Driving home along the forgotten highways of small town America, I passed a lot filled by white crosses wedged temporarily into sod. Adorned with tiny flags, the flock of homemade stakes scattered the lawn with names of fallen soldiers, deflowering the innocent structures in mournful, black ink. So many names of so many lost, and so many, many also left behind. My throat swelled into a choking knot as the memorial arrived and disappeared quickly into the background of my rear view.
I know that I am no exception, that I am following legions of proud footsteps belonging to those devoted women who have loved and waited for warriors. I know that wars have and will always be waged and that some soldiers return from battle and that some do not. Each day arrives with chance, and sometimes it takes a patch of crosses, cultivated by grievous loss, to act as a reminder of how high the wager actually is.
I let my mind momentarily graze an empty image of only his name left painted on whitewashed timber. The thought alone prickled my skin and sickened my gut. I said a prayer to an unknown god for the empty beds and widowed wives, for the victims of warfare, for the entire chaos of the fight. And one of gratitude, one for hope and protection, strength and endurance.
On quiet nights awaiting his departure I've been known to pout my lips and confess to wishing he didn't have to go and for his job to be less soldier-esque. Following routine, he pulls me into him with a knowing strength. His reply is serious and sincere as he reminds me that he wouldn't be all the things I love if it weren't for these parts, too. I know its true. What I don't know is how I'd ever settle for a mere memory of them.