When 9/11 happened H and I had been married all of three days. The 11th was his first day at work and he came home late that night to pack up his gear, just in case. I knew what I had signed up for as a military wife, but so soon? I could not fathom what was running through his mind at that point.
Not exactly words a young wife wants to hear. We had been through long separations before. Most of our dating relationship was spent apart. He came home six months later. We were both exceptionally lucky. It was hard for both of us to deal with the aftermath of him coming home from that war. Yet,s we survived it coming out stronger. I still have no idea what it was really like for him. I never will.
I grew up in a house with a Vietnam vet. My grandfathers both serving in wars. Great uncles as well. War was not something that wasn't discussed. In fact, at the age of fifteen, when all I wanted to do was spend my spring break hanging out with my friends, my father told me to sit down with him. He wanted to watch a movie with me. A war movie. Again? I sighed. I felt like a veteran of war movies at this point between him and my grandfather. Platoon, Bridge Over River Kwai, Hamburger Hill, Patton, Stalag 17, Full Metal Jacket, The Best Years of Our Lives. You name it. I had probably seen it at least once. What was going to be so different this time around?
We watched 'Apocalypse Now'. My father explained that this was what it was like for him while in Vietnam. It was the closest he could explain to me about what he went through. If you have seen this film you know it goes beyond any stories that he could have originally supplied me. There was no eating tubs of ice cream on ship because it was all going to melt if you didn't eat it at once. No endless supplies of canned Spam or Corned Beef. No slang words in Vietnamese. Dingwa means telephone. This was no 'China Beach'. No, this seemed real. This was deeply personal and for a man who doesn't get deeply personal more than once in a decade I had better sit tight and watch this film from beginning to end.
I sat wide-eyed as I watched it with him. It's now one of my favorite films. I looked upon my father in a different way when it was all over. I was in awe of him. To be seventeen and deal with this stuff. No boys in my history class in high school seemed quite on that level of maturity or even risk or chance. I wanted to know more. Yet, I was too afraid to ask. I knew I could never understand or even come close to comprehending what he had been through in his two tours of Vietnam as part of the Brown Water Navy.
I am exceptionally proud of both these men. They had vastly different experiences in each of their wars. One was lauded when he came home, the other not even close. They are both veterans and I honor them today and every day for the service and sacrifices they have made on our behalf.
Happy Veterans Day. I love you and I am proud of you.