It’s Father’s Day. This is obviously not an Afghan holiday. It is Sunday, June 17, 2007. The internet has been down on the firebase for several days, and today I got to check my email for the first time in awhile. It moved really slowly, though… I could only answer a couple of them before my time was up. We also got mail for the second time in a month. There was still joy at re-connection… to know that I am still connected with the folks back home means the world to me, and to my compatriots. This will not be posted until tomorrow night at the earliest, but that’s the way it goes.
Today is a day for me to think of my father, who passed away twenty years ago, and to think of my children. I thank God for my children, for taking care of them, and for the people in their lives who care so much about them and take such good care of them. I am grateful, and I am honored to be their father. I miss them so very much. As hot as it is here, as much as we’ve been shot at, the lack of air-conditioning, the various and sundry privations are no match for the single greatest pain of this deployment… how much I miss my kids.
I’ve been so blessed to have gotten to hear news about them, how they are doing… and to be able to picture them in my mind’s eye as they have done their living in my absence. I’ve been able to picture my oldest daughter, my firstborn, placing first in one of her Irish dances at a Feis. This is an achievement she’s been working towards for years. I’m so proud for her. I’ve been able to picture my oldest son playing baseball and making First Honors at school for the first time. He’s getting to be a better student, making use of his wonderful mind. I’ve been able to picture my younger daughter swimming without her flotation device and chiding a boy her age for trying to impress her while he still wore his. She is so perceptive and funny. I’ve been able to picture my youngest son enjoying feeling the ocean waves for the first time, and clinging to a ladder while pushing his older sister back down with his other hand. He’s so hilarious and such a little man.
I’ve been blessed. I have no right to have been so blessed, but I am. My eyes are welling with emotion for them right now… not one emotion, but so many. I feel like my chest is going to explode.
I miss them so much.
A driving force in my sanity is being secure in the knowledge that right this minute, I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am here for a reason, and nothing that can be done, said, written, or screamed can dissuade me from that knowledge. The pain has a purpose, too. Perhaps it is so that I can be more grateful for the blessings that I have. Perhaps it is because freedom isn’t free. A price has to be paid, and that price isn’t always life, limb, or blood. Sometimes it is time spent away, pain felt in the heart, sacrifices made not only by those who are here, but by those who are there. My children miss me, too. They suffer my absence, too. This is a Father’s Day that they will never have with their dad. They are buying freedom, too. They are little heroes, and almost nobody knows it.
I am here as much for them as for any other reason. There are many reasons why I volunteered to do this thing, but certainly they are a big part of it. I want for them to live in a world that doesn’t include watching events like those of 9/11. I want for them to live in freedom and liberty. I want for my sons and daughters to live long and happy lives without having to experience war. My oldest son is a young warrior; I recognize the signs of a young man’s mind with a warrior spirit inside. I was one once. Only a few years from now he will be of military age. I want for the world to have settled down by then. I don’t know about my youngest, because he is still far too young, still a baby, really. I am doing this for them, so that hopefully they won’t have to.
Call me a dreamer. Call me an idealist. I don’t care. All I can do is what I can do, but I will do what I can. I can’t stop the world from spinning, and I can’t single-handedly stop Osama or Al Qaeda. But I can do my little part. Hopefully it will make a little bit of a difference. A lot of little differences add up to a big difference.
There are a lot of thoughts, feelings and emotions that go into what I am doing in Afghanistan. I do have hope for this country and its people. I do feel for the children of Afghanistan… I see my own when I see them… and I do have hope that by freeing the minds of these people and making a difference in their lives that we can make ourselves and our children safer. But today is the day for my thoughts, feelings, and emotions about my children. There are more than I can possibly express, but a few of them are here. They are here primarily so that I can re-experience what I feel right now when I read what I have written years from now, and so that perhaps some of my friends can get a sense of what I think about on such a day in Afghanistan.
The sky at night here is a wondrous thing. The stars are so beautiful, and there are so many of them. The nights here are clear and dark, and the sky is littered with so many stars that it’s incredible. When the moon was full, it was nearly blinding in its brilliance. The moon has not made an appearance for a couple of weeks… it was so strange; one night the moon was nearly full, brightly illuminating the landscape with it’s glow, the next it was gone. The last couple of nights there has been a sliver of moon just sinking towards the western horizon after the sun has gone down.
This is the same sky that hangs above my children at night. I am 7000 miles away from them, but the same sky and the same moon look down on them at night. We are not so very far away, I think. But I cannot see them whenever I want. I cannot hold them in my arms, cannot kiss the soft skin of their faces. It will be months until I do. I can’t wait.
What I can do is rejoice in the knowledge that they are alive and well. I rejoice in the fact that they are well cared-for and they are bathed in love. I rejoice in their young lives. I can respect the sacrifice that they are making, giving their father for their country; a choice that they did not make, but the results of which they bear. Today is Father’s Day, and I’m so very honored to be one.
There are a lot of deployed fathers out there tonight. I wish each and every one of them a Happy Father’s Day and a safe return to their children. I wish each of the children to have their parent home safe and soon.
I’m going to call my children now. Thank God for my kids, and thank God for cell phones.
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