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Those Missing Years

This afternoon, I was driving north on State Line Road to find a Christmas present for Kelsey.  Grayson (13) was riding shotgun and offering a running commentary on life as we made our way to the store.  I listened with one ear and channel surfed with the other, looking for the NPR station on the Suburban’s radio.

Distracted by Grayson’s chatter, I left the radio to itself for a moment, and the SEEK feature found it’s way to a song written from the perspective of a little boy whose father was serving in the military and wouldn’t be home for Christmas.   “I’ll be brave….” he sang. It was more than touching.  It was gripping.

Be it known that beyond our manly exteriors, Grayson and I are suckers for this sort of thing.

The chatter in the truck stopped as we listened.   As we turned into a parking lot, I broke our silence.  “What are you thinking, Gray?”

“I’m thinking about that song….”.

Me too, buddy.   And I’m thinking about that song – or rather the idea behind the song – seven hours later.

I’m pretty accustom to the idea that men in uniform risk their lives.  A few nights ago I watched most of Black Hawk Down and as much as I wanted to shut it off and watch something less intense, it felt disrespectful, because this was – at least in essence – a true story.  I could shut off Black Hawk Down and watch Ice Road Truckers if I wanted to, but the guys in the story didn’t have the option.  They had to live it out.  As remarkable as it is that people sign up to do this, there’s another cost I hadn’t thought much about until today.

In the best case scenario, when a soldier goes off to war and comes back a year or two later, alive, healthy and ready to resume life, he has missed a major segment of his child’s life.  Parents will tell you that time flies by.  They were walking yesterday and they’ll be driving tomorrow.  Forever, when the family tells stories of “remember when….”, there is a chunk of time those soldiers will never remember, because they were never there.

2010 has been transformative for all seven of our kids.  Jackson finished high school and transitioned to the University.  Grayson became a teenager.  Zion’s grown in confidence and skill on the field and the court.  Zoe is far taller and somehow more beautiful than before.  Anna has become a shoe diva.  Mercy’s cuddly side has been discovered.  And Piper?  She’s grown from a tiny baby to a toddler who thinks she’s a triplet.  I have memories of each of these moments burned into my brain.

Some men and women have missed their moments and will rejoin families that have changed without them.  They will successfully take their place, but the price they will have paid is one I’m very aware of tonight.  It is remarkably selfless…and I can’t help but wonder if they ever regret paying the price.

We are free because of generations of men and women who have paid this price of missing years.  May God bless them for this tremendous sacrifice.



2 Responses

  1. The other aspect of this is that he has changed also. No matter where he went, it changed him, he will never be the same. I was in the service and I can often pick out former veterans, hard to describe what it is, but I can.
    Is it that they are taught to serve? Maybe.
    Is it because they have been given responsibilities far beyond their age and maturity? Maybe.
    Is it because they understand that, at any time, they may be asked to willingly lay down their life? Maybe.
    Is it because they have been taught to kill? Maybe.
    Is it because the stress is so incredible? Maybe.

    The military. There’s nothing like it in the civilian world.
    Unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to truly understand the sacrifice.

  2. Thank you for thinking of us military families. My husband was deployed when I had four kids at home. Last year, our oldest son was deployed and missed Christmas with us. Thankfully, he’s home now with his wife and new baby for their first “real” Christmas together.
    Thanks for your prayers; they mean so much.
    Merry Christmas!

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