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Monday, 22nd of April 2024


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It Was Not In Vain

Rebecca Yarros

Because I've never been able to keep my mouth shut.
The war in Afghanistan cost this family years of our lives, and we're the lucky ones.

It was tearful goodbyes in crowded hangars, walking to the car so we wouldn't lose it in front of everyone, holding on just a few extra seconds in case this was our last kiss, our last hug.
It was watching my children say goodbye to their father a third and fourth time (and eventually a 5th), tears streaming down tiny cheeks that had already seen too much after Jason's deployments to Iraq.
It was holding my new daughter for months before my husband ever got to meet her.

It was being alone, stationed thousands of miles away from family during a deployment when a neurosurgeon told me he suspected my child had a brain tumor.

It was nights where I couldn't pretend it was okay that I slept with a laptop open on his pillow just in case he'd get the chance to skype.
It was not washing that pillow case until the night before he came home for midtour or good, just because I was terrified I'd lose the last thing that had his scent.

It was giving that same pillowcase to our toddler (Ironman) because the scent of his dad was the only thing that would stop the night terrors. (And eventually having to wash it, and hope enough of the scent remained)
It was years of my stomach dropping at the sound of the doorbell.
Years of googling to see if there had been a helicopter crash when Jason didn't call after a flight.
Phone calls saying he'd taken a bullet to his fuel tank, but landed safely, which triggered my own anxiety after he'd been seriously wounded in his first deployment.

It cost our kids years without their father. Years where he wasn't in the stand at hockey games. Years where they sacrificed because there was only one parent who couldn't be everywhere at once. Years where they didn't know if their dad would come home because he already bore scars from the deployment where he almost didn't make it out alive.
It cost us friends. Friends that Jason watched wheeled onto planes in their caskets. Friends I sat at memorials for days later""memorials attended by 80% spouses, who were both grieving and praying our guys wouldn't be next.
And those are just our moments as family, they don't even touch on what Jason went through.

YEARS of sacrifice that we signed up for, right? So for people to be posting that we "never should have been there..." Let me tell you this:

There are moments I may agree with you. Moments where I want my years back. The past few days have made me scream and sob that it was all in vain. Days where I have watched my husband deal with complicated emotions and shut off his social media because of the shitty things people say from behind the safety of a keyboard.

No veteran needs you posting that we shouldn't have been there, that the wounds, the PTSD, the funerals, the sacrifice, the loss didn't mean anything. Trust me, there's already an awareness in military households that you can't comprehend unless you've lived in one. And every single veteran (and their families because we may not serve, but we sure as hell clean the infection out of wounds left by shrapnel) has differing opinions.
But here's the thing: I don't want my years back.

I will never know if those twenty years we spent in Afghanistan suppressed another attack on the US. I will never know if my children are safer because of their dad's sacrifice.

I do know that because of those twenty years, little girls in Afghanistan were taught to read. They were allowed to go to school""a first for many. Does it eviscerate me that those same little girls may now be hunted down by the Taliban? Of course, but Jason's sacrifice wasn't in vain. Those girls can read. They will know that there is a bigger world waiting for them if they can get out. They have had twenty years because our troops gave it to them.
Should we do all that we can to grant emergency visas and take refugees? Absolutely. Is this whole situation a heartbreaking catastrophe? You bet. Should we be doing everything possible to get our interpreters and other at-risk Afghan people out? YES.
Do you have the right to say whatever you want about it? Hell yes. My husband, brother, father, mother, cousins, and grandfathers fought for you to have the right to say whatever you please. The first amendment isn't just a line on a piece of paper, it's a constant, never-ending purchase that's paid for with the blood of the US Military.

One day we'll have to dissect what happened, not just over the last few weeks, but the last twenty years. I'm just not sure military families like ours are ready for civilians with zero skin in this game to play armchair general like they had the slightest clue what the hell actually happened over there. Even I only know what my husband has told me from what he'd seen while serving in Afghanistan. (Also, I'm absolutely a civilian, I just didn't know how to fit that in that sentence...)
So say what you want, but remember who's reading it. We have lost more soldiers to suicide than combat since these wars began (NPR). Don't be the reason that rate rises. Don't make someone's sacrifice seem trivial or worthless. There are so many people hurting today, please don't be the person to stick the knife a little deeper.

And if you're a veteran struggling, please reach out.
The military crisis line is at 01-800-273-8255.

As for me, I'm going to go hug my vet and pray for the safety of both the soldiers on the ground and the civilians fleeing tyranny. You do you.

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