When people first learn that I’m a military spouse and veteran, two questions invariably come to the conversation. The first question I’m asked is- “Where were you when 9/11 happened?” and “How do you feel about- *insert current president’s name or government policy that affects the military*?” I know that the third question people will start to ask will be- “How do you feel about the death of Osama Bin Laden?”
My training in the military was as a combat medic and later as a Public Affairs specialist, gives me the ability to word my answers carefully. I made a choice a long time ago to join the “Silent Ranks” of women who not only served our country, but chose to marry someone who continues to serve our country. I call myself a member of the “Silent Ranks” because I don’t often give voice to all the hardship, sacrifice and emotional turmoil I suffer as a female veteran or a military spouse. I choose my answers carefully because I have respect for the institution that provides my husband and I with so much, and at the same time asks so much from us. I understand the disconnect between what civilians perceive as my life’s work and what in reality is my life’s sacrifice. Like many military wives before me and those to come after me we learn to word our answers carefully because we understand the dangers of poorly chosen words or actions. We learn early on in our marriages that a distracted spouse could result in a dead spouse. We learn early on that we take care of our own, and asking a civilian to understand what we put up with or why we put up with it is like asking them to understand a language they don’t speak. We learn early on that small victories, that small accomplishments are to be celebrated because we may not have many of them and you have to find joy in the things that truly matter.
Today there are many people celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden. People have taken to the streets of New York, Washington DC and even military posts to wave the flag and chant USA, USA, USA. There is a sense of accomplishment in a job well done. But on the other side of this equation is those folks who for religious, spiritual or spiteful reasons believe we shouldn’t be celebrating the death of a human being… no matter how evil. That every life is sacred and the death of one is the death of our immortal soul. I’ve heard/read comments ranging from “Game Over” to “Let’s spend money on things that matter now.” to “Why are you celebrating it’s just going to make things worse- like the price of gas is going to increase.”
I actually woke up angry this morning because of some of the comments written by civilians. These same people who have ignored for the last 10 years the sacrifices of our military and military families are either celebrating or criticizing. These people who now seem entitled to have the opinion that we are godless war mongering heathens because we’re celebrating what to us is a mission accomplished after 10 years of sacrifice and heartache. These people who are celebrating the death of a terrorist they had no direct sacrifice in bringing to justice are celebrating like they pulled the trigger themselves. Sacrifices they don’t recognize because many of us endure silently for fear of putting our loved ones in jeopardy or offending the powers that be! I am angry that people’s first thoughts are about gas prices increasing or which president should take credit for this accomplishment. I was so angry that I wasn’t sure I could write this without using every swear word in my vocabulary. But then something miraculous happened… I started reading the comments of those of us directly affected by this death of a terrorist. I saw the tears of people who lost loved ones during 9/11, or lost family in combat, or sacrificed their physical and mental well-being for this cause. And I realized there is a nobility, an honor and a pride that no civilian will ever understand.
A lot of military families were commenting on the joy of seeing this mission accomplished, but also gave thought to those who are overseas and still in harm’s way. Osama Bin Laden has been many things to many people- but nothing more than what he has been to military families for the last 10 years. He has been the human face on an act of terrorism that took the life of 3,000 innocent civilian lives on 9/11. He has been the face thousands of service members have longed to see at the end of their scope, a goal to strive for in the end. He has been the human face of military children’s nightmares, grieving families anger, and many spouses torment at not having their spouse home for years at a time. His death signals the end of something big in the live of those he’s directly affected for so long. I truly love how practical we all are in realizing that even our victories come at a cost. We know that we’ve won a battle, but the war still rages on. We know that no president can take credit for what our military members have sacrificed. We know that our vigilance is unending. We know above all else that this victory comes at a high cost… and we’re willing to accept that cost. I know that my membership in the Silent Ranks has not come to an end, but it has seen a milestone worth celebrating.