“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.