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The Life and Death of a Soldier

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Message Mary MacElveen
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In anticipation of her husband coming home from the war in Iraq, she had cleaned the house top to bottom, bought all of his favorite foods and purchased special outfits for both she and her small son to wear upon his arrival back home.  While they did not have a lot of money even with her working two jobs as her husband served his second tour of duty, she scoured the flyers contained in her local news paper looking for sales.  She wanted that Kodak moment as her husband came back home.  As she was doing all of this, she prayed to God that this would be his last time going over to Iraq to serve his country.  He had answered the call which so few in Washington, D.C. had as they planned it. While angry, she was proud of her husband. The day had come in which her husband was coming home and she could not get to the base fast enough to bring him back home.  She put on her make-up with great care which brought out her eyes.  She did so because when they first met, it was her eyes that captured him.  She also put on a simple dress which she had purchased from Sears.  He did not fall in love with a run-way model, but a woman of sheer simplicity.  After she was put together, she dressed their son in a suit and tie also purchased from Sears.  She bent down and kissed him telling him that his Dad was coming home.  He looked up at her with the biggest smile on his face.  Being a four-year-old boy, he did not know his dad much, but still he loved him. Both she and her son drove to the base in the old-clunker of a car which was badly in need or repairs, but it got her where she needed to go.  As they arrived at the base, a huge crowd had gathered.  She parked her car and took her son by the hand as they walked towards it.  The collective anticipation surpassed any New Years gathering she and her husband took part in during their courtship and marriage.  It was then she and others saw the plane carrying her husband and she said to her son, “Daddy’s almost home”  Her heart could not stop racing as the plane made its way down the runway.  When it came to a full stop, her emotions were all over the place.  As the door opened and the troops deplaned she saw her husband for the first time in what seemed like years.  She picked up her son and ran as fast as she could and all three embraced each other.  It was then she noticed something amiss.  The smile and the twinkle in his eyes were replaced with an expression so foreign to her, but hey, he was home. On the way home, he barely spoke as he sat in the passenger seat.  He did not communicate much with his son, but stared ahead.  This was not the man she sent off to war, but almost a stranger.  She tried to push her thoughts aside as they made their journey back home.  Upon arriving home, he just looked around and shrugged as he sat in his recliner.  Her heart broke, but she thought as time went on things would get better.  Wouldn’t they?  As his son barreled towards him to sit on his lap, instead of welcoming it, he sat there almost unaware of his son’s adoring and loving eyes looking up at him. As she walked around preparing the feast she had planned, she realized this was no longer her husband.  Physically yes it was, but absent was his soul.  His movements were almost robotic.  She went to the corner out of his sight and cried, but soldiered on to welcome him back home. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months as this family tried to cope with a husband and father long gone.  She went to her jobs leaving her son with his dad.  He had attended some counseling sessions in order to make the transition back to what his life was like prior to this war.  Have any of you ever heard the phrase, “Fake it until you make it”?  That is what he tried to do as the inner demons raged on. Life went on and as things appeared normal what she was not seeing were signs of post traumatic stress disorder.  She realized something was off, but she could not place her finger on it.  He went back to his job as an auto mechanic which he worked at prior to signing up for duty.  He had always taken pride in the way he could fix a car to run like new.  He had done so with their family car time and time again.  Everyone came to depend upon him repairing their cars since he charged far less than what others were. While never a real drinker occasionally having a beer with friends, his wife did notice that he drank more.  She said to him that he should bring that up at his counseling sessions and out of love for his wife, he did.  It subsided for a period of time as he tried to quiet his raging demons. During his time away in Iraq, his wife did scrape every penny together so their son could at least attend pre-school.  It was not the top of the line school, but still he was with friends and folks that did come to love him.  He had some security and now his world was becoming anything but. His pre-school even produced a play for their family members and when it came time to see this production while masking his feelings, he sat in his seat not rising in accolades as other fathers were.  While focused on her son, she did not see this coming from her husband. Little by little things appeared to get better, but his demons were still inside.  The family seemed normal, but it was anything but.  To mask these demons, he began to joke as he always did with his wife.  Playing the practical jokes that sent her into a tizzy at times, but had them fall into each other laughing till their sides hurt.  She began to relax as did his son. One day as she came home from work, she collected the mail as normal and before looking at it, made herself a cup of tea.  She liked the flavor of Earl Grey tea to relax her from the stress of her job.  As she went through it all, she noticed an envelope mailed to her husband coming from the reserves.  She took a deep breath in and as much as she wanted to open that envelope, she waited till her husband got home from his job so that she could hand it to him.  An inner terror gripped her and she tried to breathe and sat there with her cup of tea shaking. Upon his arrival back home, he was met with a grim faced wife who handed her husband that envelope.  He then opened it up and his face changed.  The twinkle in his eyes blinked off.  His only words as he retreated to his reclining chair were, “They want me back for a third tour of duty.”  Inwardly she screamed, “Those bastards!” But out of her love for her husband she did not show this raw emotion.  She also thought, “When will this damn war end?!”  She got on his lap and snuggled with him. She could feel him trembling inside. They tried to prepare themselves emotionally for his third tour of duty, but how does one go about doing that?  She had to apply for that second job which she quit when he came home in order to make ends meet.  She had to soldier on as her husband was returning to soldier on for all of us. On the morning of his redeployment, she had cooked him up a feast of all of his favorite breakfast time foods as he dressed into his fatigues.  She could never understand how someone could eat eggs, bacon and pancakes all at the same time, but this was his favorite breakfast time meal.  He did smile as his son’s face was dripping with maple syrup.  He even took his finger, scraped his son’s cheek and said, “Do you mind if I have this?” His son chuckled. They made their way back to the base in the junk family car which her husband had repaired two times since coming home. It sounded fine.  Would this be her husband’s last tour she thought?  She also thought, “How come the sons and daughters of those who started this war were not serving?” She angrily thought, “Shouldn’t they serve?”  She quashed those thoughts immediately to focus in on her husband. As they hugged and kissed good bye to each other they did so with great passion which could not be mirrored in any Hollywood production.  She watched as he boarded that plane and was off.  She got back into the old clunker of a car and cried till the tears could come no more. The days turned into weeks and into months.  She had heard from him infrequently and craved for him to come home.  She settled down with life without her husband as she cared for their son.  Her rambunctious child became introverted with his father not there.  She was worried for her son.  The only thing she could do was to try and make their life as normal as possible.  Whatever normal was in this insane world and as this war raged on. One after noon, upon coming home from work and making her cup of Earl Grey tea, she went through the mail as she has always done. She was unaware that her world was about to come to a screeching halt.  In sitting there she heard a car door and thought nothing of it.  It was then she heard a knock on her door.  As she opened it, she saw a military chaplain along with another member of the armed forces and she fell to the ground.  They cradled her as she wept tears of immense sorrow.  The man she had come to love as a prankster, a lover, a husband, a father was now gone from their lives.  She thought, just how will my son and I go on without him? When his body came home to her, she claimed it and wanted to kiss his gentle lips once more.  She was told his body was not in the condition for her to do just that and the anger and sadness took hold of her.  She could not even kiss her beloved husband one last time. On the day of the funeral those that loved him, gathered round both she and her son to pay homage to this great man as they escorted her into the service.  She wore that simple dress with her make up on as he had always liked it and dressed her son in that suit and tie.  This was after all his finally trip home.  He would never have to go back to Iraq. She walked down the aisle with her son’s small hand joining hers as they approached the flag draped casket.  Her son saluted his fallen father similarly as John F. Kennedy Jr. saluted his fallen father.  Those in attendance cried along with this family. After the service was over, they made the trip to the cemetery in which her husband would rest in peace forever more.  No more would he have to go off to some foreign land, but would be embraced forever in the loving arms of his creator.  After the final prayers were said, both she and her son walked away knowing that he was home at last. Author’s note: This was my first attempt at fictionalizing the emotions I suspect that many military families are going through.  As always, please email me at xmjmac@optonline.net 
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Mary MacElveen Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I am a writer who currently writes pieces for my own blog http://www.mary-macelveen.blogspot.com I have been published by Buzzflash.com, TheLiberalPatriot.org and MikeHersh.com. I was a guest on the Jay Diamond Radio Show on WRKO in Boston and have (more...)
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