we have conversations in our living room.
Earlier this month, we had houseguests for about nine days. These are very special friends. We met her while she was a SGT deployed in Iraq - stationed in Mosul in 2004. She and I became close friends and emailed most every day. She shared many warm and many sad and many frightening experiences with me. She also shared her engagement news and hopes for the future. In 2005, I traveled across country to attend the wedding - the red, white and blue wedding! He is a 1SG and left for Iraq later that year and returned this past November. While they were here, he and I spent many hours talking about his recent deployment.
He spoke about being on a small fire base, away from the city-like amenities of the large bases - of leaving and turning the base over to the Iraqis they had trained - "I hope there isn't a terrorist living in my room now," he said half-jokingly. He spoke with admiration of the Iraqi woman who was trying to lead her community to a better life and the target she made of herself for her determination and bravery. He spoke of the 'civil war' - "The Iraqis will never have a 'civil war.' They are too unorganized to ever have a 'civil war.' It is more like gangland violence." He spoke of the fear that the Iraqis live under - a fear in their souls that is left over from the age of Saddam - a fear that colors everything that they do. He spoke of training Iraqi soldiers and that teaching them to engage in the fight was the most difficult thing to teach. He spoke of the progress the troops are making - in spite of what the news media says. Before the President's speech we spoke of the potential of his unit being turned around and sent back - "I'm ok with it as long as they don't leave us in Kuwait - I'd kill myself!" (The unit was not called back.) We laughed over pictures that had been sent and fought tears over the lives that had been lost. The last night he was here, he tried to share the story of the loss of his two men, but the time is not yet right for that revelation, though I was deeply touched that he wanted to share it with me.
A young specialist, after traveling with his family from North Carolina to Oregon in the midst of this difficult winter weather, stopped by to meet, to give hugs, and to introduce us to his family - his wife, his year and a half old daughter and the son that was born while he was in Iraq. We were so surprised when they knocked on our door!
He talked about the joy of having a penpal, and one who was from the same area he was from - the joy of getting pictures from home. He spoke of the difficulty of this deployment over his first - since his son born while he was in Iraq. He radiated a joy of fatherhood and was tender and sweet with his children. The fears that they wouldn't know him or love him that he had confided had not materialized. He spoke briefly of the friend who was lost and the anger he still felt over it at the terrorists.
Both kept thanking us for the support they received from us. It made me feel odd. A letter a week and an occassional care package hardly seemed worth all of the gratitude. Of course, it made us feel wonderful that it was valued and appreciated, but I can't help but feel that they had given us so much more by serving our country, by sacrificing their personal lives for our country, by leaving friends behind, and by giving us the precious gift of their friendship.
The media keeps telling us that "we" (Americans) are disconnected from the military. I say it is the fault of the individual if it is true for you. There are so many ways to connect to the military - see the "Support Our Troops" links on the left. We are connected to the military and are inspired by them daily. Whether connected or not, I can not imagine not respecting and admiring those who serve to protect everything that we hold dear.
So, we say Thank You, though Thank You will never seem enough....