Today President Obama announced that all troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year. As expected, the military spouse blogs and Facebook pages are buzzing.
Are we celebrating? Or are we simply relieved. That depends on your interpretation. There will continue to be some troops in Iraq, protecting the enormous US Embassy and training Iraqi troops and police. Exact numbers are being argued and debated; claims of 150, 500, 5000, are flying through the blogosphere. The debates of should we/should we not continue to stay, together with the debate of should we ever have been there in the first place continues. One non-debatable point: no matter what anyone thinks of these wars, the sacrifices made by my community — by the parents of the young Marines and soldiers, the spouses and the children who survived and surmounted the stresses and strains of multiple deployments, the courage and fortitude of the service-members downrange — are not to be slighted or considered a waste.
Personally, after all these years, this milestone is welcomed. I have a friend whose husband is deployed in that theater of operations, and we are celebrating the fact that he will be home sooner than previously thought. My husband spent two deployments in Iraq, my son survived one there. I spent hours and hours watching news reports, wondering if I would see their faces, sending hundreds of care packages, making thousands of cookies and meeting many wonderful family members going through the same thing.
It has been a long, long war, with thousands dead and tens of thousands wounded. The wards at Walter Reed, Bethesda Naval Hospital, Brooke Army medical Center and VA hospitals around the country are filled with men and women who were wounded in Iraq. They will continue to bear the scars, both seen and unseen, of combat and this will not end at the end of the year.
Are we celebrating? Or are we simply relieved? Good question. With many of us in the midst of deployments to other areas, this does not resemble the V-J or V-E Day celebrations of decades past. This is a quieter, more private celebration or commemoration for us. But then, so was the war. For weeks or months at a time, the American public seemed to forget that there even was a war.
We will remember the friends we lost, the ones who came back changed, the new friends we made as we supported each other through days and nights of deployment. Today I remember Ken, my friend Karen M’s son, who is at Section 60 in Arlington Cemetery; I remember the 9 funerals of Minnesota National Guardsmen that I attended during the 22 month deployment; I remember my son calling me from Wiesbaden to tell me he was heading downrange and sliding to the floor; I remember his calls and emails from Mosul and Baghdad; I remember my husband’s nonchalant “yeah, that’s just a mortar” when I asked what the loud noise was; I remember the hello’s and goodbyes at airports and armories.
Photo from crowdive via flickr