Everybody knows at least one veteran, or at least one soldier in either active duty or awaiting orders. Everybody knows that military men make huge sacrifices of time, effort, endurance, and bravery to fight for their country. We all hear about the sacrifices of their families as well: wives spending agonizing months at home not knowing where exactly their husbands are, parents spending countless hours praying for their sons’ safety… The fear, the apprehension, possibly even some anger. But do we really understand?
Do we understand what they’re going through? No.
Can we relate unless we experience it too? No.
Do any of us want to experience that?! NOOO.
But SHOULD we seek to understand? Most definitely. It is FAR too easy to pretend that since we can’t witness the fighting, since it’s on the other side of the world and not in our backyard, that’s it’s not happening. It’s too easy to pretend that there are no guns, no fires, no bombs, no raids, no planes, or no deaths. Since we can’t witness it, there’s no dying. No pain. No hurt. But is there anything farther from the truth than believing that? NO.
I’ll be honest, the absolute LAST thing I ever want to think about is war, or death. Really, I just don’t like any situation that is out of my control. So I was one of those that ignored the section of the newspaper that listed obituaries or had war-related headlines splashed across the front page; I turned the channel if they gave updates on overseas situations on the news; I changed the subject if the war was brought up in conversation. Out of sight, out of mind – worked for me because I didn’t know anyone over there.
Then my husband’s best friend was deployed. I watched Jaret go through all the emotions involved: anger that his best friend was gone for 15 months, fear of what could happen to him, worry that he may not come home. In the time he was gone, Jailyn turned two, and we had Jordyn. Sitting in the hospital holding his new baby girl, Jaret looked at her and said “I wish Zach could hold you today.”
It was easier to understand the emotional rollercoaster of deployment when thinking about a friend, hoping every day that he was ok, that Jaret would get an email from him soon, or that his mom would post on Facebook that she had gotten a phone call from him. It was easier to see, because the effects of his deployment were impacting someone close to me… But I still didn’t understand completely.
December 1st, 2010: Cpl. Chad Wade was taken from his family by an improvised explosive device while on patrol. Chad was the nephew of a friend, and our fantastic wedding photographer, Stacy.
Chad and his wife were close to my age. They went to Rogers High School. Their families are local. They were married just a few weeks before Jaret and I. They were still newlyweds in my book. I went home from work that night, looked at Jaret, and tried to imagine what it would be like to NOT wake up next to him the next morning, or any other morning, for the rest of my life. That’s all it took… I was a wreck. And I didn’t really even know the guy, or his wife, but I cried for her.
Over the next few days, news of Chad blew up over the local and national news, as well as over social networking. As it turns out, Chad and I had more mutual friends than I ever knew. Seeing so much hurt through my circle of friends really put the situation into perspective for me. Every time I looked at Jaret, my heart hurt for Chad’s wife; every time I looked at my girls, my heart hurt for Chad’s mom. Chad’s sacrifice had a huge impact on my life, and I was merely a bystander.
Having just returned to work from maternity leave, I was already way behind at work and couldn’t afford the time off to attend Chad’s funeral. In hindsight, I’m now embarrassed at what a stupid, foolish excuse that was to miss such an important event. Fortunately my best friend was able to attend, and told me about it in detail through tears the next day. I’ll never forget her words… “People stood outside their cars on the side of the I-540 as the funeral procession passed, some waving flags, some with their hands on their heart. The Springdale fire department had trucks parked on a bridge over the highway, with their ladders raised and lights on, flying American flags. Everything stood still. Everyone stopped for Chad.” I wish I could’ve experienced it. I’m so glad it was as honorable as Chad deserved.
Since Chad has passed away, life has gone on. The seasons changed, another year went by too quickly… but probably not for Chad’s family, or his friends. The days for them aren’t the same. Holidays remind them of the empty chair at the dinner table where he should be sitting; family functions are missing a crucial piece of the family. Milestones in my friend Stacy’s life, like her children’s birthday parties, feel different. Although there are still joyful times, there’s an emptiness from not being able to have Chad present. Even though they keep smiling, they still hurt every day. They feel it EVERY DAY. Without needing reminders, they miss him. His WHOLE family, and his friends.
Since Chad has passed away, my life has gone on too. My kids have grown since last year, I’ve transitioned into a new job, and we’ve begun the ever-frustrating hunt for a house. But I’m more thankful, and more compassionate. I’d be lying if I said that sometimes I didn’t need a reminder… but for the most part, and on most days, I have the mindset to remember others.
I remember that there are people out there fighting for me, without ever even meeting me. They don’t need to know who I am or what I do or where I live… But they’re fighting for me anyway. I am thankful for this.
They’ve left family and friends at home who are worried about them, scared for them, missing them, and hurting because of the fear of the unknown, or what tomorrow brings. You never know if your coworker at the next desk, or the cashier at the grocery store, or your mailman is someone who’s hurting. I am more compassionate because of this.
Those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice leave behind family who are forever changed. Their lives will never be the same. I am humbled by this.
So today, I will think about Chad Wade, his wife, his family, his friends, his brothers who fought with him, and I will be so thankful for his sacrifice and his service.
For anyone interested, this article was published in April that I thought was just fantastic. It talks about the importance of us knowing the truth about what’s going on overseas, so that we aren’t left in the dark, that we may understand that these battles are affecting over 100,000 US Soldiers, and through that affecting all of their families and friends at home. It also speaks to the fact that sometimes learning details can have negative effects on the families at home, forcing them to relive the nightmare of losing a loved one… But as Stacy says in her letter to the writer, “If one person was moved by the article” ((about Chad’s death, which is hyperlinked in this article so that you can read it)) “I have to trust (the story) was worth telling.” Read the article here: http://militarytimes.com/blogs/battle-rattle/tag/chad-wade/
Chad’s family has shown the true definition of strength by supporting the reports of Chad’s story so that others may understand his, as well as all soldiers’, sacrifice… even though it means each story rips the wound open again and again. Kudos to them for their passion for supporting our troops. Thanks to my sweet friend Stacy for the example she sets for me, as well as anyone else who is touched by her positivity that has remained intact and unfailing, even through the last year.