I went to the MilBlogger Convention in Arlington, VA this last weekend. I had been looking forward to it forever. In fact, I had wanted to attend last year, but it just wasn’t possible.
So me and Sarah
made plans to attend together: she as a panel speaker, and me as a milblogger/milblogger-groupie.
I was giddy with the excitement of meeting up in person with all these people I had met online. I was looking forward to a weekend of partying with like-minded people in our nation’s capital, punctuated with the occasional panel discussion. I joked to Sarah that it was like going to a Beanie Baby convention or something (for the record I don’t collect Beanie Babies), I thought there was just going to be gushing, and hugging and laughing. However, I was in for a surprise: I certainly didn’t expect to be as moved and inspired as I was.
It was a shot in the arm. Since my boyfriend/fiancé has returned, I have distanced myself from the Milblogging community. Not really on purpose, but just because once my soldier returned I wanted to celebrate his being home, act like we were a “normal” couple, doing normal couple things: like renting movies, eating popcorn, shopping for patio furniture, digging weeds in the backyard and drinking cold beers, all those things we had both yearned to do while he was away.
When he was deployed I knew everything that was going on, the names of operations, the areas of operations, how things were going in these areas. I would check the names of fallen soldiers and read about their lives. I read milblogs religiously. I sought out new connections, searching for degrees of separation. I lived and breathed the war on terror. And I was shocked, shocked I tell you, that other people didn’t share my fervor in following all things combat related.
I often complain that war is too distant from the general public. Because of the deployments, soldiers clock-in and then clock-out of the war. They aren’t in war mode the whole time. And consequently their families aren’t in war mode. I complain about the general public lacking the passion to fight this war, but I realize that I am just as much part of that problem. As soon as my boyfriend came back, I clocked-out.
My boyfriend’s unit is non-deployable. That doesn’t mean he won’t deploy, it just means that the unit as a whole won’t deploy. But it is also pretty unlikely that he will deploy. So for the next 2 and half years I can be pretty secure in the knowledge that he will be home. And that has led to some complacency on my part.
I had sort of resigned myself to this war being lost by America. That even if we won military battles, we could still lose the war, because in the eyes of the public this war is already lost. Since I was only reading the newspaper and watching TV, I hadn’t been getting “from the front” news, and I started to really think that no matter what we did, it didn’t really matter.
Over the weekend, I realized that if you aren’t a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. I had subconsciously become one of those people who lives as if we aren’t at war. And part of me thought that in 2 ½ years things might be over in Iraq and Afghanistan, and my fiancé won’t be deploying again. That this war doesn’t really directly affect me anymore. Over the weekend I realized that I hope my fiancé deploys again in 2 ½ years. Because if he doesn’t deploy, it means that we have given up.
The Soldiers Angels and other groups who selflessly devote their time and efforts to supporting soldiers and getting good news out almost shamed me. I feel like I should be doing more, although I know there is a balance to be struck: Enjoying the eye of the storm, the time when ones soldier is home and not thinking about when they will be gone again, while at the same time also remaining supportive of the cause. Clocking out, but still being a company person. I will attempt to find that balance over the next few months: enjoying the precious time that we will have starting our journey together as a married couple, but also remaining cognizant that there is a war still going on, even if we aren’t directly in the middle of it.
Note to my wonderful lurker Jean: I only saw 2 (!) soldiers in Dallas Fort Worth, and they were high-tailing it to a flight. I even went to Terminal B and loitered around the USO lounge, waiting for some poor unsuspecting soldier to come out so I could pounce on them. No such luck…