Growing up, I was always was in awe of those who served in the military, even though I wasn’t related to anyone who did. My appreciation grew when I was in high school, when 9/11 happened. I spent much of my free time then volunteering at the local USO, sending letters, and packing care packages for those who volunteered to go to take the fight to enemy, trying in my own way as a high school student to understand the gravity of it all.
Then I met my husband-to-be, Chris, and fell in love with him right away — because he was a man of honor, integrity, and one who loved his country more than anything. He loved it enough to volunteer during war time to serve as a sniper — not because he hated what was in front of him, but because he loved what was behind him. And I loved him for it.
When the two uniformed officers knocked on my door on Sept. 9, 2011, just before his 27th birthday, to tell me Chris had been killed, it was completely devastating.
During Chris’ deployment, there were many nights I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t just because of Chris, but because of all the American service members “over there” while I was sleeping in my suburban, middle-class, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on a fluffy down pillow. They were fighting, and volunteered to do so, so I could continue the life I lived, and sleep in peace. Service members continue to fight, over and over again — deploying multiple times or serving at home.
After Chris’ death, the world didn’t know how to interact with me, or understand what he gave, and I watched how my more and more of my country didn’t understand our troops. And I still watch it today. The civilian-military divide is growing, and I can’t imagine what it is like to wade through a “new normal” with a country and population you fought to protect that doesn’t understand you.
Many service members are out of the service now, and going to school and starting new careers — feeling behind compared to those in our generation who chose not to go to war and instead reap the benefits that veterans fought for.
Veterans have come home to families who don’t recognize them, to face their own self in the mirror, to face their own pain, to know that they are not where they feel they should be in a world full of humans who like to dot Is and cross Ts, but don’t necessarily understand what is really important in life.
There is nothing in this world, or in this life more noble, and nothing in my life I am more grateful for than those who served our country — for what they have given, all they have sacrificed, and the years they spent fighting for my life and the lives of all Americans.
To everyone who has served, although this country may not understand you, and it may seem sometimes as if they forget what you gave, I remember.
And I will never forget.
As for my husband, I will spend the rest of my days honoring him, and remembering him. In each and every one service member, I see him, I see his spirit live on, and I see who he would have been. I see the good, the bad, and the hardships they have had to face.
From the deepest parts of my heart, I am grateful.
I will spend the rest of my life honoring our men and women in and out of uniform and engaging in the country they stood up and even bled for. Today, and every day, I remember them and thank them.
And, in my own way, I fight for them.