Today has been a day filled with ups and downs. Work wise, things were the norm. I got in early to finish up some paperwork that I didn’t manage to get to the day before. Around 8:30 a small contingent of folks from our office made the journey out to the Carl Vinson Veteran’s Hospital to drop off some holiday goodies, visit with veterans and share a laugh or two.
If you’ve never visited a VA hospital, it can be somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. The men and women there are very mentally alert, but their bodies can’t always keep up. Such is the cruel reality of old age. You can see them struggling to communicate or move around the hospital wing and it breaks my heart every time.
With this particular visit, I put together candy bags and individually addressed over a hundred and sixty cards so that every veteran could have some holiday cheer. It’s such a small token and I have no idea if the vets even like it. I’m hoping that one day if I’m ever in their shoes though that someone will be willing to sign some Christmas cards and stop by for a cup of hot cocoa or a game of go fish with me during the holidays. What goes around, comes around, right?
By the way, you don’t need to have served in the military to visit a veteran’s hospital; contrary to popular believe, this isn’t a prerequisite. Anyone can visit. These folks have amazing life stories; many of them are the kind that great novels are fashioned after. If you have a free weekend or evening, I would recommend taking some time to stop by your local veteran’s hospital. You won’t regret it, I promise.
As the bus made it’s way back to the base, I received a rather distressing phone call from my mom asking if I had heard from Max lately. When I told her no, she took a deep breath and said the words that I’ve feared more than anything: there’s been a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan.
If you’re a new hodgepodger, my husband, Max, is currently deployed to southern Afghanistan along with some good friends of ours.
Somehow my heart skipped a few beats while at the same time speeding up at an alarming rate. My breathing shallowed and it was as if the whole world went quiet. All I could focus on was her voice and the mental checklist I was rattling off in my head.
If something had happened, I would have known about it.
I would be the first one to know.
But I hadn’t heard from him in a while.
I tried to keep my voice as level as possible as I politely hung up the phone.
Being on a bus with only my iPhone, I turned to google. Several search combinations later, I discovered that there was in fact a helicopter crash, but that it was a UH-60 Black Hawk, not a HH-60 Pave Hawk.
For those of you who don’t know the distinction, Black Hawks are flown by the Army and Pave Hawks are flown by the Air Force. Really, they’re practically the same airframe, but with a different paint job and name.
But if the average Joe doesn’t know this distinction, then maybe a reporter would confuse them as well. My mind picked away at my logic, instilling more doubt and fear in me as the bus rolled on down the winding country highway.
I sent Max a short message via Facebook.
Black Hawk crashed near Kabul. 6 US soldiers killed. Please send me a message and let me know you’re ok. Love you.
And I waited.
In the meantime, I called my mom back to tell her I was 85% sure that the crash was Army related and that I believed Max was fine. If you’ve ever been in a situation like this then you know that 85% sure isn’t good enough; you want 100% absolutely positive, without a doubt, you’d stake your own life on it sure.
And then the phone call came from the commander’s wife: it wasn’t Max and it wasn’t even his unit or any of his buddies he deployed with.
Nervous exhale. Thank God.
I felt happy, relieved even, that Max was fine and as safe as possible at the moment.
On days like today I’m thankful.
Thankful that Max is safe.
Thankful that we’re both young and very much alive.
Thankful that we have such a great support system and family.
Thankful that there are still men and women who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice: their life.
Thankful that I visited local veterans who have gone before me to protect
my our way of life.
But while I’m thankful for all of this, there’ still a cold reality that I can no longer ignore. Today I heard harrowing news, but in the end, I was told that my significant other, my other half, my husband is still alive and well. Others are not as lucky. Sometime within the next day or so, six families will get a phone call that will change their life for forever. A husband, brother, uncle, or son is not coming home. And it’s the week before Christmas. (To my knowledge, none of the fatalities were women.)
For many Americans, we’ve pulled out of the war; for many, they believe soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are no longer putting their lives on the line. This isn’t the case.
My heart goes out to the helicopter rescue community and fellow brothers in arms today.