Monday, May 30, 2016

The Things The Wives Carry

Today is Memorial Day.  Many of us in America will be visiting actual cemeteries to lay flowers and wreaths at the tomb stones of fallen war heroes.  Others are watching our TV as the President and top military leaders commemorate the war dead at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.  Still others are just taking a moment to cast our thoughts and prayers on all those who have died in the service of our country.  On this day that is set aside for fallen soldiers, though, I would like to take a moment in this blog to recognize the contributions of the wives of soldiers in the field.

In 1990, author Tim O Brien (a graduate of the same college I attended - Macalester College), wrote a critically acclaimed book about of platoon of soldiers in Vietnam called; "The Things They Carried". The book talks about the things that soldiers carry on their person, but also in their soul, as they fight in war and combat situations.  The title of this blog is a play on Tim O Brien's title:

The Things the Wives Carry

I should begin by saying that I recognize that today the US military has both men and women in active combat roles, but still, to this day the military is made up of mostly men (24% of US society are male veterans , 2% are female veterans).  Mostly it is still the men who go off to war, and mostly it is still the women who stay at home carry on with their lives and raise families.  And so, I want to focus on:

The Things The Wives Carry

For the past two years I have had the responsibility and the privilege of dropping my daughters off at school nearly every morning and picking them up in the afternoon.  And so, I have gotten to know many of the parents of Haley and Sheena's school mates.  By far my best acquaintances have been the wives of soldiers and sailors whose husbands serve in combat rolls around the world.  Here are a couple of their stories (names have been changed for confidentiality).  Here are some of:

The Things The Wives Carry

Renee has four kids.  Her husband John is a first lieutenant in the Navy (a graduate of Annapolis).  John is on full time duty away from his family four 5 and 6 months at a time.  John does work in Latin America, usually on secret missions.  Renee joyfully and cheerfully takes care of all four of her kids by herself.  She has a very strong inner constitution and the separation away from her husband for long periods of time is hard for her.  But she recognizes military service as the choice and the life they have chosen as a family.  Sometimes Renee's parents come to help her with the kids, but it mostly falls on her shoulders.  "When is John coming back?" I asked her recently.  "In four months, around Christmas time, but maybe after."  "Is it extremely hard for you?"  "No," she said, confidently, "it's just what we do.  It's better not to think about it."

Jennifer's husband, Frank, is a "Special Operations" Green Beret who serves on secret and very dangerous missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.  One day, recently, just before church began, Frank, who was home on leave, showed me a video on his I-Phone of his base in Kabul that got bombed and obliterated by ISIS militants, just a day after her left the base.  As he showed me the video, Jennifer, his wife stood by his side watching the same images.  "Does this frighten you?"  I asked Jennifer.  "Yes, a lot, I don't like looking at it."  "But," she paused, "Frank is very good at what he does."  There was a quiet resolution and strength with Jennifer which acknowledged the potential for the worst to happen, while at the same time recognized the important professional responsibility that her husband played for our country.

These, of course, are just two stories of wives and mothers whose husbands serve in military situations.  America, as I write, is filled with thousands of wives and mothers who husbands did not come home, and whose families will never see them again.  There are, actually, so many wives of fallen warriors that the US Senate has recently designated April 5 as a day to commemorate, "Gold Star Wives".  Currently, there are over 10,000 members of this non-profit organization (10,000 wives) who are without husbands because of war.

If you know of a family that has been separated war, through service or through life, I encourage you to reach out and connect with them sometime soon.  Find out for yourself:

The Things The Wives Carry

All For Now,



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