This is the week I lose a little sleep. My mind wanders to a date, a time and a different place in my life. Seven years ago, everything changed, June 3, 2007. It’s a sad day I’ll never forget, and it’s why during Memorial Day those around me will notice that I give an extra pause, and shed a few more tears.
I was a military wife. When I mention to people I’m an ex-Army wife, I usually get the brush off. I suddenly don’t count, but even during the end of my marriage, my ex still recognized the sacrifices I made to my country. Some reading this column might be uncomfortable with that thought. But we were the wives that stood by in silence, the wives who shed tears, often alone, as we watched our men walk away into war.
When he left for war in many ways he was a boy, when he came home he was a man who was far different than the person I knew. The high school sweetheart was gone and the emotional scars he carried with him caused us to grow farther apart. But he came home.
I was the wife who stood by her best friend the day she received the news. I was the wife who flew out in that instant and stood silently as she realized the soldier she said goodbye to a year before would not return. I was the wife who stood by as the plane unloaded a box in the middle of a rain storm and several stood around to welcome him home.
I was the wife who stood by as she placed a hand on the coffin and whispered her goodbyes. I was the wife who stood next to her as only hundreds watched a flag folded and placed in her lap. I was the wife who remained with a few others to watch the casket lowered into the ground. I was the watcher to a painful testimony of the reality of war.
I realize the fact that our freedoms stand on the blood of those who gave everything they had. The Memorial Day ceremony at Fort Peck this year was a struggle. While I put on my professional face to get my story, I was a sea of emotions underneath. Former Navy Seal Robert O’Neill explained that he was there to humanize the men of war and the meaning of Memorial Day. He explained losing friends and comrades through various deployments, his face somber at moments.
The speaker who really struck a chord with me was Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn. He spoke of not only remembering the fallen soldiers, but remembering the families. I will always remember my best friend I stood by Syreeta Akin, her husband Sgt. James Akin and his father, who was the last one to remain in the immediate family, as we buried James' mother nine months prior. Sgt. Akin was intelligent, passionate and would do anything for his friends. Although over the last few years I drifted apart from my closest friend, a war widow at 23, we still manage to keep in touch. She was able to move on and just graduated with her master’s in business.
Life goes on for those of us who remain. So to those who lost friends, family and comrades in arms, Memorial Day is every day. We continue on, we march forward, and we realize why we are able to go on and march forward. Freedom comes with great sacrifice.