Nagoonberry

This world. This place. This life.

War and peace: it matters when you know someone

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He’s home! Everybody exhale. Thank you all for your love and support through this deployment. It really did make all the difference to me.

—Bridget Rainey, Twinisms

Earlier this week, Dallas Rainey came home from Afghanistan. I had been holding my breath. Headlines that announced the deaths of active military members sent waves of anxiety over me. Every few months, I would ask Bridget, “Tell me again—when is he coming home?”

I don’t know Dallas and Bridget all that well. The distance between Girdwood and Anchorage is part of that, and, too often, I suck at IRL friendships.

Nevertheless, my (mostly online) friendship with the Raineys has been a real gift to me. Bridget’s blog often gives Liesl and me a much needed laugh, and knowing them has given me an eye-opening glimpse into military life.

It shocks Bridget that hers is the only military family I’ve ever known. She told me back in May, “You need to blog about that.” And this is that blog post.

Why has it taken me this long to write this post?  Procrastination, sure.  Writer’s block, definitely.

But the deeper reason was a kind of superstitious fear. You see, I knew that I wanted to write about how it feels to know someone deployed in Afghanistan. I knew I wanted to talk about the insidious fear, the underlying anxiety that comes with even hearing the word “Afghanistan.”  And I was afraid that, somehow, that if I wrote about it, something bad might happen.

You see, Dallas occupies a tender spot in my heart.

One Sunday a while back, I was sitting in the back row in church. I was having a bad day. Dallas squeezed into the pew next to me, and we agreed to share a hymnal—after he made me promise not to laugh at his singing.  “Bridget always laughs at my singing,” he said.

When we stood to sing, Dallas launched in with gusto.  I couldn’t keep my promise. I couldn’t stop giggling.

And Dallas laughed with me. It changed a bad day into a good one.

Even now, thinking about it makes me smile. To this day, I call him “my favorite singer.”

There’s something that changes when your favorite singer is stationed in Afghanistan. When it’s not just some massive number of nameless, faceless troops.  How do you care about 14,000 strangers?

Suddenly it matters. It matters when they’re expected home. The timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan matters. Peace becomes, not a vague, theoretical value, but the very practical matter of keeping someone you care about out of harm’s way.

This summer, Bridget said, “We are the 1%.  Military families make up less than one percent of the population.”

With those numbers, the odds are good that few of us know military families personally.

War drags on when peace is a vague hope, a cause to which too few are committed. War ends when enough people say, “Bring my loved ones home.”

Welcome home, Dallas. Thank you for everything you and Bridget are teaching me about military life. Thanks for helping me learn to value the gifts, skills and talents of military families. Thanks for making me smile, every time I think about you singing.

I’m so glad you’re home safe.

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4 thoughts on “War and peace: it matters when you know someone

  1. Thank you for writing this. (Finally!) I’m glad we have been able to bring the reality of mikitarty life home to you. I hope you know how much your friendship, intelligence, and spirit have brought to my life.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. You captured my feelings incredibly well.

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