I sat at a desk in a classroom located next to the school gymnasium. I was a freshman in high school and it was only a few days into the new school year. The class should have started a few minutes before, but the teacher wasn’t in the room yet so I took advantage by talking about a guy I liked and laughing with a friend sitting next to me.
When the teacher finally walked in, he told someone to turn the T.V. on in an urgent tone. He quickly told us a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.
I cringe when I think about the comments from those around me that were made next. Things were said like “Idiot, Guess he didn’t see the giant building in front of him”.
Many of us, myself included, weren’t even exactly sure what the WTC was. “Is that where they do the stock market trades?” I remember asking.
You see, I’m from a small rural town in southern Ohio and those things all seemed so far away, at least to my teenage self. I had no clue then how much that single day would impact the rest of my life.
The second plane hit and I remember thinking that was strange. The rest of the school day passed in a bit of a blur and I don’t remember much except that we watched T.V. in almost every class.
What I remember very clearly was stepping off the bus and walking in the front door of my house. My mom was in the kitchen, again with the T.V. on. She looked at me and in a serious tone said, “You know what this means, don’t you?”.
With all my teenage naivete, I replied, “Not really”.
Her reply made my stomach drop: “We’re at war now“.
Maybe my teachers were trying to protect us, maybe they knew it wasn’t something we should hear from them, but all day no one said this. Not once had this thought ever crossed my mind. I began to ask questions, grasping to understand what this meant.
And now here we are, 15 years later. Commemorating the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Realizing our country has been at war now for 15 years.
At some points, the war has felt so far away. At other times it has felt far too close to home, like when my husband recently spent a week in Iraq and I lived each day he was gone with a lingering fear in the back of my mind, fearing the worst- that dreaded knock on the door, as I took care of our two sweet kids.
Our military journey started after the worst of the fighting was over and I’m thankful my husband hasn’t been in combat. I don’t pretend to know or even try to speak about what these 15 years of war have been like for our military families who have walked that road and dealt with those challenges.
But God has given me the courage to use my voice, has blessed me with this platform to speak upon, and has put this message on my heart: The gap between our military families and our civilians is too big. The few who continue to serve and make sacrifice after sacrifice for this country are being ignored.
Our service members and their families have needs that aren’t being sufficiently met. Things like mental health services, op-tempo, spouse employment, education gaps, and child care options are all major issues that need to be addressed and improved. When a single family is dealing with many of these issues at the same time, it puts major stress on that family and wears them down.
We need politicians and a preferably even a commander-in-chief who have served in the military and have an understanding of what this life is like.
We need civilians to step-up and offer more than words of thanks. We need people to offer employment opportunities, be informed voters, send care packages, and invite us to dinner when our spouse is deployed.
This weekend, as we commemorate the 15th anniversary of those horrific acts committed against our nation, remember we have been at war for 15 years. Remember there are men and women, husbands and wives, moms and dads separated from those they love most right this very moment.
Don’t ignore that. Don’t forget that. Don’t get so busy living your life that you forget there are people out there sacrificing their lives for yours.
You don’t have to do anything huge or life-changing. Start small. Hang a flag. Attend a memorial service. Read 15 Years of War. Say a prayer each night for those deployed. I have a whole list of ideas here. Pick one. Do something. Do your part to make the gap between the military and civilians a little bit smaller.
Let them know that after 15 years of war, they are not forgotten.
P.S.- Reading this book is an easy first step. It will give you an insider’s look at what 15 Years of War have been like for our military families. Find it here, on Amazon.
For more ideas, check out my Get Involved page!