Although I’ve been gone now for a full month, I am now officially just over 2 weeks into my deployment because the first couple of weeks of training and transition into the theater unfortunately don’t count. There was very little indirect fire this week, which was a welcome break from the previous week where it seemed to be occurring almost daily. The cold weather has muted the activity of the Taliban for the time being (no one likes fighting in the cold), but everyone is projecting the normal uptick in violence as the weather begins to warm in the spring and into the summer. For now though, it’s been relatively quiet, which is a welcome thing.
One of the highlights this week was getting to hear COL(ret) Danny McKnight from the now infamous Blackhawk Down speak at a prayer luncheon that was hosted by the chapel. He spoke from the perspective of the Ranger's commander and the tragedy of losing 6 of his men that day in the streets of Mogadishu. Although certainly tragic, this experience has given him quite a platform as a believer to share his testimony and encourage others in coping with such a tragic loss and the difficulties associated with war. I was reminded during his talk of a quote I had to learn by rote memory as a freshman at USAFA:
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. - John Stuart Mill”
The point of this post is by no means intended as war mongering because I haven’t met many yet who aren’t looking forward to coming home soon. In fact, what struck me most about COL McKnight’s talk was the relative amount of time he spent talking about Blackhawk Down (very little) compared to the importance of family (most of the talk). Here is a war hero whose post military career (the rest of his life actually) has been fueled by the events of a brief moment in time on the streets of Mogadishu, October 3-4, 1993, yet the passage of time has shaped the emphasis of his message around that which is lasting, the impact you have on the kingdom as a believer and the legacy you leave to your family. It was an encouraging hour!
On a related note, what I continue to miss the most of course is Amy and the kids. As a gift to our close family this past Christmas, we had put together a video montage of our family (mostly the kids of course) put to music. The only problem was that I didn’t get a copy for myself, never thinking I would actually need one at the time since I didn’t definitively know at Christmas that I would be deployed. Amy was kind enough to send me a copy. It’s actually been more difficult to watch than I thought it would be because it makes me miss them more! I can’t decide if I am actually punishing myself by watching it. As time passes, I suspect it will become an encouraging reminder that I will soon be home and able to see them again but for now their absence is still almost too acute to watch.
Part of what is magnifying my missing of the kids in particular is that we put Emma on a plane by herself on Friday to head back to San Antonio for a weekend youth retreat with our previous church, Believer’s Fellowship, where Emma still has many friends. She even made a connection in Houston all by herself! Although Amy and I frequently reflect on the small window of time within which we have our kids at home hence the best opportunity to teach and train them to be Godly adults (a captive audience!), it hit me rather hard when I got a text from her that she had landed safely in San Antonio that we only had about 5 years left with Emma at home (and 6 months of those are with me in Afghanistan so we’re down to 4.5 when I get back…yikes!) Our window is narrow, so we must take every moment captive to teach, encourage, and train. The responsibility of parenting is a daunting one to be sure.
Finally, it’s been fun running into a number of people I have known from previous assignments. It seems like every time we go to the DFAC for a meal, there’s someone you bump into that you haven’t seen in forever and didn’t realize was deployed. Your military colleagues with whom you deploy are by no means a replacement for your family but they are a decent proxy in the interim as everyone goes overboard to reach out make you feel welcome. It is slowly but surely becoming a home away from home.
Until next time,