The very last of American troops left Afghanistan yesterday. Just about two weeks before the 20th anniversary of 9/11. 20 years. Why can’t I wrap my mind around that?
20 years is a lifetime for some. 20 years ago, social media wasn’t something we knew anything about. 20 years ago, we had cell phones that made phone calls and that’s about it. 20 years ago, I was a college student, who has just met the love of my life, a veteran who had served in the Army in the 90s.
As the first troops left for Afghanistan, we, the American people had no idea what that would look like. We knew it had to be done. America was attacked. America was in pain. America was grieving.
As those first troops left for Afghanistan, did they know that the babies they left at home would be old enough to fight the same fight, years into the future? Did they know that this was just the beginning of a long time of war? A long time of wishing for peace and not finding it?
My husband has been deployed to Afghanistan twice. I have a video of my young son trying to pronounce where he was. That has been replaying in my brain a lot the last few weeks. Afghanistan, the place the soldiers go. Back then, it was a deployment. It was where he was sent. When the military calls, you go.
As we heard the news last week about the 13 members of the military who were lost in the last days of our time over there, I think back to the past 20 years and all we have lost.
We have lost so many men and women to this fight. So many families will never be together again. So many hurting people.
I wish we could wave a magic wand and never have to deploy any other troops. I wish that another military family would never have to experience that knock or even a call about an injured love one. I wish the terrorism and the hate would go away, and we could live our lives free of all of it.
But I know better. I know that will never be the case. I know that as long as my husband serves in the military, he could be deployed again. To somewhere else.
And America will always have our military. Ready to defend and support. Ready to deploy, to somewhere in the world.
None of us know what the future will bring. Ask the military spouse whose husband joined the military in 2000. They had no idea how things would change for them in the course of just a year or two.
Ask the military spouse who thought she was marrying a civilian. Who is now helping her spouse pack for their first deployment.
Ask the military spouse who assumed she would have her children and raise them down the street from grandma and grandpa, who is now raising them in Japan, or Germany, or in a US city far from home.
When our service member joins the military, or when we marry them, joining them in their military world, we have to understand that they have a sense of duty. And that can be such a hard thing to come to terms with.
They have a duty to go and to serve, or they never would have enlisted in the first place. They have a duty to go, even when we need them back at home. They have a duty to America that sometimes has to come first.
We have to stand by them as they go places we might not think they should go. We have to have their back when they come home and have a hard time processing everything. We are the ones holding everything together as they make their way through the ranks, fighting for our freedom in different types of ways.
After so many years of being a military wife, I can’t imagine what our life would be like without the military in it. The military has formed who we have become as a couple, and as a family. The military has determined what my husband would be around for and what he would miss.
As I watch the children of some of the soldiers I know put on the uniform too, I pray that their time in service is a bit easier. I pray that they will get more breaks to be with family and that the road isn’t so hard. I pray that we have learned from the last 20 years, and know when we are pushing these young men and women too hard.
20 years of war is a heavy thing to come to terms with. 20 years is a long time. Our world has changed so much in that time, for the good and for the bad.
20 years of sending our men and women in uniform.
20 years of wondering if our spouse will be home.
20 years of wondering when they will have to go back again after this deployment is over.
20 years of sending a soldier back overseas after just two weeks at home with his family.
20 years of really hoping that we have done what we could to help stop the spread of terrorism in our world.
20 years of children missing a mom or dad.
20 years of homecomings with welcome home hugs, and kisses, and proposals.
What will the next 20 years look like?