What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "the face of war?" If someone asked you to describe the face of war, what would you say? Would you talk about the soldier? Airman? Marine? Sailor? Would you tell about the long months away from home? The danger? The baking heat while wearing 70+ pounds of gear? The long hours? Days? Weeks? Or would you think about the painting by Salvador Dalí?
If someone not connected with our military was asked to describe the face of war, what do you think he would say? Would he understand? Or would it look more like Modern Warfare?
The face of war from the soldier's viewpoint has been reported, to a point. It should be front page news everyday. It should be on the news every night. But it is not.
Most Americans have seen war movies. Some of them glamorize war, the war hero, the cause. Most of us have either played or watch someone play Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Medal of Honor, Homefront, Battle Bad Company, etc. Have movies and video games desensitized the nation to the harsh realities of war? Have we forgotten the impact on our military? On the men, women, children and families left behind?
No one but a solder, marine, airman, or sailor truly knows the horror of actually being on the front line, living with the terror, or seeing a friend die, get blown up, get shot, and/or maimed.
But what about those left behind? What about the Moms, Dads, girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands, and children? What about this face of war that goes largely unnoticed as we bustle around in our daily lives?
Did you know the woman who honked wildly at the stopped car in front of her was rushing home so as not to miss her deployed son signing on to facebook - that coveted "green dot?" Did you know the man in line at the grocery store was broken hearted and thinking about the daughter he just dropped off at the airport to return to Afghanistan after her R&R? Did you know the child who answered his teacher back and was sent to the principal's office spent the night before sitting in his bed crying for his Daddy to whom he has not spoken since he left for the war four weeks prior?
Most Americans turn on the news at night and see another attack on an American outpost in Afghanistan and think, "I thought we all came home?" Imagine how that same news story affects the military families. The Mom who sits at the table, hand to her mouth, silently praying her boy was not involved. She knows that he was not physically injured or she would have gotten that God awful phone call, but was he there? Did he have to tend to a friend and watch as he lay there waiting for the medivac? Did he call for the medivac himself? Does he blame himself for the battle buddies who were lost?
How many military families have had to comfort a friend who received the most horrifying phone call ever? Stay behind when that friend rushed to be by her hero's side? Or worse, ran to a friend's house after she heard that knock on the door? How many military families have attended wakes or funerals for those brave men and women?
How many children have sat alone on the playground worrying because Daddy had not called in weeks? How many of those children worry daily that Daddy will never again toss a ball in the front yard? Or be there to dance with his baby girl at her wedding? How many husbands (or wives) have had to sit beside her child's bed in the middle of the night because he awoke screaming that mommy (or daddy) was never returning from the war?
How many have dried the tears and put on a brave face when behind it sits a woman/man worried that the beloved son, daughter, husband, wife may never return?
How many have had to deal with the insensitivities of the general public who do not understand the worry of having someone deployed, the honor of having a loved one who serves, or the horror of physical injury, PTSD, TBI?
How many have walked the halls at Walter Reed, Ft. Sam (BAMC), etc. and seen all of the amputees, quadriplegics, burn victims, gun shot wounds, etc?
How many have sat beside the bedside of a loved one in one of those hospitals praying for him to wake up? Knowing that only a week or two ago he was healthy, strong and vibrant but due to his love for his country, he is now broken and fighting for his life?
How many have answered the phone to be told that her loved one has been injured and is in a hospital in Kandahar fighting for his life?
And worse.... how many have opened the door to see a uniformed member of the military standing there?
How many have put aside everything and left to help a loved one heal only to find himself out of work, homeless, alone when he returned?
How many have returned from the hospital and tried to pick up the pieces of her life after months of attending to an injured soldier?
How many have calmed the fears of a loved one suffering from PTSD after returning from a war zone?
This is the daily life led by husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, girlfriends and boyfriends of the brave men and women of the military. Our military represent less than 1% of all Americans. These families, the select few, go on day-by-day knowing that our sons, daughters, wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, are in mortal danger every minute of every day and there is nothing we can do about but pray. And prayer does not keep them out of harm's way, as those of us who have spent months in the hospital know.
Less than 1% of the public serves. Only about half of the military has been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Imagine the miniscule percentage of the American public that reflects those who are injured and the families affected. It is estimated that 320,000 have suffered TBI and/or PTSD in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have approximately 45,000 men and women who have been physically injured. Those families spent hours each day, and sometimes entire days sitting at home for the first week, and then in the hospital waiting on word that he/she will live, can be healed.
Every American should understand what our military does, and how it affects not only our military, but those left behind.