Cary came home from his first deployment this past Monday and it was just as amazing as I'd hoped it would be. The relief and peace I felt from hugging him tight, with both his feet planted on the same ground as me, replaced all of the anxiety and worry that had been hanging over me for the last 2 months. I've slept like a baby for the last few weeks, my heart glowing every time my hand finds his in the night or I feel him roll over and tuck me into that crook in his arm where I fit so nicely.
Living in this my-husband-is-safe-and-sound-and-the-world-is-finally-right bubble made it that much more jarring when I woke early in the morning last week to a phone call from my dear friend, saying that a KC-135 had gone down in Kyrgyzstan. Her husband had been flying during the same time and she hadn't heard from him. Cary and I immediately sprung from bed and the two of us dropped to our knees to pray for the crew and their families. As Cary and I rushed to get dressed to be with our friend, Cary thought through the facts and felt pretty certain that our friend's husband wasn't on board the plane that went down. I was so relieved that he was probably okay and my friend wouldn't be getting that knock on her door. But just as the relief flowed over me, the awful realization that it was someone else made my stomach tie itself in knots.
We spent the morning waiting for updates, crying tears of joy as we heard that our friends were safe, and trying to quiet the gnawing heartache at the knowledge that other families would not receive that long awaited good news. The news finally broke that the downed crew was from Fairchild. I will never be able to forget the anguish on my husband's face as he sobbed into my shoulder, "They were ours." Cary went to the Academy with two of his fallen friends, went to trainings with the other, and had just barely sat across from them all at the chow hall in Kyrgyzstan.
The next day or two felt like I was just moving through a fog. People kept asking me if I knew them, which really; no, I didn't. I'd met them maybe once or twice, but I can't say I knew them all that well. But that's just the thing. Even when it's not someone I "know", it is always someone I know. It was someone who married right out of the Academy like us, went to pilot training like us, kissed goodbye as he left for his deployment like us, and probably talked the night before just like us. It was someone who has a baby, like Shaelynn and Joel, and they were planning on going on a family trip when she got home, like Shae and Joel. It's someone who sent their loved one off to war, with hope in their hearts that their joyful reunion was just around the corner, just like us. I no longer have the luxury of being removed from the poor anonymous souls that lose loved ones at war. They are my neighbors, my husband's coworkers, my friends. They are regular people with regular jobs who were counting down the days until they were back together as a family.
I remember anxiously watching the news for updates about the crash, the newscasters mentioning it briefly between headlines. I couldn't believe that the whole world wasn't in a frenzy over the crash. The news was playing some clip about pigs at the state fair and it made me so irritated! How can the world keep turning when the world is completely falling apart for these people just like us? As time continued to roll along as we waited for updates, Cary mentioned that his little brother just asked a girl on his first date to a dance. It hit me then that the world needs to keep turning. I can't force Cary to sit at home for the rest of his life and never go up in a plane again. I can't make all of my friends and family members vow to never leave home or take risks ever again. And so, with wobbly knees and tears stinging at my eyes, I will send my husband out to do his job. So will countless other military families, police families, fire fighter families, and all of the other families who continue to fight the good fight even in the face of grave danger. We are all on the same team. The team that continues to put their lives on the line to fight for the good. To preserve some sense of peace and security. And when called upon, to lay down their lives in the cause for right.
These brave people aren't fighting so that we can live each minute in misery and fear. They are working and sacrificing with everything they have so that Cary's little brother can go to prom, and my nieces can grow up in a free country, and so that we can all live happily and peacefully with our families. This is how we honor them. We honor their sacrifice by living for the ideals they were fighting to protect. Because the world doesn't continue to turn in spite of their deaths; the world continues to turn because of their ultimate sacrifice.
Land of the free, because of the brave.