It has been a strange week for me. On New Year’s Day I picked up my Navy son at the airport. He was headed for SERE school (Search, Evade, Resist, Escape). It’s a required class that all pilots and air crew must attend. I drove him from Boston to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I probably won’t see him for a year, since he is immediately relocating to San Diego after the class is over. He will be deploying in June, to somewhere in the Pacific, or heaven knows where. He’s excited…his training is finally ending, and he is a fully qualified Navy helicopter pilot. I’m happy for him, because he has the confidence that youth and good training bring. I’m also uneasy, because we are still very much a nation at war.
Today, I dropped off my Army son at the same airport. He is headed back to Afghanistan in the near future. His unit is deploying again, and as a Medic, he is an important part of the team. When he first deployed in 2009, I was able to tell myself that everything would be all right…that he would be fine. He also had the confidence that youth and good training bring. And he was fine…until he was badly wounded in combat.
This time, I say goodbye to my sons from a different viewpoint. I can’t put my finger on it…but this time I lack the ability to tell myself that it will be all right. I want it to be, with all my heart. I pray every day that it will be. But I can’t wall myself off from the knowledge that they will face danger, face the enemy, and endure hardship. I have, to be honest, lost the ability to tell myself that all will be well, that they will be safe, and return unharmed. I think I became a veteran in my own right. A veteran military parent.
There is no official category for such a thing. But it’s true nonetheless. I’m no longer the parent at the Basic Training graduation, smiling at a pass-in-review. I’m a good ways down the road from that now, and I know what war can do to young men and women. I’m the parent of two of America’s finest, young men who have put their personal safety and comfort aside to serve our nation. But I am also something else. My sons have changed, and I have changed too. I am still bursting with pride, but there is something else there. Perhaps it is a wish for a leap forward in time, to the end of 2012, when the deployments will end.
When I figure it out, I will write about it. Meanwhile, 2012 can’t pass quickly enough. Happy new year to everyone in FOTB, and God bless our troops.