One of the things that helped me get through my war was support from home. My family kept the letters and pictures of my kids coming and the care packages were awesome. My mom had sent me cookies but I had to let her know that chocolate chips cookies were off the menu…have you ever seen what 120 degrees can do to a mass of chocolate chip cookies? It becomes just that…a mass. It didn’t matter, however, because I ate the mass like it was a giant chocolate chip ball.
I even received letters from little school children I didn’t know. They were labeled “Dear Soldier,” and I replied to each and every one I received. They helped make me feel good about what I was doing…which was fighting for oil. That wasn’t my choice. Joining the army was my choice, but after you’re in, you do your duty. My duty was to fight for oil. Despite that, Desert Storm was a feelgood war for our country. After the politicians gave us the debacle of Vietnam, this war was greatly needed to restore pride in our country. It was also the Vietnam veterans that went out of their way to make sure we received the “Welcome Home” that they never got. They refused to let another generation of veterans go without the thanks they should’ve gotten when they came home. It wasn’t their fault that war turned into such a mess…they did their jobs. They had no choice.
The reason I’m writing this blog post for today is that we always seem to be in a war or on the brink of war. We have military personnel all over the world. They need to know that even if we don’t always support why they are there, we definitely support them and their sacrifice…and make no doubt, they are sacrificing. It doesn’t matter if they’re Special Forces, Infantry, mechanics, cooks, supply, pilots, artillery, engineers, and so on. They are all giving up something to do this.
The support shouldn’t end when they get back home. In the military, we become a family of sorts. We can become closer than siblings, especially in a war zone. That’s why when one of us dies, it’s a big deal to us. It is losing someone in our family. It hurts. We are often ravaged by survivor guilt because we made it back alive. On top of that, we’re often dealing with some of the things we had to do and the things done to us.
Many of us who go to war were just on the playground a few years before. We went from the playground to the battleground before we were mentally ready. We went from killing things in a video game (where it seems cool) to killing things in real life (not so cool). It scars us. We are never the same after this. The reality of death really hits home when you are next to it or the cause of it.
At the time, we are in survival mode. We really aren’t thinking about it because things happen so fast. We just instinctively react. Our thinking comes later…and lasts the rest of our lives. We often question everything that happened, especially if our buddies die. We constantly wonder if we could’ve done something different. We wonder if we arrived at a spot just five seconds earlier or five seconds later, would the outcome have been different?
We often live in the dark, the dark being in our own minds. That’s where support from our family and friends can be so important. Sometimes they can be the only lights we see.
Leave your politics when you see a veteran. Don’t blame our military when they go someplace for a cause you don’t believe in. They don’t call the shots…your politicians do. Show your displeasure by voting, not by disparaging our troops. They are doing their duty.