As parents, we are constantly inundated with a litany of introspective and surprisingly philosophical questions from our kids.
Even as a college graduate (and I like to think a well-versed person), I am very often stumped, as I’m sure many of us are.
Now, I didn’t say I was a MENSA member but I know a little about enough to get me by. I am usually able to ramble on a la Cliff Claven explaining the complexities of geese migration to Norm in an attempt to answer said questions.
This inevitably ends with the kids saying “How about we just ask Siri?”
But how do we explain to our kids things that we can’t even fathom?
“What’s it like to be in a war?”
A little backstory: I was volunteering in my daughter’s class and the station I was at was one to make Valentine cards for the troops overseas.
This is something very close to my heart. I never served, but I am always humbled and amazed at the fact that we have thousands of men and women fighting for us overseas, literally putting their lives on the line to protect our freedom, while we live in peaceful oblivion drinking our cold beer, soaking up the sun at spring training games and talking about the “Real Housewives of Blah Blah.”
The point is related well by a hand-written note posted on a military facility in Ramadi, Iraq:
“America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war; America is at the mall.”
It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that, while we worry about whom the bachelor is going to choose and how much the new video game my kid wants is going to cost, there are men and women constantly in harm’s way. When I see someone in the service out and about, I always make sure to express my gratitude. It is overwhelming and I usually almost lose my composure trying to thank them for the fact that they are making my life and America’s freedom possible.
Back to the Valentine cards for the troops. I was walking around helping the kiddos and one of them looked up to me and said, “What is it like to be in a war?”
Uh, not even Siri can handle that one. I looked around for reinforcements (the teacher, another parent volunteer, the class hamster) anyone that could help me out with this one.
“Well, buddy I think it’s probably really scary but we have awesome people that have been trained very well for any type of situation.”
Apparently my answer did not satisfy him as he just kept staring at me and again, “What’s it like to be in a war?”
Luckily, I am well skilled in the art of distraction and just helped him write “thank you for our freedom” on his Valentine.
I couldn’t get that thought out of my head. We’ve seen movies, read books, heard stories, played the video games, but what is it really like?
I don’t think we would ever even begin to surmise what our troops have been through or “what it’s like to be in a war”.
And as luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Shaun Wheelwright, one of the creators of a one of a kind project called the Six Word War.
Together, Shaun and Mike Nemeth, veterans and classmates at West Point, worked on the very daunting task of providing a platform for the brave men and women that have put their lives on the line for us. They asked those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to describe what they’ve been through in six-word essays.
The result is an amazing range of emotions. Heartwarming to heartbreaking. Life affirming to terrifying.
“Hold the baby to the webcam.”
“Hearts and minds, I lost both.”
“Mom, can’t chat now. Rockets incoming.”
“Boredom, boredom, sheer terror, boredom, boredom.”
“Responsibility causing maturity beyond my years.”
“I’ll never be this cool again.”
“So wish to leave it behind.”
“War wasn’t supposed to come home.”
“Home, now the hard part begins.”
See what I mean?
Although there is no way we can ever express our undying gratitude to those who have served, what we can do is when they do come home show them empathy through attempting to understand the hell they have been through.
The book is available on Amazon.
More importantly this has the potential to provide our service men and women some solace in knowing that they are never alone and if they are struggling telling their story, maybe the six-word-war could ease their hearts and minds if for just awhile.
I can’t speak for all, but I know for sure what my six words would be.
Forever grateful for all of you.