Letter to a Soldier

Dear Soldier,
I waited on you tonight at the mall. You came in sunburned and with haunted eyes that had seen too much. You said you wanted a white, tropical shirt to wear on your honeymoon.
As I waited on you, bits and pieces of your story came out. You were in the Army and had just returned to the U.S. You had been given 41 days Sateside for your wedding and honeymoon. You were going fishing. Then you would be going “somewhere else” and would not be back for a long time.
You were caught between two worlds – the banality of the mall and the nightmare you left behind. I think you were more comfortable in the nightmare. You looked lost amid the tidy tables of folded clothing, and the confines of the mall made you jumpy.
You didn’t tell me you had just returned from Iraq until you were leaving. You held up the phone you carry with you in case you got the call – the call that would say forget the honeymoon and go back to the war.
I said, “Welcome home. Have a great honeymoon. Be safe.” The man behind you said, “Yeah” in a soft, respectful voice. We didn’t know what else to say.
What I should have said is:
Thank you for laying your life on the line for me every day. Thank you for the danger you risk, for the loved ones you miss, for carrying the phone in case you get the call. Thank you for your vigilance and your courage, and for carrying on even when you don’t have the courage. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for reminding me that this war has a face and it is yours. God bless you and keep you. May you serve honorably, return safely and enjoy the retirement you are anticipating. May you have a long and happy marriage. May God hold you in the hollow of His hand and keep you safe.


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