There are times in life when you have to share something really big with someone you love. And often times, there's not a particularly right thing to say in response. Over the years, Joel's had to take on the difficult task of sharing with loved ones about his upcoming deployments. Sometimes there's just silence, sometimes a word of encouragement, and often times the question of why he has to go back.
Joel and I have both experienced responses that make us uncomfortable and even angry. Going overseas is a hard task, one that we've both signed up for in many ways. But it's even more difficult when you know people at home who should be standing next to you in it, criticizing it. When Joel got back from Iraq, someone who I have known for my entire life and have so much respect for, said that they didn't understand how Joel could leave his wife and child and go overseas for so long. They thought what he was doing was wrong. I was so surprised, so angry and so hurt that I just left in the middle of the conversation. I had no words.
There are those who decide that after just telling them about his upcoming or current deployment that it would be a great time to tell me, his wife, how wrong the war is and what a waste of lives of those who've been lost. Really? This is the best time to get into a political debate? My husband's in the middle of a war zone, and you're going to choose now to tell me how wrong the reason behind the fight is or why those who have given their life for it have died in vain? I call them heroes, not mistakes.
And then there's the inevitable "Will he have to go back?".... usually right after he gets back. Well, he's not retiring, so probably, yes. Do people think that a soldier who's deployed only has to tally up so many overseas deployments before the government is like, eh, you've had your share?! I know we're still fighting in two wars, but we'll just find someone else?! Come on.
The truth is, there isn't a perfect response. I guess the old rule of "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" is still a good one. The best responses are a warm hug (or a firm handshake in Joel's case), a "we're praying for you" and "we stand behind you in this".
But the best response yet, was a card Joel got in the mail from one of our Sunday School kids. Here are a few lines:
"Dear Mr. ______,
Thank you. Thank you for going to protect our country and even to protect a people who are not your own. And thank you for inspiring the generation coming behind you, to stand for your country, to protect your loved ones, and to trust that God will be with you. Please be safe... You are in my prayers..."
I can guarantee you that card is going to the Middle East with him. And I'm sure it'll be those words that stick, and not all the negative ones he's heard along the way.