Dear Wife: This is What You Say About Iraq


My Dear Friend,

You asked me what you are supposed to say to your soldier when he sees Iraq go to hell on the news and he asks:  Did any of it matter?

You think this moment of questioning and regret and despair is about the military. You think this is about war. It might be.  But the way I see it,  this is about marriage. Your marriage. This is about what love really means when people knit their lives together. Can’t you see that?

Everyone questions their service.

Because everyone who ever served in the military questions some part of their service. It is the price of giving your youth to the military.

Some service members question an event that happened in war or on the flight deck or on an operating table. Some regret that they weren’t present when their father died or whether they could have saved a sibling.

Plenty of men regret missing the birth of their baby. Or they wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t done that geographic bachelor tour or dragged the family to Korea or didn’t work so many hours.

What makes this moment of questioning especially bad is when you are wondering too. When you are looking down at the throat of yet another 10-month deployment or you are dealing with another round of operations or PTSD is rearing its ugly head again--of course you have your own questions about whether it was worth it.

Sirens ought to blare at this moment. Searchlights should pop on.

When your service member questions whether or not his or her service mattered, there is only one answer. There is only one way to be:

This is the moment you blaze. This is the moment you roar. This is the moment that matters.

No matter what you personally believe about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, no matter what doubts you have about the wisdom of mixing kids and military life, this is the moment you must stand absolutely firm. You stand there and assure your soldier or Marine or Coastie or airman or sailor that it was worth it.

I'm not telling you to lie.  I'm telling you to witness. Remind your beloved that they were doing what they thought was right. Remind them what they said back then. Remind them that the story isn’t over. That things are not all good or all bad. That history is long and our part in it is short. So short. Too short.

(And you keep an eye on this kind of despair—espeically if it lasts too long, especially if it gets bigger. There are people to help them with that.  There are people to help you.)

When your own service member has this moment, I hope you will hear the sirens, see the lights, take a deep breath and see your partner as they really are:  one person. Your person. Doing the best they can in an impossible world.

Photo by Army Sgt. Alex Snyder, 123rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 3d Sustainment Command public affairs.


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