So here we are. Parts of Afghanistan, especially the areas outside major population centers, are slowly being retaken. Iraq is Iraq. Our friends who lost buddies over there in both countries are sitting here watching it all go to hell. If they go back, at least to Iraq, it won't be to fight. It will be to conduct training, the President says. And for those of us who have to take that long walk from the deployment bus back to the car it doesn't really feel like there's a difference.
I want to know how to talk about these things with my spouse. He went over there, but only partially came back.
When we talk about these things I can see that look in his eye. I think it’s maybe the same look I get when I’m talking about all those memorial services I went to back at Fort Lewis, Wa. Because while I’m telling you about them, I’m seeing them again. I see the back of her head and her black dress in the front row. I see her son sitting next to her. I see the boots and dog tags and gun front and center. I see the flowers laid over the boots, the stack of challenge coins left by those paying their respects, the quiet parade of soldiers seated on the left side of the chapel.
I feel that lump in my chest knowing that I was THIS CLOSE to being next to her and so many others who sat up there. I wonder -- when I ask him how he feels about the current news out of Afghanistan and he pauses and answers slowly -- does he see the soldier dead in his arms? Does the guilt of not being able to save him, even though he was gone the moment the overpressure from the IED washed over his body, flood him in that moment the way Taps still echos in my ears?
I'm told when you fight for someone else’s country, when you watch people DIE for it, you feel ownership. What do I even say to him as we watch the news, as we learn that all that stuff he worked for, that they died for is gone or going?
We are not the first set of war weary Americans to feel and experience these things. Our spouses go where they are ordered and do their jobs with pride, conviction and excellence.
But sometimes - just sometimes - we have to stop and ask: is it all worth it, and what do you say when it's not?
I don't have the answer to this one. I haven't been doing this long enough. But I do have this: if you are wondering the same thing, you are not alone.
Photos courtesy U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army.