“War changes people”. It’s something that, I think, we’ve all heard at least one time or another. It’s one of those statements that makes you wonder just how it changes people. And who are those people that change. Earnest Hemingway wrote “Soldier’s Home” in 1925 about a soldier who came home changed. There are also many studies about how soldier’s change from war. What you don’t see as often is how war changes other people who are so closely connected to the soldiers.
When I married my husband, it was pre-9/11. We never thought of him going off to war. We expected seperations, but not like it is now. The morning of September 11, 2001, my husband and I were on leave and visiting family. We were on the west coast and were still in bed. We were awaken by our family that we were staying with after the plane hit the Pentagon. Up until then, they thought it was a horrible accident in New York.
As many of you, I watched in horror as the second plane hit the World Trade Center and as the towers fell. My emotions were all over the place. First of all, I’m a New Yorker and part of my state was attacked. I was shocked, angry, confused and worried. To top it all off, I was pregnant and my hormones made it worse. I also knew at that moment, ours lives were changing forever.
Being a military family, our lives changed quickly. We cut our leave short and went home. Before we left, we could drive through the gates on post, flash our IDs and roll on through. Upon arrival after 9/11, every vehicle was stopped and only people who belonged on post we’re allowed on. We were asked to step out of the vehicle and our car was searched. The commissary and exchange were closed because they were running out of stock and delivery trucks were not allowed on post yet. Our mail was slow. Barricades were erected. First they were temporary and later things were re-designed and they were made permanent. Now, every time you enter a military installation, your ID and IDs of all in the vehicle are examined. Instead of all vehicles being searched, they pick a few a day. But the mood has changed.
15 months after the September 11 attacks, my husband deployed for the first time. He was sent to Kuwait prior to the ground forces entry into Iraq. He was there to help prepare for the war. Our daughter was 11 months old and had no clue what was going on. Originally, his orders were for 6 months. As he tells everyone, he did 11-1/2 months on a six-month deployment. This is when I changed.
Even though I had always been an independent woman, I had just moved to a new place, had a new baby and my husband left for war. I spent the year worried about if my husband would be injured or killed. Our friends were there too. Our communications were limited. And in the beginning, mid-tour leave was not in place. I became stronger then I ever thought I could be. My faith has been strengthened and I often thank God for giving me the strength to be by myself. I became a single married parent. I can handle all the household chores and take care of the automobiles too. My view of the world has changed. I am very accepting to all types of people, but I often worry about just who around me would want to destroy my home. Any why shouldn’t I? This war is not like other wars where you can identify the enemy. Trust is hard in a place that the enemy could be anyone. This was most evident when a friend of my husband was killed by a soldier in his unit that was Muslim and decided once he got to the battlefield to throw a grenade in one of his comrades tent.
The changes from war are numerous and not only from the battlefield. They come to the home-front as well. While I am able to adapt to changes with my family. Others are changed in a more permanent way. The families of soldiers that do not come home or come home severely injured have other changes. While we continue to move forward in our lives, always remember those that served and changed for your freedom.