Everyone in my town was talking about this video online today. Typically, I ignore all the hype and the funny short videos in my quest to find more substantial things to fill my little, tiny and precious free time. But the talk of this one intrigued me. I should say first and foremost, while I am definitely a woman I don’t act very girly most times; in other words, I don’t usually cry or get sappy. This morning I got both.
The video (and you really should go find it) was a shot of the pregame this past weekend between USC and Georgia. The Gamecocks and the Dawgs are rivals so it is a game to see. At the pregame they honored a family, a wife and her two children, of a solider serving this country proudly. The solider, speaking on a large screen above the stadium, spoke of their willingness to move everything each time they established any rhythm, and the ability of the family to survive what many would find difficult. As you can guess, at the end of the video the solider, the father, the husband walks out on the field and everyone goes justifiably crazy. It was a beautiful moment, and I am glad that I got to experience it, even if I imagine that it was the military’s way of exploiting one of their own.
And while the children struck a chord in me, that wasn’t what brought tears to my eyes. It was her. That solider’s wife.
It amazes me the strength women have deep in their core. We make fun of women: for their tears, for their emotions, even for the way sappy commercials make us feel somehow better about things. And I often wonder if any one of them recognize the strength not bred into their bones but the strength that is born of necessity.
Most women don’t marry a solider not knowing the risks, the sacrifices and even the toll it is going to take on them. While, like labor, they may have no real way of guessing all that it is going to be, there are hints. There are sly little innuendos within our lives that prepare us for the eventual world in which we will one day find ourselves. And if we are smart, if we are aware, they will give us insights into all that one day we might become.
But despite all that this universe presents us, I find that the solider’s wives that I know simply cannot appreciate what they are. They are the ones who don’t stand on front lines, but stand proud as if they were. They are the ones that sacrifice their time, their sanity, their very soul for a country that rarely gives them either the due or the pension for excelling at a job they probably never really applied for. (I bet 99% of solider’s wives would tell you they would trade it all for the knowledge that their souls were sleeping peacefully tonight). They move, they pack, they feed, they teach, they coach, they support, they completely allow their definition of normal to go away as surely as the waves will erode back into the ocean.
They put me in mind of those gorgeous trees in California, or the Grand Canyon, or all of those statues that we erect in honor of the Gods that we worship. They are made of marble deep within their bones, although their skin is soft. They stand in the rain, in the snow, in the sun, and in the night although they often think about collapsing into the corner of their dark retreat. They become what this world demands of them, and allow each of us to see what we have to see when looking at them, rather than the reality of who and what they are.
We romanticize them, we parade them, we pat them on the back. We do so without truly knowing what they feel, what they are experiencing, and we do so for our own need to celebrate something we are not and never will be. And yet they stand tall when everyone is watching, and slowly crumble each night that they have to wonder if the ones they love are even alive.
Their support systems are limited to those around them going through the exact same thing. In their delivery rooms, when it would normally be a devoted husband, it can be a sister not of blood but of honor. In times of medical trouble, it isn’t their concerned husbands driving them to their chemo appointments, but rather strangers willing to help someone who would never ask. There is clothing for their children, from other children they will never meet. There is book clubs for those that never believed they would enjoy the freedom given in between single, bound pages. There is support for a condition that has only one cure.
I imagine that if you ask most solider’s wives, much like I once asked a friend of mine, they truly just don’t think about it. Instead like the name given to their spouses, they simply solider on. (And please know this, I have never for one minute stopped thinking about the husbands who do it so their wives can leave…there is no difference except in a pronoun.) They do it because there is no other acceptable choice for them. They do it because the eyes of their children demand it, and the ideal that they believe in despite its consequences, requires of them. They don’t want thanks, they don’t need a sticker parade…for the most part they’re fine with you leaving that to their husbands, who each and every single one will believe truly deserves it.
They are just the wife. They are just the other half. And yet, I often want to remind them they are so much more.
They are never just the wife, but the solider on this front line. They are never just the other half, but the crucial element that must survive even when others do not. They are the piece that keeps our country free, that keeps our children safe, and makes sure that I can go to sleep tonight knowing that a man with a different agenda won’t come to my house to kill and rape me for no other reason than the God that I worship or the man who I vote for.
I celebrate all the freedoms this world has given me, because nameless, faceless, unidentified women slowly stoke the fires so their soldiers can find the way home.
Thank you. You may not care for the praise, but it is my honor to give it to you anyway.