Twenty years ago…
When I was 14, my dad was sent to fight someone else’s war. Saddam Husein’s army had invaded Kuwait and the US military had acted swiftly and decisively to protect Kuwait with “Operation Desert Shield” which in turn became “Operation Desert Storm” and my father fought the storm on the front lines. My parents broke it to us kids by surprising us after school with stories of The Christmas Bunny, a confused rabbit that hid Christmas gifts for us throughout the house. As soon as we could shrug off our backpacks we were tearing through our house in search of misplaced Christmas gifts. My six foot four father pranced around the living room extolling the virtues of the Christmas bunny in a falsetto voice, while my mother, calmly, and with no hint of emotion in her voice, told us that my father was shipping out in a few short weeks, that he wouldn’t be home for the holidays.
I would like to tell you that at 14, my heart broke upon hearing the news, I would like to tell you that I was not so self absorbed in my teenage fog that it consciously registered that my father was going off to risk his life for total strangers, but I can’t. The truth is, it barely registered, the truth is, that I loved my parents for the zaniness of The Christmas Bunny and barely took notice of the reason and emotion behind it. Truth is, after my father went to Kuwait, I was more pissed off that my mother was moving us to nowheresville Kansas “for our safety” than I was about my father. (So what that our high school had gotten several bomb threats, the school hadn’t actually blown up, and besides, I was finally beginning to place in gymnastics, no way did I want to move back to the states to some podunk town in Kansas.) I”m fairly sure my brothers suffered from the same self absorbed teenage fog as I did, we could not believe the nerve of my mother, for disrupting our lives by moving us stateside. I cannot imagine being in my mother”s shoes during the time that my father was in Kuwait. I cannot imagine the emotional turmoil she must have been going through as she watched the three of us kids, oblivious and ungrateful, I cannot imagine packing an entire household and moving it across continents while my husband was on the front lines of a war, worlds away. I had a lot of trouble sleeping that year, my mom, I’m pretty sure, didn’t sleep at all until he came home.
My little brother has been sent to fight Saddam Husein’s army twice since my father’s first tour to the middle east, he has left and come back to his wife and children twice now. Twice. Today our country told him his combat boots will take him again, away from his family, all the way to Afghanistan. Sometime in the next few months, he and my sister in law will have to tell their three children again, that their daddy is going away, and he’s going to miss Christmas. This is far as I can take it, my little brother will miss Christmas, I can’t think any further into all the go-wrongs that could happen, just that his family will miss him, and they probably wont be getting any sleep.
I just read this now.
Your empathy is more valuable to you than you know.
Part of me still hasn”t accepted it. It”s the part that prays every night that somehow, this time, it just won”t happen.
I love you.
*more valuable to ME