This is Just Afghanistan. And it has Changed Us.

Share This Post

“There are no curses.  This is just Afghanistan.”

Watching Lone Survivor with Dh, when Marcus Luttrell, as portrayed by Mark Wahlberg, gives that line, there are audible snickers from all over the theater.

This is, after all, a military town.

And after I watched Hollywood re-tell me a very real story of Navy Seals at war, I was compelled by the courage and bravery and strength of spirit.

I have no illusions.
My husband is not American.  He’s not a Navy Seal.
And this movie did not portray his experiences.
It would be a gross exaggeration for me to say that it did. 

The truth is, I will never see my husband’s war on the big screen.  I will never see the moments of camaraderie or danger or bravery or courage or boredom or anger or fear or pain.  And that’s ok.  I think I’m best not knowing.

But sitting there after it ended, watching the people file out while Dh took it all in for a moment, one thing sat heavy on my heart.

It’s been a long 12 years.

I know because when the movie ended it took a long time to get up.  And when I did, I picked up my jacket from the back of the chair, then dropped it and hugged Dh just long enough that the people beside me waiting to file out had to be just a little uncomfortable.

I know because Dh didn’t try to get me to stop, just  tucked my head under his chin and held on.

I felt like my heart was full of stories but they will never need to be told.

Because we are just your average run-of-the-mill war-weary military family.

With a soldier who has had his boots on the ground since the very first boots got there in 2002 all the way until his last tour in 2008.  Who came home unbroken and unwounded.  Who was never captured or beaten, who never took a bullet.  Who has friends marked by stones that never came home to their families like he did.  Just like every combat soldier to ever make his way across his battlefield, survivors guilt will always tug his heart. But he came home.

And children who have all been born since the war began, who have all seen dad go to fight, who have all been able to see him come home.  Who are used to a life where sometimes Dad is home and sometimes not.  Who count camouflaged teddy bears as prized possessions and can tell you the difference between a Coyote and a Leopard.  Who are both humble and full of pride.

And a wife.

A wife who started this marriage a blushing 20 year old bride and watched a war begin and her husband leave before she could celebrate her 1st anniversary.  A wife who knows what weeks without contact is like, and prefers it to an unexpected knock at the door.  A wife who never, even now when the threat is gone, goes to bed without cleaning the front room in some unconscious irrational fear of notification parties that will somehow only come if she`s not prepared for them.

A wife who watched in the movie when the Taliban soldier removed the wedding band from his wounded enemy, and when he went to put it on, a wife who`s eyes filled with tears at the effort it took to suppress a scream that said `DON`T YOU TOUCH THAT!`

It`s been a long 12 years and as the war seems to melt into the rear view mirror of our country and the time since Dh came home from Afghanistan for the last time keeps ticking on, it can sometimes seem surreal, like it was never our life.

Until I glanced over at him as the movie began and the screen panned over the open desert of the Afghanistan mountains at daybreak, and his look was both reminiscent and longing.

He saw that sunrise for the first time when he was 20 years old and most of him, most of him came back for the last time after his third deployment at 26.  And now he sits, at 32 and while our country is busy fighting over soldiers, money and war like it`s an abstract concept that is up to them to define, you know what?

He`s still a soldier, waiting for his next mission.

And when the dust settles and the collective memories of our country fade, the ones who are left to remember will be all those like him.

They are not loud because they don`t feel like they have anything to tell, only jobs that they did and then came home.

And quietly, because they don`t want to take the spotlight from heroes who deserve recognition, they sit some nights and share stories among themselves.

And then they get up the next morning and they report back to work, like they have every day.
And their families, they go about life because that`s how life works.

And no one knows unless they take the time to see that hug, or that flinch, or that longing.

We are the same as the hundreds of other families like us, and we
don’t expect or feel entitled or want sympathy or special treatment. 

And while our country and our politics and our loudest voices have turned foreign policy, defense strategy and veterans services into points to be argued over safe cups of tea in the confines of our homes and coffee shops and round tables, the truth remains.

This is just Afghanistan.

And it has changed us. 




  1. I don't have the words. You have them though. And I'm glad to read them. 🙂


  2. Futilely wiping away the tears that continue as I write this, I can only say how very proud we are of our men and women in the military and their families, especially our very own soldier and his family. Afghanistan has indeed changed us as people and as a nation.


  3. Beautiful post has me reaching for the tissues. Thank you for sharing your heart and speaking for us all!


  4. Nothing I can say will add to this. Well said.


  5. This is one of the most beautiful posts I've read since I started reading military spouse blogs. I rarely feel touched by the writing of other milso bloggers, and this one has tears in my eyes. Thank you for writing.


  6. Thanks Judy, I always get nervous with those types of posts, but I am glad it resonated!


  7. Oh, yes, how it has changed us. Thank you for putting it into words. My husband and I have lost so much less than many of these Soldier Families – yet we have still lost. We still grieve. And then we get up and go on.

    And I never once thought to clean the front room "just in case". Now it will haunt me.


  8. "A wife who never, even now when the threat is gone, goes to bed without cleaning the front room in some unconscious irrational fear of notification parties that will somehow only come if she`s not prepared for them". I thought I was crazy for thinking like this (and perhaps I still am), but it was very comforting to know that another wife does this too.

    I found your blog via Jessica Lynn Writes and your writing has converted me into a loyal follower – I'm looking forward to reading more.


  9. I also married my Active duty husband at age 20. He was my high school & college sweetheart who joined at age 21& is still serving after 21 years! At first,on AC130U gunships, they were three 90-day deployments for Bosnia for 5 years. Then,at Dover AFB, on C5s,they were non-stop TDY missions taking troops & cargo all over the world, including Iraq & Afghanistan where they often took enemy fire, bringing back soldiers and bodies,for 8 years. Now we’re at 8 years back on C130U gunships. I’ve lost track of deployments.. Maybe 4 in Iraq and 5-6 in Afghanistan… And one truly awesome deployment to Germany when the kids & I got to visit for Christmas! Our kids are 18,15 & 13. He learned I was pregnant in: Italy, NewFoundland & Oklahoma, but was home for all the births. He has his fair share of combat medals. It’s like he’s wearing wind chimes on his dress blues! War has had a huge impact on our family. I didn’t build my own career because I needed to provide stability for our kids.we have our fair share of War stories, deployment heartbreak & joy. He told me yesterday, that he doesn’t think he could bear to work in the civilian world. He will stay in as long as possible, then find a retirement job as a contractor for the DOD. Our kids have a similar reaction to their civilian counterparts. While their peers are overly concerned about overly trivial things (A girl angry that her mom won’t buy her the latest Coach bag- just one example) Afghanistan continues to affect our family in a daily basis. Now my husband trains young aircrew and has attended far too many memorial services over the past 2 years. Our college freshman changed her major from theatre/acting to psychology & global Affairs because she wants to be a child & family psychologist for the DOD. She’s also excited about an overseas program, working to rehabilitate children who are refugees/have suffered abuse, rape or were forced to be child soldiers. My husband has come back from some deployments broken. He’s doing pretty well right now. Our middle child has anxiety and depression. I can’t help but wonder how much of it is a result of not knowing a life without dad going to war. I will probably never know the full impact of how much Afghanistan has affected us. It’s one of several wars. I do know, my husband, kids & I are very different from most civilians in our community. It’s hard to relate to most of their daily struggles. We tend to unintentionally gravitate toward other military families or befriend people who have suffered tragedy & loss.. Families battling childhood cancer or chronic illness. Or whose homes have burned down, etc. we just can’t relate enough to most ordinary, civilian, people. I feel another war coming on..I’m sure the man in the living room watching football is ready to fight & defend. He could have his bags packed in 15 minutes.


  10. Thank you for another beautiful reflection, Kim.

    “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”
    ~ José Narovsky


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *