It’s the 7th anniversary of 9/11 and I am a retired military wife. So you’re just going to have to humor me for going all patriotic on you today.
I haven’t met anyone old enough to remember, who doesn’t remember where they were when they heard about the attack. I had just settled 3-year-old Zach in front of his morning PBS shows, and logged on to check in with the online Mom’s group I’ve been a part of for more than a decade. Someone posted that the first tower had been hit, and I was shocked that such a terrible accident had taken place. Immediately, I distracted Zach with some toys and changed the TV to CNN. I was still standing up, holding the remote control when the second plane crashed into the second tower. I froze. The blackest horror oozed over me along with the terrible realization that this was no accident.
“They’re using our planes to kill us…” I thought. I instinctively placed my hands on my newly-pregnant belly and looked over at sweet little Zach, playing quietly in the kitchen. Tears stung my eyes as I wondered what kind of world my children would inherit.
And since Donnie was in the Army National Guard, it wasn’t long until we knew that “National Guard” no longer meant “guarding the nation at home.”
He spent a year in Iraq. For 11 weeks prior to his deployment, he lived at Ft. Stewart, and we saw him on the weekends. And every weekend, for nearly three long months, we said what we thought were our final good-byes. Soon, it became a joke. Maybe he wouldn’t have to go after all.
But when it finally happened, it was quick, like ripping a band-aid off a festering wound. The first Sunday in June, he was at home with us when his cell phone rang. Report now, they said. We left the kids with a friend and drove as fast as we could to the base. Donnie was on a plane to Kuwait in less than 24 hours. And then began our long year apart.
I won’t go into what that was like. Those of you who knew me then lived through it with me. I can never thank you enough for your support. Those who didn’t know me, well, my story isn’t all that different from any other military wife doing the “single mom” thing with her spouse at war. You do what you have to do to make it through, and bring them home. Rosie the Riveter was my hero.
Our wartime experience allowed me to begin the writing career I’d always dreamed of. I was shocked and honored to find that a letter I’d written to Donnie would be included in the book, Operation Homecoming. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing something amazing. That has nothing to do with my being published in it. The anthology is just beyond words, really. It has 21 reviews on Amazon.com, all 5-stars. It opens with a must-read piece about 9/11 written by Brooklyn, NY native Petty Officer First Class Gregory Cleghorne. If you visit this link to Operation Homecoming and click the next page arrow, it will allow you to read this passage. Please, go take a look. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read about 9/11. Like I said, I’m asking you to humor me today. 😉
I’m going to read Operation Homecoming again, starting today, because I don’t want to forget. Our war experience is several years and a husband’s retirement behind me now. I still have a heart for those deployed in this war against terrorism. I still see my beloved struggle with the desert ghosts that followed him home. Sometimes, because of that, I truly want to forget. But I won’t let myself. I won’t forget what we’re up against, or why. I pray that you will not, either.
President Bush recently announced that some troops are going to start coming home. Who knows what our next president is going to do. But there are still thousands of men and women serving in war zones who need your support. Noanie.com is by far the best place to go online to find dozens of ways to tangibly reach out to our deployed soldiers, injured soldiers and their families. The holidays are coming up soon, and it’s a great time of year to get on board.
And if you’re not “feeling the love” just yet, check out this video. It’s a good one.
Finally, just because I can…a homecoming picture of my kids and our soldier, the quietly brave, honorable man we’re blessed to share each day with. That saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”? Yeah, it’s true.