When you approach the gate at Fort Campbell, roll down your window, and hand over your ID, you’re greeted by a soldier. Sometimes he’s happy to be there, other times he looks miserable. Gate duty isn’t anyone’s favorite. Once past the gate, you’re immediately immersed in military life.
Life on the other side of that gate doesn’t look all that different from the civilian side. There are homes, kids playing outside, students walking to school, moms taking sick kids to doctor appointments. There’s a grocery store, post office, restaurants, and banks. There is even a Starbucks (two actually!). It’s its own community.
There is just one noticeable difference. And it’s something that I, as a wife, tend to forget the most.
When you drive further in, you see men and women in uniform. They’re prepping vehicles for exercises, you see them walking in their PT (physical training) uniforms—in boots carrying thirty five pounds of gear on their backs and moving equipment from one area to another. If you roll your window down, you can hear gun fire from the ranges. Helicopters whir overhead, sometimes with soldiers hanging from a rope.
They’re doing their jobs. And their job isn’t pretty. It isn’t as neat and packaged as the media would like to tell you.
We take this thing—freedom—for granted. You do. I do. We all do. It’s okay. We are far removed from the realities of the costs.
When you drive through the areas where the soldiers are working, where they are performing their duties, if you look deeper, a heaviness begins to settle on you. Strapping medical equipment onto a Humvee looks routine, but one day it could save that soldier’s life. You begin to see flashes of what their real purpose is, what their true job is. And you realize that every exercise and every training is a reflection of what they face overseas. For every soldier, at some point in their service, will be sent overseas to fight and to use the skills they learn now in order to defend us. And a small percentage of them won’t return home.
The deeper realization that their paths all lead to the same destination—that my husband, my best friend’s husband, someone’s daughter, someone’s son, will eventually be sent, like thousands before them, to defend our country, to defend Her honor, Her freedom. To defend our way of life, to protect us from forces that wish to destroy us.
We celebrate our soldiers’ lives, we celebrate their return home, and we celebrate their sacrifices. We celebrate their families. We celebrate our country. We celebrate life and death.
We celebrate because we need hope. They need hope. They need to know that what they’re fighting for is greater than the forces ahead of them. They need to know that someone—anyone—cares that they risk losing their life for ours. Their families need to know that.
Our soldiers need to know that their sacrifice is not in vain. They need to know that—no matter what—we support them. We celebrate their victories. We celebrate their lives.