Monday, October 03, 2005

Hoping There's Gain with the Pain

Soldiering for a year in combat is much more than risking one's life and health. And yet most grimace when presented with the task not because of this risk, but because of the unavoidable and irrecoverable loss of a year with our families. To be sure, what we lose is considerably less than what our families lose. I lose being able to experience with my son the seventh year of his life. His first year playing baseball--something I treasure with my own father--is reduced to a few digital pictures, emails, and phone conversations. I am certainly grateful to my wife, the coaches, and other parents who supported our son. But what does my son miss? How do I quantify my wife's sacrifice as a single parent for a year and the stress she experiences from this as well as her anxiety for my safety? What bad habits will my son develop because the father's influence he grew to rely on is now gone--if only for a year? How does one calculate the loss of wrestling, playing, reading, praying, cleaning, studying, and arguing together? I miss America--its richly diverse culture, topography, industry, and heritage. I miss the freedom to travel where I choose, eat what I want, and purchase, invest, build, and discover what I may. But I miss nothing more than my own family: my wife and our two sons.

After ten years of redefining myself as a husband and father I feel somewhat disoriented. I have to remember that a separation this long is not natural--and as with most things unnatural--one should expect negative consequences, unless preventative measures are in place. My family approached this deployment with the hope of surviving the deployment--hoping (against odds) our relationship would not be worn and damaged. As the months passed we were surprised to learn that the deployment--in many ways at least--has actually brought us closer together. It has helped clarify the complementary nature of our marriage. It has reinforced our priorities. It has given us time to better understand who we are as individuals. It has given us time to think about these things--something the hustle and bustle of the popular American lifestyle doesn't allow. My ministry to soldiers keeps me very busy, but I find quite moments of the day and late night to pray and evaluate life. When I am waiting in a line, for a meeting to start (or a meeting to end), visiting with soldiers I will pull out my pocket PC and look at pictures of my family. These that I've attached to this post are some of my recent favorites of Dawn.

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