God bless America, and the men and women who fight for us

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:41 PM

Annie Valentine

The month of July is ripe with patriotism around here. I bawl more about homesickness for America during this four-week stretch than the rest of the year put together.

I recently sat across from a good friend as we worked furiously on a sewing project and talked about her life. A few weeks ago their family received the shocking news that her husband was getting called to action — sent to Kabul, Afghanistan, to deploy. It wasn’t your typical deployment — this baby came down with his name specifically on it, and it was hot.

I can’t tell you the heartache and turmoil this call brought their beautiful family. I’ve seen a lot of assignments come through our crowd and watched a lot of women bravely send their soldiers off to fight, but it’s not often that the men who leave have half a dozen children at home and get a one-way ticket to the danger zone. The danger-to-sacrifice ratio for this particular job is high. To take a guy who has spent most of his military career behind a desk and plunk him in the middle of a war zone with a mere two weeks of weapons training … terrifying for all of them.

Sending a loved one off to fight is a mind game. You have to be prepared to hear “that news,” the news that only comes from a commander who pulls up in a numbered car in front of your house and knocks on the door.

We talked about her five-step plan for handling “that news,” should the awful day ever come. This girl is faithful to the cause and hard-core supportive of her husband and this country. But no one wants to see that car, no one wants to hear those words.

It happens every day. Four families here, five families there. Numbered cars bring pain and loss.

We got about three steps into her plan before we couldn’t talk about it anymore. Step one, call the neighbor to take her kids. Step two, call me to come and hold her up. Step three, think of a way to tell the kids.

Just thinking about it was painful for my imagination; my mind kept skirting around how a mother handles that. Like she said, “I’m not that woman who will take the news with a brave face. I will crumble to the ground. It will utterly destroy me.”

And that is the kind of emotional weight the men and women who fight for our country handle every single day. Service members who leave their families, put their lives on the line for the person standing behind them, we don’t hear much about it in the news, because it’s more than we can take. Reading about the firefighters who lost their lives a few weeks ago reminded me of all the men and women who are losing their lives in pursuit of justice every single day. I honor them. I honor their families. I pray for their safe return.

With her husband just hours away from his pre-deployment training, she stood at her kitchen sink and begged God to spare her husband from this call, that if at all possible he could remain with his family to serve where his service would be of the most value.

“Father,” she said, “You’ve got 40 hours to turn this around and keep my husband here. Please … don’t take him from us.”

The night before he was scheduled to leave, her husband found himself stuck in the office, the last man out. And just before he closed up, a set of orders came through. His deployment had been cancelled.

There are so many ways service members can serve. I believe that the role they play in our communities both at home and abroad, the example they set and the code of conduct they follow have the power to influence lives.

This man, he is a good man. One of the best I’ve ever met. I have no doubt that his influence in the home will be as powerful a force as anything he could do in the war zone. He’s got four little boys who need their dad. Being a father is a special kind of soldier.

God protects our men and women in the armed forces. We should pray for them this month, pray for all of them. Pray that they can make it home to the ones they love in safety, the sooner the better.

Once again, God bless America, and God bless the men and women who fight for us.

Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Readers can contact her at regardingannie@gmail.com or visit her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.

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