Charlotte Rains Dixon  

On American Soil

As of yesterday, my son-in-law, he who has been deployed in Kuwait and Iraq all year, is back in America.  Home.  Not home home yet, as the army has all kinds of things they do to returning soldiers at Fort Hood.  But back in the United States. 

Everyone is breathing easier and sleeping better.Soldier_weapon_army_263893_l

No longer do I have to hide newspaper articles about deaths in Iraq or be sure to keep the TV and radio off if my daughter happens to be around.  No longer do I have to fret about what might happen.  No longer do I have to defend the army to others.

It's not like my son-in-law is a gung-ho soldier type.  No, he was one of many who signed up after September 11th, served his four years, and expected never to hear from the army again.  Until they called him back up, completely out of the blue, last January. 

And we're the complete opposite of an army family.  Born and raised Unitarian, liberal, peace-loving, we've never even really known people in the army.  Until now.  And suddenly this puts a whole new spin on things.  I'm not a fan of the war in Iraq, but I am a passionate fan of the soldiers who are serving there.  Now, when I walk through an airport and see a soldier, I smile and sometimes I say, "Thank you for serving us."  I would have thought that was so corny a year-and-a-half ago.

The great thing about being a writer is that every experience, bad or good, has meaning.  This experience has taught me to walk a mile in another's shoes.  Well, not exactly, because I've not experienced the rigors of war.  But to be suddenly pushed into looking at certain things in a different way does wonders for one's world view. 

My daughter has borne the brunt of this, of course.  And watching her deal with her new husband's absence for a year, here's what I've learned:

Shit Happens.  Usually there's no why.  Bad things generally aren't traceable back to anything you did.  (Except for obvious things like the person who gets lung cancer from smoking a pack a day.) So there's really nothing to be gained by wringing your hands and asking, "why?" because there is no answer.   You'll be better served to ask "how?" as in, "how am I going to get through this?"

Connection Matters.  Everyone in my daughter's circle of family and friends has grown accustomed to her carrying her phone around with her every second, waiting for a call, which could sometimes come at odd times.  We've become used to her excusing herself at dinner or in the middle of a shopping trip when he calls.  No matter what she's doing, she drops everything and talks to him.  And that is precisely why they've managed to remain so close throughout this year.  Connection matters, whether it is connecting with other people, God (see below), or other writers.

Prayer Helps.  I've never been religious (I was raised Unitarian, after all) but I do consider myself to be very spiritual.  I don't know if prayer really influences events–though I like to think it does–but I don know that it is a comfort, and we need to take our comfort wherever we can find it.

What about you? Have you experienced any big life events that have taught you important lessons?  Comment away.

0 thoughts on “On American Soil

  1. Patty - Why Not Start Now?

    Hi Charlotte – I can only imagine what that must have been like for your family. I’m feeling your relief. Your wisdom comes through in your post. I think the big life events I’ve experienced have taught me that shit happens, as you say. It’s that realization that bad things just happen, no one’s to blame, but ultimately life is sweet and always worth living.

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    Patty, I guess, upon further reflection, that impulse to ask why is a way of assessing blame. Years ago, when my kids were tiny, we all escaped a burning house. I remember asking over and over again, “why?” until I finally realized there was no why…but it seems to be a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again!

  3. Christi

    So very, very, very, VERY happy for you. My best friend of a million years just recently got her husband back from a 16 month tour of Iraq. You always hear about a soldier’s story, but it is just as amazing what the immediate, and extended families go through during a soldier’s deployment.

    My hat goes off to you for providing outstanding support!


  4. Charlotte Dixon

    Thanks, Christi, I really had NO idea what military families go through until this experience. So glad to hear that your friend’s husband is home!

  5. Angela Artemis

    Charlotte, I’m so glad to hear that your son-in-law is back safely in the U.S. I can only imagine what a relief it was. My uncle did three tours of duty in Viet Nam and we were always so nervous each time. Thank goodness he returned safely too.

    Last Sept. I lost my father very suddenly. He’d always been healthy, and you would’ve thought he was in his early 70’s not his 80s. Even though you know this day will come someday, it’s still a shock when it arrives. I felt as if someone kicked a chair out of from under me. You just never know how much you rely on your parents until they’re gone. I’ve learned that you really have to express your feelings and say I love you when you have the chance.

  6. Roy Burkhead

    Wonderful news about family coming home! The factory I work in is in Clarksville, Tenn–the home of the 101st Airborne. It total military town, of course. I just think these guys and gals are great. Every now and then, I will talk with one of them while in line at a fast food joint and just say THANKS for everything they’re doing. In the office, many of the ladies here are married to military men overseas. It’s much tougher on the families–on a daily basis–than the vast majority of people realize and verbalize-I suspect. A lot of good people are sacrificing a lot for the country. Good post Charlotte, and I’m glad your family will soon be together again. Roy

  7. Charlotte Dixon

    Angela, So sorry to hear about your father. I feel lucky that I had some notice and time to say goodbye to both my parents. However, one is never really ready. I remember my sister calling to tell me that the doctor said my father wouldn’t make it through the weekend and my first thought was, “NO, I’m not ready yet!”

    Roy, Glad you give the military folks some thanks as you walk through town. I can’t believe what a different view I have of the military now!

    Just heard from my daughter that the army couldn’t get Russell a flight home so he’s driving, 20 hours from Texas, with his good buddy who is also anxious to get home to his wife. How cute is that?

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