November 9, 2013
My husband and I have taken a lot of walks together. We’ve walked the canyons of Utah and the valleys of East Africa, the mountains of Argentina and the paths of Central Park. My walk down the aisle to marry him was the happiest. But throughout his eight years of service for the United States Army Special Forces, he has also taken a lot of walks without me.
He has patrolled, jumped, led, and followed. He walks away from me, and onto those planes with one thing in mind: to make the world a little bit safer for all of us. He does it not out of ego, but out of profound humility. As the poet Richard Watson Gilder wrote, "Better than honor and glory and history’s iron pen, / Was the thought of duty done and the love of his fellow-men." My husband has come home safely to me each time. And each time I catch that first glimpse of him on the airstrip when he returns, I’m not walking—I’m sprinting. Those homecomings, for those of us lucky enough to experience them, are scenes of manic happiness, of promises made and kept. But we all take silent note of the families who aren’t there.
After the initial euphoria of homecoming, after the rucks are unloaded and the award ceremonies concluded, the weeks and months that follow can be difficult. The rocky reality of what has transpired rubs like a blister and hardens like a scar. Occasionally, our gratitude for my husband’s safety casts a shadow that feels too much like guilt. Days pass when the war is not mentioned on the news. The world moves on, while service members and their loved ones struggle to make sense of our experiences. Often, we feel we must do more. We focus on the widow and children of a comrade lost, or a neighbor gearing up for his next surgery, with an urgency that we know we can’t ever fully satisfy. There is literally not enough we can do, but trying is a welcome outlet.
On this Veteran’s Day, I’ll be watching the parade in New York City. My husband won’t be with me; he’s on domestic active orders. But his mother and I will feel privileged to join a very special group of spectators: recipients and supporters of the Green Beret Foundation. Our family found GBF through our Special Forces community, after an especially horrific attack that left many injured, and my husband’s team medic dead. We asked frantic questions: "What can we do?" "What do they need?" "How can we help?" And a respected officer pointed us toward the Green Beret Foundation. Since then, through GBF, we work to ease the burden and to smooth the path for our Special Forces soldiers and their families.
The Green Beret Foundation provides unconventional resources to facilitate the special needs of our wounded, ill and injured. It imparts unique support to the Special Forces community in order to strengthen readiness and uphold Green Beret traditions and values. Help can take many forms: yoga and acupuncture; support groups; adaptive equipment for homes of soldiers dealing with injuries; something to read in the hospital; scholarships to deserving children. GBF is the neighbor who drops off a homemade dinner, multiplied by thousands. They are our answer to the nagging but incredibly important question: "What can we do?"
My husband and many of his fellow soldiers will cringe at the word "hero." But we are all lucky that there are heroes willing to answer the call of our country. This is not the journey I ever dreamt I’d be on, but I learn with every step, and I am grateful to be walking this road with him and with so many other military families. This Veteran’s Day, we invite others to action as well.
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