Brian Anthony Duffy will likely take his first step, but not into the arms of his daddy. Misha Ford will don a new outfit and walk into her first day of school without being able to look back to her dad’s reassuring grin. Madelyn Neumann will successfully build and knock down her first tall tower of blocks without her mom there to share a gut-busting laugh.
These are the moments, both special and ordinary, that all parents remember. Yet for the men and women serving our country, these are moments they will miss with their own children as they sacrifice for us all.
This month, Chicago Parent’s Senior Editor Liz DeCarlo and Web Editor Liz Hoffman spent some time getting to know a few of the families affected by the surge in troop numbers. Their stories and the images of the families’ tears frozen in the camera’s lens made my heart hurt for what they are experiencing as the wars drag on.
The moment the first bomb dropped on Baghdad, I feared our country was headed for a long, nasty war. At my old newspaper job, I directed coverage from that first night to the tragic first local casualty to the first-year anniversary of a war many people began to doubt we’d ever win.
Like so many parents, I wanted to believe then-President Bush when he declared “mission accomplished” as he announced the end of major combat operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I wanted to believe our military operations a world away would make our world here free from fears of terrorism. I also truly wanted to believe Barack Obama’s promises to end the war once he traded titles from senator to commander in chief.
Yet the fear of terrorism still hovers too close for comfort and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to exact a heavy toll on our troops, our economy and our families.
The headlines generally don’t scream anymore about the sacrifices our men and women in the armed forces make. The sacrifices made by the parent left to hold down the fort often don’t merit even a mention in stories. But this is where the far-off war gets personal. It’s affecting our neighbors, our communities and children in our schools. With the president’s promised troop surge looming large, war’s reach will only touch more lives like the families we profile this month, including the Duffys, Fords, Andersons and Abordos.
No matter how you feel about the war, our government’s role in foreign affairs or even our president, we owe the men and women who are serving our country a debt of gratitude. We owe those spouses and families keeping the home fires burning our respect and a helping hand should they ever need it.