Well, today I really did it. And this time, it wasn't with a dog. I said my final face-to-face goodbyes with Nick. If saying goodbye to the dog was hard, this was perhaps one of the most difficult things I've. This was the throat-closed-up, stomach-in-knots, lip-quivering, emotional rollercoaster goodbye that I've been dreading for months.
I'm really not trying to be dramatic, although I'm sure I am a little - no one else seemed to be on the verge of tears as we waited in the airport to board the plane - but it felt like about the closest thing to a loved one dying as I've ever experienced. I couldn't even call Nick one last time before we left because I genuinely thought I couldn't hold it together, but neither did anyone else. And that's when it struck me that everyone was feeling the way I was, which is why when most Soldiers walk onto the plane that's the last time they contact their family until they are in country.
For a long time, I've almost scoffed at families in the military as necessary biproducts, often times more trouble than good, but today, I definitely got a little taste of the other side. You see, my last deployment, I saw Nick on almost a daily basis and, while that arrangement presented its own assortment of trials and tribulations, it doesn't even compare to losing a family member for an entire year.
The main point I want to convey is this: the sacrifices the families of our men and women in arms make, repeatedly, are no less significant than the sacrifices the actual Soldier makes. To allow someone you love to go in to harm's way is, without a doubt, the most self sacrificing thing anyone can do. I'm typing this as I sit in the middle of a tiny airport in the middle of Maine on the first leg of my flight to Afghanistan, so I will keep it short. The next time you see a Soldier with their family, please don't forget to thank their families as well, because they are the ones that really bear the brunt of our country's burdons.