This past Sunday at The Warrior’s parish, the pastor preached about security – how financial security, relationship security, job security, etc. are all good things, but should never be ends in themselves. We must look to the only thing that will give us true, lasting security, which is a relationship with the Lord.
I thought about how all this applies specifically to the Army life. Military families long for security. We want to know that our soldier is safe while deployed. We want to feel confident that he will come home in one piece. The wives who are also moms wish for dad to be home every night for dinner and to play with the kids. We want to celebrate every birthday, anniversary, Thanksgiving, and Christmas together, like any other family. We want the security of having our soldier right by our side when life gets tough.
These are the types things that I know many civilian families take for granted, because I come from one. It was a rare occurrence for Daddy to be gone on a (safe) business trip; he was almost always home for supper; he came to nearly every musical and sporting event of ours growing up; he cleaned up our vomit when we got sick; and our entire family was always together at Christmas. We could count on our dad being there for both the important events and the mundane tasks. Our mom could count on her husband being there, both physically and emotionally, to support her. This is just how things were. My childhood best friend’s dad was away on business trips a lot, and I remember feeling, I am SOOOOO glad Daddy doesn’t have to do that!! It was depressing when he wasn’t around.
But with military families, things are drastically different: the happy couple will be apart for many anniversaries, birthdays, and Christmases; a husband will miss his wife’s pregnancy and birth of a child; dad won’t be there to see his 5-year-old son play his first soccer game; mom has to care for the entire family (including herself) during flu season; and to top it off, the wife doesn’t even have the assurance – the security – of knowing that her husband will be there again for the family.
This past Monday, August 6th, was the first anniversary of the tragic helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed 30 American troops, including 22 Navy SEALs. It was the single largest death toll of the war, and it was an absolute shock. Last August was about the time that the prospect of The Warrior deploying was becoming more of a reality, and this tragedy shook me to the core. One year ago today, on August 8th, I heard Laura Ingraham interview Kimberly Vaughn, the widow of Aaron, one of the KIA SEALs. I had just worked out at the gym and was stopping at Wal-Mart to pick up some items on my way home. As I pulled into a parking spot, Kimberly came on with Laura, so I turned off the car but kept the radio on. It was the most heart-wrenching interview I have ever heard. (I found it archived online and it can be found HERE. Get out the Kleenex first.) As I listened to this young military wife, married to her SEAL for only three years, describe how she found out about his death, how incredibly tough this was for her and the other widows, and how wonderful her husband was…I cried. From just her tone of voice, I could see the very deep wound she now had. My heart ached for her, and I wished I could do something for her. I tried to imagine myself in her shoes…which made me hurt inside even more. She and her two little kids had even spoken to Aaron just a few hours before he went on the mission and was killed. They got to say their last goodbyes to their heroic husband and father…the last thing he ever said to Kimberly was, “I love you. I’ll talk to you later.” In another interview, she said, “One day in Heaven we will.”
Ironically, I am almost done reading Service: A Navy SEAL at War by former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. (His first book was Lone Survivor.) It was published this year, and near the end he wrote about this tragedy and about the guys he knew that died. He also included a section where four Navy SEAL wives wrote about their perspectives (two of them being widows). He calls them “The Warrior Queens.” I read those parts yesterday, standing up in the crowded train going home, and again I had tears in my eyes. (This is what sunglasses are for!) They were shed in sadness for what happened a year ago, but they were also shed because I felt the deep sense of pride and patriotism that both Marcus and the military wives described. There is nothing in the world like it, and sometimes you feel it so deeply it hurts. I am thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to experience that.
Did those Navy SEAL wives have security? No, they certainly did not. Is it scary to know this could happen to any of us who love a servicemember? You bet. Do we wish we could guarantee their safe return after every deployment? Of course, 100% yes. But while our guys are out there keeping the world secure from the bad guys, we have to carry on without knowing if they are secure. It is at these times that we cling ever tighter to the Security that trumps even our heroes being home safely and holding us close. If we do this, then military life is not as daunting and we never have reason to be afraid.
Dedicated to the American troops who died in the Afghanistan helicopter crash
on August 6, 2011, and their families. Never forget.