When the media interviewed my son Ben on his appointment in 1993 to the United States Air Force Academy he fielded a question about what he would do if the country went to war. His answer was that he would cross that bridge when he came to it.
Sadly, he did have to cross that bridge and go to Iraq and Afghanistan. Fighting for your country is really more about fighting for family, which in the final analysis, is the best expression of the notion of country.
When our son went to war, we went to war with him in so many ways. The brief electronic communications, the care packages and the exchange of letters press the point of our family unity in the face of the greatest danger.
Benís first deployment to Iraq was the most difficult for the family because it was the first. We had to try to get used to something that you really cannot get used to.
ďSunday, 28 January, 2007, 08:57 a.m.: Hey Dad. How are you doing? Iím doing fine. Not much going on. Sit around a lot so donít worry. So whatís going on over there in the world? Ö OK. Got to get back to work. Just wanted you to know Iím all right.Ē
The tension and the worry were compounded by the images of the war on CNN. Watching cable and network news in an effort to know latest news became a daily ritual for the family.
ďSaturday, 03 February, 2007 3:28 p.m.: Hey Dad. Iím okay. I know thereís a lot of stuff in the news lately. This place is heating up a little of late. Can you do me a favor? Please donít call Reina [wife] if you hear about a helicopter going down. I donít want her to worry. I know you are just trying to find out information. If something happens to me, you and her and my mom will be the first oneís they will call Ö So, unless you hear something from the Air Force, Iím okay. Without getting into details, weíve had a rough couple of weeks here trying to do our jobs. AnywayÖ I hope you guys are doing great. Iíll see you when I get back.Ē
The first week of February was Superbowl weekend and the family wanted to know if the game was available in Iraq. The idea was to find a momentary connection with a loved one on the warfront.
ďSaturday, 03 February, 2007, 4:02 p.m.: Hey Dad. The [Superbowl] game comes on [at] 0100 here in the morning Ö Hopefully Iíll get to watch the game. Iíve missed most of them Ö I love you and miss you.Ē
Today, as I think about the things that have brought us to this Fourth of July, I cannot help but be optimistic about the future because of where we have been. It took two costly wars and the bottom falling out of the economy to create the greatest recession since the Great Depression.
Yet, the 2012 celebration of Americanís independence manifests the constant undercurrent of American freedom and optimism that looks to the future for a better world. That world is being bought and paid for by the blood of American young men and women in harmís way.
Our family like so many others has shared the difficult moments in war and economic stress. The sacrifice has a price that has been paid for, for our celebration this July 4, 2012.