The Children Of Soldiers, Ctd

A reader writes:

I just watched the video of the young girl who is surprised when her father is home from the war. Watching the expressions on her face, I knew instantly what she felt. I've been in her shoes. My father spent time in the Middle East during the first Gulf war. I didn't see him for six months. I was about the same age as this girl is now.

At ten years old, you are old enough to understand that when your father leaves for war, he is not leaving by choice. It is duty, honor, and obligation. But abstract notions like war and duty are overshadowed by the stark reality of one parent not being home. And so at times, you get angry at your father for not being there, even knowing it's not his choice. But even the anger comes and goes. The strongest part of the complex emotional bundle is worry and fear; at ten years old, you are old enough to understand that if your father is off to war, he might not return.

So when you see him again, what you feel is complicated. First is joy. Soon after the joy follows anger. But the tears come from relief.

I remember the the moment when my mother brought my father home like it was yesterday.

We were back stateside for the summer (we were stationed in Yakota, Japan at the time). My mom had braved flying back to the Midwest from Japan with four children because my aunt was getting married. I was expecting that we would return to Japan before we would see my dad again. My mom dropped us off at one of my aunt's houses and went to the airport, not telling us our dad would be home soon. We played with our cousins until she came back. She rang the doorbell so we'd come down. As the door opened, and I saw my dad standing there, I stopped moving. I stood there for a long time (at least it felt like a long time) before I finally rushed to hug him. I worried all the time that I might never see him again. Having those worries assuaged was one of the biggest reliefs of my life.