I was just 11 years old on Sept. 11, 2001 — just a homeschooled girl on her way to an Iowa livestock sale to help her church provide the hot meal, beef and noodles (with a side of corn, of course). As a natural-born people watcher, I mostly just sat back and observed other’s reactions. I had no reaction of my own.
I was pretty smart for an 11-year-old, so I was in charge of the cash register, something that always impressed the local farmers and their wives. And when they’d ask, “Why aren’t you in school?” I’d tell them I was homeschooled and presently working on the subjects of mathematics and agriculture, so there.
But that morning, everyone was different, except maybe my younger siblings and me because we still weren’t sure how we should react.
One by one, I rang up meals precariously piled on trays. I listened as long-time farmers and veterans exchanged gossip about the events of the day.
“Just bomb ’em,” I remember one WWII veteran said. “We got to do something.”
Others talked about the military and sending our guys over there to take care of business. When I heard that, I remember connecting the dots. My dad was a member of the National Guard and my mom had spent almost the entire morning crying. Dad was going to leave, she was thinking.
And he did. My dad was deployed for 13 months. It doesn’t seem so dire now, but then, to a family who’d never really experienced a time of war — other than his brief four-month deployment in Desert Storm — it was crazy.
Now, as a military spouse, I often wonder what this life would be like without war. What would life be for military families if there were no deployments to combat zones? I expect it now. When Josh signed on, we knew he’d be leaving eventually. And now that he’s back from his first deployment, we anticipate another. Military members who enlisted before 2001 may have known it was always a possibility, but they didn’t know it as a reality. It took those families by surprise.
And in the military, there are rarely good surprises.
So from that 11-year-old girl and from this one, just weeks away from a new baby and trying to figure out this Army life one day at a time, I’d like to thank all of you who were serving when the rug was pulled out from under you and all of you who have made the decision to serve since.