I know there is still much turmoil among Americans regarding continued war and service members affected by constant deployments, ongoing training and the non-stop OPTEMPO (operations tempo, which increases with the intensity of and number of operations). Tensions run high for all of us, and no one is immune, especially those in military families. What I want to express here, however, is that I believe that we will occupy Iraq for a very LONG time to come, due to the fact that Iraq continues to be on "wobbly legs," and will continue to be susceptible to terrorists inclined to take advantage of those wobbly legs, set up shop, and make Iraq a terrorist haven, yet again. Iraq, as President Obama indicated in his address, Iraq still does not have a government in place. Iraq is a nation in recovery, not so unlike Germany and Korea after World War II. In addition to the atrocities of Hitler and his regime, Germany had suffered terrible losses: its cities were in ruins from the bombings toward the end of World War II, and agricultural production was only 35% of what it was before the war. The US occupation of Korea also began after World War II, and anyone who has visited Korea can attest to the fact that some South Korean highways are lined with foxholes and trenches, and many of their bridges and overpasses are ready to be destroyed quickly in the event of a North Korean invasion.
Now that activity has declined in Germany and Korea, bases have been closing over the past 15 years. What this means for Iraq is that combat operations cease, and the United States will operate as an occupying entity, not unlike our occupations of Germany and Korea. Though, like Korea, it is unlikely that the vast majority of tours in Iraq will evolve to include families in the near future.
So, where do we go from here?
I recently heard Fort Carson Commander, Major General David Perkins talking of resilience. The Army is trying to determine why two individuals who experience the same trauma may be affected by it differently. One may be totally in shock, and may develop post traumatic stress symptoms. The other brushes off his pants and keeps right on going. The Army is training both soldiers and spouses to be resilient, to be the one who wipes off his or her hands and keeps on living, and living well. The Army has even implemented a Master Resilience Trainer Course with the motto "Strong Minds, Strong Bodies."
I want to get on that "band wagon." I want to be the resilient one. I am a retired soldier, as well as an Army wife, whose Sapper just reached his 20 year milestone. We chose this life, knowing full well there is sacrifice, but more than that, we chose this life BECAUSE OF THE SACRIFICE. Because this sacrifice gives to our lives something bigger than ourselves. Life meaning, which cannot be belittled by the purpose of "receiving a paycheck," or anything else. I must admit also that the 20 years I spent in uniform does not even begin to compare to the OPTEMPO my Sapper has experienced over the past ten years. I used to think we had it good compared to our grandparents who did not hear from their service members for years at a time during the early wars. After all, they did not have satellite phone, Yahoo Messenger and web cams, and the most extraordinary postal system in the world. Istill think things are better for todays' Army families. But I think this is all relative to the time. Our parents' and grandparents' hardships and benefits were relative to their life experiences and demands. Our hardships and benefits are relative to our life experience. You cannot truly compare them because the variables are not the same. The economy is radically different. Really, it is like comparing apples and oranges, despite the similarities in how the early wars affected service members. Never-the-less, I have to constantly remind myself that I would have this life with my Sapper (which now includes PTSD, TBI, both our bad habits and a lifetime of emotional baggage) over any other life without him, even if it means facing total sacrifice on his part. I'll be able to hold my head high.
And when I'm feeling negative, angry, or depressed, it is people who critisize, who do not truly know the issues or understand the big picture, and who refuse to see all the good that is accomplished, who get me back on my personal bandwagon, return me to my personal place of spirited determination, and remind me of my higher purposes. Just because the OPTEMPO has changed, that doesn't mean our life purpose has changed, and sometimes, yes, I whine, and I need to be reminded to keep my eye on the ball-that ball that was our life purpose. If you ask my Sapper, he will tell you that he is not ready to leave active duty yet. He truly still enjoys his job, despite the aches of a non-stop OPTEMPO or anything else Army life has to dish out. Warrior spirit still thrives inside him, and I honestly cannot see him doing anything else, not at this point in time, even if I had a job earning six figures. Sapper still loves his job. It still gives him that higher purpose that many of us seek. How many of us only wish to find our life purpose?
And who knows? Maybe some day in my lifetime, Iraq will be safe enough to allow Army families to travel with their service members on tours in the same way they have to Germany and Turkey. I would love to see that part of the world some day, a place with some of the oldest and greatest history of mankind.