They do so little sometimes.
One of them missed the first cookout of the summer. It was a unseasonably warm day, perfect for setting up the kiddie pool and grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. He wasn’t there, so she blew bubbles for the kids and got out the sidewalk chalk so they could draw stick figures of Mom and Dad together. She wondered how they could draw it from memory.
One missed church on Sunday. The pew had been vacant for months. The pastor mentioned something about it in his service. A few people nodded, as if they were sure it was only temporary.
One couldn’t be there for his father after the heart attack. He didn’t visit him in the hospital or send flowers to his room. While the rest of the family gathered together, he was noticeably absent.
One missed her wedding anniversary. She tried to phone her husband, but the signal was too fuzzy and broken. He spent a night at home, sitting on the couch in silence. She spent it clinging to his dusty picture and dreaming about the date night they would have had.
One wasn’t there for his little girl’s birthday. It was something his wife never pictured him missing. They had a small party for her, and gave her a card with “Daddy” scribbled at the bottom. The girl knows he didn’t sign it. She hasn’t seen her father for six months. She still cries for him at bedtime.
One didn’t get a honeymoon after his wedding. He hasn’t spent a full week with his bride. She clings to the dirty shirt he left on the floor because it still smells a little like him. She is starting to forget the face of the man she married. Sometimes she looks at her wedding ring just to remind herself that she didn’t imagine that day.
One didn’t call when it was most needed. One didn’t get online after a ominous day in the news. One missed the family reunion. One wasn’t there for their daughter’s graduation. One missed their son’s birth.
And we should thank every one of the ones who aren’t there. We should thank them for all the things that they aren’t doing. To serve our country and keep us all safe, they are giving up the precious, priceless moments in life.
Sometimes it isn’t about what they’re going through over there, but what they’re missing here. Life does not pause for deployment. Time rushes forward.
One by one, they miss these moments for us. By serving, they give us these pieces of their hearts.