Wednesday, June 9, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #13 Reflections on Memorial Day from a Marine Wife.

I am scanning the Internet today between work meetings, aimlessly as I often do during the rare spare moments I have to take a sip of my Sugarless Red Bull and to log a few delicious moments of conversation with a coworker. Switching between Facebook and CNN, my eye catches two different articles. The first, a question posed by a friend that asks if we [the wives of United States Marines] knew what we were getting into when we married. The second, a breaking news article that announces ten troops, seven American, were killed yesterday outside of Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

To the first, I lean my head quizzically to the side and start to ponder; to the second, I know instinctively that the majority of those seven are Marines. I await an announcement of the names; I know once the DOD makes them available, (available meaning the families have been notified), the Support our Marines group will ask for a moment of silence for the fallen warriors.

My brain jumps back and forth between the two. Soon, their mysterious identity will no longer be a pixilated jumble of words on a computer screen. To some of us, they will become smiling faces, husbands holding their wives, their mothers and their daughters.

I find myself falling deep inside, wishing everyone would stop for a moment and pay tribute, but as I scan the comments beneath the CNN article I see that most pay homage to a political diatribe of this party or that. I wonder if we (as a culture) have become so desensitized and so tired that we even care?

Seven young men gave the ultimate sacrifice yesterday; there is a time and a place for political commentary and isn’t beneath their name.

Did we know what we were getting into when we married our Marines?

That question cannot be easily answered.

I write a blog that tries to take a jocular angle on the life of being married to a United States Marine. Everyone chooses a different angle to cope with life; I choose humor while others may be serious or analytical, thoughtful, sullen, optimistic, intense, dreamy, ambitious, removed, independent, co-dependant, informative or a variation of the above.

I write stories- that’s what I do. My personal reflections are often hidden beneath a self-deprecating joke or a constructed caricature of my personality. I once read that true authors open their veins and bleed ink onto pages; I attempt this only with a safe hint of fiction. In truth, I find blogs and personal opinion and the suggestion that people read the minutia of any given individual’s day to serve only exceptionally narcissistic purposes. I have a desire to share but only in carefully measured amounts, a spoonful of sugar here and a drop of lemon juice over there. In a world of web voyeurs, I try to keep virtual Peeping Toms at bay.

But today, something clicks in me. Today does not seem a day to hide behind carefully constructed phrases. I am the wife of a United States Marine.

Scratch that: I am the PROUD wife of a United States Marine.

Seven of his brothers died today. Did he know them personally? Most likely not, but they are still his brothers. When I see photographs of their beaming faces and messages posted days before that read: “Come home soon!” I feel an icy numbness spread over my body.

This can’t be real, I think. Always and every time the same phrase repeats in my head: this can’t be real.

Did we know what we were getting in to when we married our Marines?

Did we? Does anyone? Ever?

Must this question necessitate a negative answer?

You see, I didn’t marry ‘just a Marine,’ I married my best friend. My best friend is not a pixilated jumble of words on a computer screen; my best friend is so much more. My Marine is bundle of personality; he is absolutely brilliant, and I don’t state this as an observation, I state it as fact. I married one of the best people to ever inhabit this great country of ours, one who walks and talks with the character of a true gentleman and scholar.

I spent Memorial Day with my husband in a foreign land. While America honored its veterans of wars past and our current Marines, Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors, I had the pleasure of lazing away the day with my very own special superhero. In my head, I started to think of all the questions and concerns that have swirled about me the past few months, some of my own invention and those that have been casually tossed (or forcefully thrown) at me by others.

I listen to the political debates, people raging on both sides of the fence: ‘Send our soldiers home!’ they cry. ‘Send more soldiers in!’ others protest. I’ve heard that the military trains nothing but killers; I’ve heard that they are warriors of freedom. I’ve even been called a hypocrite by an individual who claimed to support the troops by blasting communist propaganda while wearing the Marine Dress Blues in an entertainment act.

Some of us [spouses] remain silent. Others get in heated arguments with the other side. And some of us choose to throw a milky joke into the expanse to diffuse a palate of hot peppered air.

But on this Memorial Day and the days following, I chose instead to think of what I “got myself into when I married my Marine.”

When I married my Marine, I came to understand the true definition of what it means to truly love and support another. Five, ten years from now, if my husband is retired, active, a teacher, a lawyer, a janitor or the President of the United States, I will love him with a tenacious ferocity. The fact that he is a Marine has very little to do with the amount to which I love him or even the very reason why I fell in love. In fact, I would be remiss if I did not admit that I’ve had one too many wailing sessions where I shed enough tears to fill up a small aquarium; I often have trouble rectifying in my head why a man of his exceptional intelligence, a man who could easily be studying for his PhD or cutting deals on Wall Street would place himself in such a dangerous position. And then I quickly realize that I sound like those who do not understand; it has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with character. If he has an ample supply of brains, his character can only exceed this gift. I am not so perfect.

I’m certain he still knows something I don’t, and even though I may not always agree with where his profession of choice takes him, the fact that he is an individual of such high caliber and morals will always garner my support.

When I married my Marine, I learned to never take anything for granted: not a day, not a solitary moment, a squeezed hand, a kiss or a supportive hug. My friendships have, (at least in my mind) become deeper. The people in my life mean more to me now than a simple group of ‘friends’ to share superficial stories and a beer after work. I view relationships in a different light, and though I’ve always thought that I’ve been one to scratch much deeper than surface with people, now I’m giving them all figurative root canals. I’m no longer satisfied with the status quo, a passing shrug or a selfish, “well, I’ll check on them later.” Now, nothing should or will be taken for granted. I want them all to know how much they mean, how important they are in this world.

Occasionally, I have but two three minutes to chat with my husband through email, Skype chat or text. I will tell you that those three minutes are the most meaningful moments of my day. I will wake up early just to see him type words before he falls asleep, I will stay up late in the hopes that I can catch him online; I would stay awake for four days straight if it meant I could catch his smile on some video screen appearing live five thousand miles away. I would never be so bold as to suggest that my husband and I don’t have our disagreements, but I will tell you that each and every one ends after roughly five minutes with an, “I’m sorry if I hurt you. I love you.” No argument between loved ones should ever be so important that two parties can’t stop, reflect, and remember that in the long run the basis of the argument or even the argument itself will be forgotten, but hurtful words will take years (if ever) to erase.

When I married my Marine, I learned the value of a day. Remember that old cliché, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff?” Well, (sad to say, or at least sad to admit), it’s true. In the grand scheme of things, a broken nail, an over crowded/over booked schedule, a rude email or a coffee stain on a blouse have become more comical than anything else. Compared to the sacrifices made daily by our men and women in the military, these occurrences are nothing but trivial happenstance to fill a day. What will you remember at the end of a long year? Certainly not a spilled wine glass at dinner or smeared lipstick on a random Tuesday; no, you’ll remember relationships formed and…

Laughter. There is nothing more delicious than laughter. And there is nothing more beautiful than the curve of a smile deflecting tears as an ornate fountain may direct diamond clear water. Yes, when I married my Marine I learned that laughter trumps difficult trials, or at least provides a strong anesthetic against pain.

When I married my Marine, I learned the value of this country and what America and being an American means. As a twenty seven year old woman, I am sad to admit that before I married my Marine, the fourth of July meant blissful freedom, (from school or work) icy blue liquid running off a chunk on a wooden stick dripping down my lips and staining my chin and fingers an unnatural shade of anti-freeze. The fourth of July meant lake shore breezes carrying musical notes like hovering dandelion wisps from some nearby pier. Memorial Day: a day free of work or school, usually supplemented by booze, burgers and brats. Not once on these days did I ever think about the Halls of Montezuma or the shores of Tripoli. If asked, I may have responded that they sounded like nice places to visit on a Princess cruise ship vacation.

Today, I sit in awe of this country-its accomplishments past, present and hopefully future. I understand the “American Dream” and I see through photographs the unspoiled and imaginative hope in the eyes of those that wish to experience a slice, just a slice of that American apple pie that I have languorously consumed. I revel in our differences as an American people, I cherish our ability to speak freely and without fear and most importantly I am proud that we are able to help those less fortunate-within our own country and in others.

I have often watched wide-eyed throughout life as children scream at their parents, as teenagers storm up to rooms shouting, “I hate YOU!” to their desperate mothers and fathers. I have seen the pain in parent’s eyes as ungrateful offspring turn their backs on the family that has emotionally mortgaged everything simply to provide a secure future.

I have never grasped this type of blatant disrespect, and now, more than ever, I do not understand the type of blatant disrespect I am witness to as America’s “offspring” turn their backs on the country that gave them the right to narrow their eyes, use their voice, and storm up the stairs spewing, “I HATE YOU!”

I wonder why more people don’t pause in the midst of arguments, of the political grievances and demands from both sides to say, “I know we disagree right now, America, but I still love you. I’m sorry if I hurt you.”

The strength of America is found in its differences: different political viewpoints, different heritages and different religions. This is America’s superglue, the adhesive that sticks to magnets, to wood, to fabric and to steel and merely says: let’s build with our differences; help me grow with your differences.

I learned that we must never forget to tip our figurative hats to those who fight to protect those differences, for they are the ones that ultimately matter most. They are the ones who keep that glue in place: even if it is occasionally hazy and difficult to see how.

They are the ones who won’t ask in the middle of the argument, in the heat of the moment, in the crevice of a difference to pause, reflect and say, “I love you. I love you, America.”

But I am one who will.

This is what I “got myself into when I married my Marine.”

And for those that gave the ultimate sacrifice in keeping us safe day and night, for those seven beaming faces I will never forget, I say, “I thank you. I am so grateful for you. May your laughter echo in valleys forever and may your bravery never be forgotten. We love you.”


Post a Comment