Article by Korin Lopez, Army Spouse
As we lined up in the Salt Lake terminal waiting to board our small airplane to Medford, I noticed a young soldier standing in line also waiting to board. I smiled to myself as I saw many people pass and smile as they acknowledged this young soldier. I quickly glanced at her uniform and thought she was either in training or more likely recently graduated. Her uniform showed the rank of Private and her shoulder lacked a Unit patch. We boarded our plane and my seat assignment was directly in front of her. My suspicion was confirmed as I listened to her and her seatmate visit. She had just graduated her training and was coming home for leave before reporting to her first duty station. I smiled to myself as I listened to the man next to her tell of his daughter’s days in the Army. The young soldier chimed in every now and then and shared bits and pieces of her experiences while training. As they sat visiting the flight attendant stopped by the young soldier’s seat and asked if she would like to move up to first class, the soldier quickly answered that she would love to move up to first class. I felt a sting in my heart over the invitation that she had received.
I sat in my seat pondering why my heart hurt over this soldier’s invitation to move up, and than I glanced around at my children and I had my answer. I applaud this young lady’s desire to serve our country, and I am sure she will go on to do great things during her service. But I wanted to shout, “What about my little family? Do you not know the sacrifice and commitment we have given to our country? Do you not know that their dad is in Afghanistan?” I then realized that of course they did not know all of this.
We are the silent ones. We do not wear the uniform to signify our commitment; we do not go off to foreign lands to defend our freedoms. Our sacrifice is different. We spend our holidays, ball games, birthdays, and every other celebration with the absence of our soldier. We unplug toilets, change tires, and attend school functions alone. Our children smile for the camera to be able to show their accomplishments to their dad as he misses yet another milestone.
No we do not go off to foreign lands to show our commitment and we do not bear the battle wounds that our soldiers bear, but we do carry the burden of those battle wounds. We send our brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers away and we never really know who we will have when they return. We appreciate the celebration that awaits our soldiers when they return, but where is the fanfare as we shoulder the burden of the unseen wounds? We soothe them at night during their nightmares and than hold our heads high as they are congratulated and celebrated on a job well done.
I am only aware of all this when I leave the cocoon of my military community. Safely tucked in my military community we know who the silent unsung are, and there they are smiled at and acknowledged the same way the young soldier in the airport was today.