This I believe, that my service is to my family. I was a specialist in the US Army, but after my return from Iraq, in 2004, I decide to leave the service. After nine years, the decision to leave the service was difficult for me because I enjoyed many things about the Army. I decided to leave the service of my country for my family.
The U.S. Army is its own world, with its own language and customs. The feeling of pride serving in the military was a joy I will never forget. There is no closeness that can compare to the closeness that people share when they share hardship, and Iraq was a hardship. The rush of the excitement and fear, like the fastest roller coaster, are the joys of raids and patrols. Yet your family is halfway around the world, and your contact with them is limited.
In Iraq, my unit was only allowed one phone call a week, and only for 20 minutes at a time. This inability to talk to me drove my wife, Jennifer, absolutely insane. There was also little time to speak to my children because I needed to handle business with my wife. My priorities about the Army and my family changed the night that Jennifer said that my son Roger thought I was dead. I was very confused, so I asked Jennifer to explain. Jennifer said that she and my son were talking a couple of days before, and she told him that I said “Hi,” and that I loved him. Jennifer told me that Roger seemed confused and he asked, “Isn’t Dad dead”? To which Jennifer answered, “No, why would you think that?” Roger said, “Well, he is in the war, I thought he was dead” with the perfect logic of an eight year old.
After I heard that whole secondhand conversation my wife put Roger on the phone. I spoke briefly to him, and reassured him that I was still alive. That simple statement of an eight year old changed my world. I promised myself that no matter what, I would find one day a week to prove to my children that I was not gone or dead. I still think about life in the Army, but I had to make my family the priority. Seeing the smiling faces of my wife and children makes my decision well worth it.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.