Ashlee and I went to the Post Office today to mail Christopher his final package (mostly for the phone charger - because in about 2 weeks he will be calling me to say he is coming home!!!!!!!!!!). We happened to arrive at the same time many soldiers were mailing stuff to their new home in Iraq. I know it was Iraq, because the guy behind me in line was talking about their imminent departure. I started to cry a little bit right there in line, soldiers in front of me, soldiers behind me. There is a lot I don't know about the soldiers in line today, but some of the things that I do know are: They were most likely from a National Guard unit, so they are leaving jobs, maybe taking a significant pay cut while they serve, and their families won't have the same access to support that active duty families have. It's very likely that they are headed to at least a second tour in a war zone. They were upbeat, probably glad to be done with training here and moving on to the mission. And I know that I don't think of them often enough, and am not thankful enough for them. So, I shed a few tears and hoped no-one noticed. I really wanted to tell them I was thankful for them, to be careful, to come home safely, but I was too big a coward.
We are at the end of a long six months in our family, six months of separation and worry. This is Christopher's 4th deployment in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - and the total time he has spent away from us in direct support of the war effort has been about 14 months. That is about one month shy of one average Army deployment. And, he is much less likely to be wounded/injured than Soldiers and Marines. My guess is that most active duty Army/Marine personnel have completed at least 2 deployments (but more likely 3 ) of 12 - 18 months, and the average American citizen doesn't really notice or think much about it. The military community carries much of the United States foreign policy on their backs, the Army and Marines have shouldered the biggest part of the weight in the "War on Terror" and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Less than 1% of our citizenship serves in it's Armed Forces (including National Guard and Reserve members), all volunteers. Every single one voluntarily signed over many of their Constitutional rights - including freedom of speech and their right to live in order to protect and defend the Constitutional rights of the other 99% of our country. (Taken from While They're At War) What the history books say about this particular time is unknown - but right now, to me - waiting in line with soldiers at the Post Office, thinking about where they are coming from and where they are going and how long they will be there - it feels like a heavy burden that a very, very small percentage of the population carries, and it feels like too much.