Have you ever wondered about the little girl whose father is deployed? What is it like for her to say goodbye, to hug and kiss him one more time—afraid to let him go? Afraid to watch him walk away because she knows in her heart she’ll never see him again. And as he boards a ship, an airplane, a train, he hears her calling out: “Daddy! Daddy! Please don’t leave me!” He glances over his shoulder, and watching her reach her small arms toward him, disappears into the belly of the beast. I bet most of us have never thought about that young girl—we’re so busy going along our day, focusing on job and school and family life. I bet most of us don’t even know she exists—unless we were, or are, that young girl.
A couple of years ago, the hot water pipe sprang a leak in my garage. Water dripped onto stored boxes and seeped inside. The contents of one of the boxes were letters written by my mother to my father when he was deployed during his service in the Navy. I had packed those letters away to read when I was ready—that was fifteen years ago. As I spread the wet and ink-smeared letters on the kitchen floor, the living room floor, a tarp on the garage floor, I knew I still wasn’t ready to read them. But they were here now, out in the open and I couldn’t turn away from them any longer. So I began to read, discovering secrets, forgotten memories, incidents of my sisters, some harrowing, some tender. The letters also told of the love my mother had for my father, and the concern he had for his family, even though he was thousands of miles away.
I read about the time I sobbed and whimpered, “They took my daddy away. They took my daddy away.” We were driving home after saying goodbye to my when he was being deployed to Japan. I was five years old. I didn’t understand what was happening. I only knew that my daddy left. We took him to a big ship and he boarded that big ship and then we stood on the dock and watched the big ship pull away and disappear into the bay. I don’t consciously remember this. But my heart remembers the emptiness, the sadness, the fear that I didn’t have a daddy any more.
What can we do to help these little ones of the United States armed forces who are too young to understand why things are the way they are? Why do we forget about the children who sacrifice, too? What can we do to bring this child into the fold, embrace this child and carry some of the wounds? When we remember and protect these children, perhaps this will help our country as well.
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