While running some errands this morning I was eagerly waiting for an update from FOX News on Hurricane Matthew. Instead, I learned that Taliban insurgents had recently attacked cities in the Helmand Province of Southern Afghanistan. During those moments when thoughts of Hurricane Matthew destroying the people of Haiti, my mind drifted back to about this time 5 years ago. For most of 2011, I was constantly waiting for updates on the war in Afghanistan. I was glued to FOX News on television more than I like to admit. I would study the news people looking for clues on their faces. (I’m not sure what clues, but I certainly thought I might see one!). Every time I would hear about heavy fighting in a certain location I would run to my globe and find the place…then if I really became anxious I would start making phone calls…first to my husband, then to our brother in law, and any other friends who were military. I was a mess because our younger son, Will, was in Afghanistan with United States Marine Corps. I was scared to pieces and I did not handle myself the best. My heart and mind were so heavy with worry and anxiety while he was in the war. There were days when I literally felt like I was going to explode. The Bible specifically tells us in Matthew 6:27 “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”. I knew this is in my head, but my heart was having a hard time internalizing it if that makes sense. All I could really do was pray ! Not to make light of that time at all but a large Diet Coke with extra ice was helpful sometimes.
As a mother I had not wanted Will to join the Marine Corps. My husband was an Infantry Officer during the first Gulf War and was in Iraq when Will’s (biological) mother gave birth to him. I am certain it was bittersweet for Briant when our son wanted to more or less “follow in his footsteps”. Yes, my worst nightmare came true when Will said he too wanted to join the infantry. I tried everything to discourage him. I know that was a very unpatriotic attitude, but I was being selfish. I wanted our son to be OK, and I knew that if Will joined the Marines he would select Infantry and go directly to Afghanistan. My mind could not comprehend why he would want to do something that could kill him at the age of 19. My girl friends were all upset for me at the news that Will might be going in the Corps….in fact, one of my closest friends asked her grandfather , a World War II veteran why “Briant would let Will go in the USMC during a war”. Her grandfather simply said, “well, who else is going to go, if not young men like Will?” My own husband gave the most unselfish answer I had ever heard to that question. Briant said, “why not my son?” Wow! I was amazed at his strength.
I eventually settled down for a time anyway…however, each time a strange “government looking”car came around the curve into our neighborhood I held my breath waiting to see where it was going…hoping it wasn’t coming to our home. When the phone rang late at night I was actually happy because the Marines were able – via sat phone – to make phone calls to home occasionally. Will called us a few times, and I looked forward to and hoped for those calls all the time. One of the best calls we received was on Thanksgiving Day. Our son called and described what a nice day they were having. They had cooked a chicken that had been running around the forward operating base (FOB) that was home to a dozen Marines. It was a good addition to their delicious menu of MRE’s…ha ha. Those of you who have tried MRE’s know they are not too appetizing! The young Marines all sounded upbeat on that Thanksgiving Day, and then again on Christmas Day. The Lord was there with them even though we cannot understand the whole concept of war and especially sending our sons there to possibly make the ultimate sacrifice.
I can say that while he was gone I prayed constantly for his protection, as did so many others who know Will, and I believe the Lord has a definite purpose for Will. Later we learned just how “close” it could have been . Will is a man of few words. He does not talk about the war much at all. I know he has shared some experiences with his Dad, and also with his brother in law (another former Marine). Maybe someday he will talk more about his experiences, maybe not. They are his, and not ours to share.
While our son was in Afghanistan he left his squeaky clean white truck in our garage. Sometimes when I wanted to feel close to Will I would go out there and sit in his truck and listen to the radio. It had his sweatshirt neatly folded on the backseat, and everything looked as if he could walk up any minute and jump in the driver’s seat. You see, Will and I had taken many “rides in the truck” during his earlier years when he needed/wanted to talk “about something”….like maybe a girl : ) We usually started out by stopping by our local McDonald’s and getting a large Diet Coke. We would then ride for a while , just listening to the radio. Eventually, Will would start talking 🙂 I would listen and then share my motherly wisdom : ) until he was ready to drive back home. Oh I missed those truck rides while he was in the war! I prayed so much that we would have many more in the future, and sometimes the fear of him not coming back from Afghanistan would nearly overpower me. Going back to an earlier post about bonding…this showed me clearly that you definitely do not have to give birth to someone to bond with them as “mother and child.” I truly love Will the same as Robb, the son I gave birth to : )
Fast forward a bit….Will did indeed arrive home safely, and oh was this family happy!! We all went to Camp Lejeune to welcome the Marines, and it was amazing watching those 1000+ march in on that cold winter day. They were much thinner and paler than when we saw them leave the same base 7 months earlier. Somehow, they also looked more mature. I guess war “grows you up some”. I will always remember how much joy our family felt that afternoon. We actually drove his truck to Camp Lejeune to pick him up that day : )
It has been over four years since that cold day in March, and Will is now a student at a University a few hours from here. He is much wiser than many young men his age, and definitely heavier from being well fed and working out at the gym. Not much of a physical resemblance to that guy just coming from Afghanistan. We see him pretty often, and we text and talk on the phone of course.
One night last week he called home and we were chatting about this and that…I could tell he had something on his mind, and eventually he let it out. It had something to do with …you guessed it…”a girl”. So, I listened with a mother’s ears and gave my opinion when asked. After a bit, we both agreed that we just needed to “go for a ride in the truck”!