Friday, December 17, 2010

Deployment Time Again

The dreaded phone call came last night. After enduring a relatively short 9-month deployment to Afghanistan last time, our family is now prepping for the longer 13-month deployment of one of our own at the beginning of January. The little boy I rocked to sleep; the adventurous child who came to me crying with injuries including a seriously bleeding head wound/hospital visit; the teen I consoled when girls were more cruel than I knew they could be; the adolescent who never seemed old enough to drive, but I taught him manual shift anyway; the young man I proudly saw face responsibility as a husband and father by joining the Army to provide health insurance for his family.

Most parents will know immediately what I mean when I say that it would be easier to go oneself to the war front than send the child they raised. If I told the truth, there were few moments that he wasn't on my mind during the first deployment. My stomach constantly clenched; chronically talking myself down from worry. Every single report of American casualties means waiting to breathe until he manages to make contact, and reassure us that he is okay.

What breaks my heart the most is the impact on his 6-yr stepdaughter and 2 1/2 year old son. His stepdaughter has grown up with my brother as her father, and when he deploys, she acts out in school and her performance declines. Almost everyone knows that the first five years of life are crucial for child development, so his son missing his father's presence a second time during those critical years has an unknown and negative effect. It is a child's sacrifice seemingly largely unappreciated by the nation.

The casual nature of most Americans' everyday lives, oblivious to war and its consequences, often feels callous and unconcerned, even in the face of all those "Support the Troops" magnets. When people think about supporting the troops, I hope they remember their often forgotten family members.

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