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October 09, 2008

Quiet Courage

This post is dedicated to my friends.

We hear a lot about the men of this war - the ones who fight. What we do not always think so much on is the quiet courage of the women of this war. Not the military women, but the wives, daughters and mothers of our men and women in uniform. I think of them as the real "remain behind element", because when our men and women deploy they take a huge part of someone else's heart with them: a mother's hopes and fears for her firstborn; a young bride's breathless anticipation for a lifetime of love; a pregnant mother's joyful expectation of new life, echoing like a loud noise in an empty room since she aches to share each moment with her absent love.

The calm practicality of the staff NCO's wife who, married for decades, has weathered scores of deployments. She spends her days pouring herself out to younger wives, steadying them, reassuring them. It is only in the middle of the night that she wakes up alone in bed and reaches for that empty space. And then the tears come, but only when no one can see. In the morning, she will be fine again.

It is typical of Carrie that only days before her own son returns from Anbar, she is talking about others:

Webster defines courage as "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty "

As we near the sixth anniversary of the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom (October 7, 2001), we have all seen different kinds of courage.

We've seen the kind of courage found on the battlefield. Over and over, we've seen what that kind of courage looks like.

We've seen a second kind of courage. The kind of courage it takes to overcome wounds and injuries. I wrote a post a couple of days ago about how there were 17 Marines who suffered amputations, went through recovery and rehabilitation and are currently serving in Iraq.

Go read the rest of Carrie's post. A few days ago she asked me to write about Amy. I decided to put it off for a day or two so I could embarrass talk about my friends.

Carrie: has the biggest mouth heart in the state of Virginia. OK, I will pay for that....

Seriously, I have watched this woman move mountains on behalf of injured Marines, soldiers and sailors and their families. You do not want to mess with a Marine wife and mother when it comes to the welfare of a young man who has lost a leg.

Or a wife, after being wounded and returning home to a long recovery period and pay snafus. Sometimes that happens. Marriages of short duration don't always survive the hard times. When Carrie's son left for Iraq, I tried to get her to quit her volunteer work for Injured Marines' Semper Fi Fund, because frankly I was afraid the casework (which can sometimes be heartbreaking, if rewarding) would begin to weigh on her too much with her own son in harm's way.

No deal.

You see this same courage with Amy, whose story Carrie links to. Many women, having lost a son in the war would be bitter. Many would just want to forget. Not Amy. Instead of thinking of herself and her own pain, Amy wanted to reach out to others. She used what was a tragic event to make the world a better place for other people, and in the process help her make sense of the incomprehensible.

MaryAnn: by day she is a well paid executive. On the weekends she drives for hours to volunteer as a Soldiers Angel at Landstuhl RAMC. Her body may be in Germany, but her heart is (I think) in Afghanistan. Oh, and did I mention her blog kicks a**?

Sly: Proud Marine wife. Mother. Loving daughter. Loyal friend. No matter what life hands her, she deals.

Cricket: Army wife, but we'll let that one slide... heh. One of my oldest and dearest friends. VC's steel magnolia. I know that Jonathan must look down at you every day from heaven with such pride in his eyes.

There are so many more, but these ladies are just a few that I wanted to highlight today because they humble me.

Quiet courage.

Posted by Cassandra at October 9, 2008 08:10 AM

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Cassandra, I'm with you on this one! The quiet courage of women (and men) who support their loved ones as those loved ones serve this Country amazes me. Most of them don't complain. Most of them stay faithful. Most of them do the best they can in a difficult situation. It's not easy, but they find the strength to meet the daily challenges.

Posted by: lela at October 9, 2008 10:59 AM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 10/09/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at October 9, 2008 11:00 AM

Also, here's to the Dark Prince!!!!

Posted by: Cassandra at October 9, 2008 11:01 AM

You'll forgive Cricket like she and I will forgive you and Carrie. 'Tis all good.

And you're right - they are amazing. All of them. And I am privileged to know and in awe of you all. Every day.

And yay for Dark Princes!!! I think it's amusing that you waited until Carrie was on the road before you put this up...heh.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at October 9, 2008 01:09 PM

Well, I would have put you up there too, but I am afeered of redheads :p

Posted by: Endangered Midwestern Corked Bat at October 9, 2008 01:19 PM

Carrie may have the biggest heart in the state of Virginia, but unless she wants to wrassle for it, I OWN the title of the Commonwealth's biggest mouth.

These are admirable women fit to emulate. Thank you for taking the bushel basket from thier light.

Posted by: spd rdr at October 9, 2008 01:25 PM

Always, there is the friendship of the ladies in waiting...we do support one another. I love y'all too. What has amazed me the most is the genuine giving. No 'what's in it for me,' but the 'how can I help?' of military spouses around the world.

HF6, I have read the amazing things you have had on your blog. Your insight and stands are astute.

Now I have an urge to go toilet paper quarters one...

Posted by: Cricket at October 9, 2008 01:45 PM

Do *not* tempt me beyond my meager powers of restraint, mr rdr :p

You know better...

HF6 does rock. As do many others.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 9, 2008 01:55 PM

What we do not always think so much on is the quiet courage of the women of this war. Not the military women, but the wives, daughters and mothers of our men and women in uniform.

Somebody might even bust out that excerpt from Gates of Fire while we are at it.

When you provided that youtube Link after Sly, I was thinking it was going to be a Monthy Python tribute. Dealing in rabbits, one may say.

Seriously, I have watched this woman move mountains on behalf of injured Marines, soldiers and sailors and their families.

Death is as light as a feather: duty as heavy as mountains.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 9, 2008 02:34 PM

Interesting you mention Carrie continuing at IMSFF during the DP's deployment. You know, I usually refrain from talking about hospital stuff to those with family members downrange.

But it wasn't like that with Carrie. Wasn't like that with you either, Cass, when The Unit was downrange.

You are both women of extraordinary courage. You never prefer to look away.

Posted by: MaryAnn at October 9, 2008 02:37 PM

In the face of such eloquence and strength displayed and described in the post and the comments, I've got nothing to add except that you guys are what I want to be when I grow up.

Posted by: FbL at October 9, 2008 02:58 PM

Just tears.

Posted by: levi from queens at October 9, 2008 03:18 PM

I'm now an army wife looking to face our first married deployment next year. Hubby's deployed before (back when he was a marine, before I met him), but this will be his first time going since I met him almost 3 years ago. I am learning so much from all of you long-time military spouses. Thank you all.

Posted by: Emily at October 9, 2008 04:34 PM

*moves over*
Emily, my husband is retired, but the door is always unlocked, the light is on and if you need to talk, well, we're here. Cass and Carrie are Marine-smart; HF6 and I have been brainwashed in Army-speak. However, some things are the same across the board. I tend to think that the Marines do better when it comes to support; the Army is getting there. It is okay to vent.

Posted by: Cricket at October 9, 2008 04:45 PM

Given the size of the Marine Corps compared to the Army, it would make sense that Cass and Carrie have to be more more.

The Few, the Proud, the Marines?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 9, 2008 08:15 PM

Or as we like to say, "The Few, The Loud, the Marines"...

Posted by: ...and I'm Outta Here... at October 9, 2008 08:32 PM

My hat is off to you ladies, and I proudly bend a knee to your scarifice and courage.

Posted by: Allen at October 9, 2008 08:56 PM

MaryAnn ~ I've found that, instead of turning away, I'd almost rather immerse myself in it. Maybe it's a way of desensitizing? I don't know. But I prefer to be closer to it than to distance myself.

Cricket ~ thank you :) You made me blush!

Posted by: HomefrontSix at October 9, 2008 10:36 PM

Right on. But, there are also many men who support their women as they go off to war.

Posted by: Dreadnaught at October 9, 2008 10:46 PM

Right on. But, there are also many men who support their women as they go off to war.

Verily: Tod Palin for example.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 9, 2008 11:29 PM

Thank you for this post.

For the first deployment, my daughter coordinated the FRG for her husband's unit and dealing with everyone else's problems helped her realize her own were minor - as helping others usually does.

For this deployment, she has a toddler and no nearby FRG to even be a part of. I worried so much about her, 1100 miles away from me, time zones away from her husband, and new to her neighborhood.

But - the military is a big family. Next door to her she found a crusty old Marine who takes care of mechanical and maintenance stuff for her.

Across the street is an AF pilot now flying commercial. He's gone a lot, but his wife has become one of my daughter's best friends.

There you have it - Army, Marine, Air Force, all coming together to make life easier for one another.

Posted by: Donna B. at October 9, 2008 11:37 PM

The Ladies have a *quiet* courage, which makes my admiration for all of you that much more profound...

Posted by: BillT at October 10, 2008 03:47 AM

HF6, yes, you're certainly like that, too.

In retrospect, I hope my comment didn't imply that I think less of those who prefer to deal differently, though. Everyone needs to do what's best for themselves and their family.

Posted by: MaryAnn at October 10, 2008 08:36 AM

MaryAnn ~ not at all! I had never really thought of it until you mentioned it. And everyone is different - everyone lives their life to the extent that is best for them and their family.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at October 10, 2008 04:25 PM

Thanks for the kind words and all (yes, I am embarassed)(no, I don't want to wrassle Spd for the title)..
I should point out though that there were at least two other Moms who continued working for IMSFF while their sons were on deployment with mine...

Another mom I met Friday morning (wayyyy early) decided to volunteer at Walter Reed while her son was gone to deal with her deployment fears.

I think military families can be some of the most exceptional (present company absolutely included) when dealing with adversity. Our active duty family members are sheepdogs...maybe it makes sense that a little should rub off on us too.

For MaryAnn, I can only offer this explanation..
she is an Angel... foul mouthed but an Angel nonetheless...:)

Posted by: Carrie at October 12, 2008 01:20 PM

1. Heh.... there is probably something very wrong with me b/c I laughed out loud at the thought of you wrassling spd.

2. Double heh at the 'foul mouthed angel'. That could describe more than one of y'all, chiquitita :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 12, 2008 01:25 PM

I guess I should have said 'FFS' instead of 'double heh'...

Posted by: Cassandra at October 12, 2008 01:26 PM

I had to throw that in there so she wouldn't kick my a$$.....

Posted by: Carrie at October 12, 2008 01:27 PM

Even Will says "Oh FFS" now..

It's kind of catchy when you think about it..:)

Posted by: Carrie at October 12, 2008 01:28 PM

Oh FFS, Carrie.

And are you implying your DH learned that expression from *us*?? FFS again! Sad state of affairs at the Corps if that's true.

Posted by: MaryAnn at October 12, 2008 04:52 PM

*bad* potty-mouthed angel :p

There are a lot of good men behind our military women. Some of them have served themselves and some just stand and wait (as we do).

The Beer B**ch comes to mind...

FayetteNam will never be the same...


Posted by: Cassandra at October 12, 2008 05:05 PM

Heh. MP...
My DH would like to blame you for that but we know better..
he just grins when he says it and we both think of you...:)
We are both so very proud to say that we know you even a little...
ya potty mouth...

Posted by: Carrie at October 12, 2008 07:27 PM