Did you know they don’t use coins on military bases in Afghanistan or Iraq? They’re heavy, thus no fun to transport from the States. Military folk use laminated paper coins instead. Here’s a photo of some of them. Cool, huh? Still, it’s a fact I kind of wish I didn’t know. Why? Because that means I know someone who travels to the Middle East. Like my husband.
Not that I should worry. Rick doesn’t travel there often and, when he does, he assures me he is safe. You see, Rick is a government attorney. When he goes there they put him behind a desk inside an office inside a metal building behind concrete blockade behind a barbed wire fence, etc. Still, I worry. Anything could happen. He could drown in a dirt storm or accidentally staple himself to death. But Rick has always done his best to assure us that he’ll be okay. He’ll come home safe.
Well, a while back he took that message to the extreme. He’d been tasked to Iraq for a few months. While he was gone, largely due to my insanity, I decided to host a huge family party. My house was full of moms, dads, sisters, and brothers, as well as a bevy of cute nieces and nephews. They all missed Uncle Rick. Could we Skype him? Of course! We moved my laptop to the kitchen table so all could see.
When we called, Rick was at home (a metal storage container). We laughed and joked for a little while. Then Rick said, “Hey, guys! Want to see what I look like in full battle gear?” The kids squealed, “Yes!” Rick proceeded to put on 1000 pounds of gear. He looked bad ass cool. The kids ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed,’ then Rick said he had to go. We ended our call and I thought that was the end of the story.
What Rick hadn’t told us on that sweet family day was the reason he’d put on all that gear. Spoiler alert: he didn’t do it to impress our little crowd of pipsqueaks. Not at all.
Months later, after he was safely back at home, he told the reason he’d donned his gear. While he’d been talking to us, the base had kind of sort of gone under attack. “I didn’t know how to explain it to the kids,” he told me. “I didn’t want to scare them.” Or for me to freak out. When he told me that story, I wanted to hug him and throttle him at the very same time. I had to admit, it was pretty funny, given he was safely back home telling it to me in person.
But not everyone comes home. That thought is always in the back of my mind when Rick is away. Thanks goodness he’s not there often, and he really is much safer than so many others over there.
There are so many people -- families, soldiers, government employees -- who have sacrificed much more than us. On this Veteran’s Day I want them to know that they are forever in my thoughts.
They are my heroes.