In the comments section to this post at Villainous Company, longtime commenter and friend "JarHead Dad" wrote something outstanding. I imagine many of you know him, at least online. His comment is in the extended entry.
War Is Hell!
I remember like it was yesterday when our young Marine came marching out on the parade deck of Parris Island sporting a brand new chevron proclaiming him a PFC in the United States Marine Corps! A merit stripe earned in the sand fleas and swamps of South Carolina. God how proud I was. I bet I stood a full two inches taller. His Mom squeezing my hand harder as his Training Battalion passed the stands. The tears of pride I enjoyed wiping from her cheeks. The virality, the strength, a man where a boy should stand. It was all there.
From that day forward our home became a staging area of sorts for the next four years and even now. Young Marines we met on that very same Parade Deck stopping in on their way one place or another knowing they would get a home cooked meal and lodging with others of their kind. After SOI they came in bunches, full of themselves, cocky, with the innate ability to use the F word as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb. All in the same sentence! Vulgar? Not for a minute. These are young men that enlisted in a time their country is at war, knowing full well what they were facing and where they were headed. They are young men "with the bark" on as the saying goes from my generation. Respectful to Mom and Sis to the max, loving them after minutes of meeting them. You could see the protection trait in them even then. The seriousness they held in their minds of what they were doing was embodied in their Moms and Sisters, Girlfriends and Fiancees, Wives and Daughters. A finer lot of young fire eaters you could never imagine!
The first deployment. A float into that blur we didn't understand as newbies called "Operation Southern Watch". OIF 1, 2, 3&4 combined. The goodbyes, the hellos, the world of roller coasters that is the Corps. Hurry up and wait. Deployment extended. Deployment shortened. Deployment day moved. Again. And again. Return date moved. Again. And again. The unbelievable insanity that is The Corps to those that have never dealt with Her. Agonizing. Slow. Then afterburner fast and they are gone. Then here. Sleep when? What is sleep? People offering condolences and understanding. For what? They do not know. They can only guess. Carry on. Face the day. Stay away from the news. DO. NOT. GO. NEAR. BEDWETTERS. Stay loose. Stay calm. Be the rock your Marine is and is counting on in you.
Bury your dead. Those bright eyes and bravado dressed in Marine cammies you knew and loved. Those young men that went to war with one of your own so full of purpose. Those young men that died not fighting for their country but instead for their Brother Marine next to them. Those young men that died fighting for their Moms, Sisters, Girlfriends, Wives, and Children. This is what protects a nation. This is what real Honor, Integrity, Duty is all about. You lose the first one and it destroys you. Rips your heart right out through your guts. Then another. And another. Then they come in bunches. Full scale battles head into insurgency, snipers, and IEDs. It's like you walk around in a daze for seven months at a clip. Fearing to go home and hear the news. Afraid of what will be in your inbox. Scared to check with all the other Marine parents going through the same thing. And yet? Through it all that same pride you felt on Graduation Day at P.I. courses through your veins and sustains your heart. You truly understand what type of young men these are and could shout it from the Mountain!
You busy yourself helping your kids in their daily lives. You watch your daughter grow through Club soccer, high school, and listen to the drivel that is the protected class when a Soccer Mom goes off on "George Bush's War". You look at this 30 pounds of overweight shoved into spandex screaming at refs, her daughter, your daughter, on the touches and you look over at your lovely little Bride sitting there calmly taking it all in. That little Woman with a body of a goddess sitting their calmly, the mother of four with a son in harm's way, and you smile at the sheer insanity of the protected. They do not understand and never will. They do not wake in the middle of the night thinking they heard the phone or the chime of a message hitting the inbox. Hoping, praying, trusting in God to bring her son back to her. Crying herself back to sleep and all you can do is hold on tight. No, you stand there and take it all in knowing these people are given the right vote to by men of your son's caliber and making sure to rein in any feelings that may be regurgitating to the tip of your tongue. Your daughter trots off the field, "Kris call Daddy?". No. Not today. Fourteen years old and scared to death for worry over her big brother. Her other brothers taking up the slack and the usual bickering non-existent during deployments. Everyone is almost holding their breath. Waiting. Nothing to do but wait!
They're home. You've died twenty-two times along with the parents of their Fallen Brothers. The pain never truly subsides. It never, ever gets easier. It is always there. The unbelievable underground support network that is the strength of The Corps takes care of you. And you it. The false emotions do not go into those places. Humanity is stripped bare where we dwell. Life is all about getting through it. Gold Star parents are worshipped. They are our rock stars. They are us if not by some deflection, SAPI plate, lucky turn when the IED blows the humvee to hell and back. They are Honor personified. The Marine Wives of the Fallen are our American Idols. They are Integrity, Strength, Life. They deserve the pillar we put them on and will always have our hearts. They are all that is Good. They are Sacrifice! God Bless 'em all!
You wait. Again. And again. There he is. Stepping off that damn slow bus. You can see the death in his eyes from where you stand. The Stare. The flatness and lack of emotion shines from the depths of what used to be the light. You take in everything at a glance. The skinny form where the beef used to be. The scars already healed. The stiffness of his walk and the sheer power that exudes from him. The unbelievable animal magnetism that screams his manhood. You take that in as you watch his Mom and Sis attack him in a hug. There was a tiny flicker of light forming his his eyes when he first spied them that has now become a full glow that threatens to light up the night. Happiness for the first time in awhile envelops him. You worry that that deadness will return and has it entered his very soul. Thoughts only of a dad. But that light! Ah, you know he will heal, you know he stands true, you know he is loved, and love heals all!
But most of all, you stand there while the women folk fuss over him and notice the numbers missing. You notice the ones that aren't here. You witness the ones that he saw last as he put them in the MEDEVAC broken and bleeding surround him and shout to the rooftops with hilarity. You see the bond of real men and real brotherhood staring at you in the face. You stand there and remember that Pride from Parris Island and it washes over you anew! Then it is your turn and that young Marine walks up to you, shakes your hand looking you dead in the eye, and tells you he is home. There are no words to describe the Pride a dad has for his Son at that time. No words can do it justice. The pain he knows I carry for his Fallen Brothers because he carries it too. Were it I could carry his burdens and he understands. The meeting of a dad and his Son. The same as it's been throughout history. Two men that believe in one another.
Yeah, half the folks in this great nation that these young men and women sacrifice for will never, ever "get it". I will also never, ever stand down in their stead either. My strength is much greater than theirs. Mine was forged in the fires of Hell! Their's given them by men and women they will never understand.
I do. We do!
Fair Winds and Following Seas!