- Posted August 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Salute to troops
Family from Far Away - Family blog post by a Deployed, Marine Father in Afghanistan
So Carrie asked me to write a segment for the family blog. In truth, this may be the first time during this deployment, 6 months in, that I’ve had a minute or two to do so. If not, it sure does feel that way. Afghanistan can do that. War can do that. As I sit here on a small outpost in Kajaki, everyone and everything once familiar to me seems a world away. Here, the familiar has just now become so. Even now, I continue to find myself focusing intently on trying to understand the superficial surfaces of people and situations and more importantly, their underlying truths and motivations. It is as if this place is an alternate reality, some sort of other time where cultures, people, ideals, agendas, money, drugs and steel collide. It is beautiful and tragic, serene and terrifying, perfectly rational and nonsensical all at once. Surreal.
I suppose one could ramble for hours about it. I won’t do that here because the true nature of war, the brutal details of its days and nights are perhaps more appropriate for another literary venue. In the short term, in my opinion, everyone loses. In the long term, well, that is for others to decide…. suffice it to say that a place like this changes a person forever as one cannot un-see what has been seen, un-make decisions made or perhaps most concerning, retrieve moments lost, spent in a place like this instead of in my own country with my wife and son who are in fact, the true loves of my life and the core reason I do what I do.
When I set off on this deployment, my 4th since the war began, Carrie and I had been married a touch over 2 years and our little man-cub, Pace Haywood Eltringham, was a few days shy of 1 year old. I mention this mainly for perspective as it brings me to the point, the foundation really, of a concept all too familiar to folks like me and families like ours. We who seem to live life in chunks, deployed and non-deployed strings of months where despite the distance and separation, we all grow and learn just a little bit more. Or in some cases, a lot.
They say having a child changes everything. I couldn’t agree more. I have missed my wife and son more than I could ever fully explain over these past few months, which years from now will be but a chapter of a bigger story. It’s not as though I didn’t miss my friends, sisters, mom and dad on previous deployments. It is more a heightened awareness of the fragile nature of things that has come with experience and age. Invincibility, it seems, fades with youth. Perhaps it is the heavier responsibilities or the perspective that accompanies the weight of making sure that if the worst should happen, they will be safe, that she will find happiness and that he will first become the respectful boy and then the honorable man I dream he will be. I pray that he will be willing to carry forward in the right way and for the right reasons, his carefully selected middle name and the surname he was given, names that mean a great deal to me and his grandfathers. One day, we all hope that they mean the same to him. The truth is that out here, I can control little to none of it. I exist on a piece of paper, on a video screen, on a phone line, or within a picture frame. Coming to terms with that has not been easy. It is a tough pill to swallow because regardless of how hard you work or what is accomplished out here, I am not there. I am missing it…. in every sense of the word. It is at the same time both the potential seed of regret and an all too real metric of sacrifice. Unavoidable, unfortunately, in my line of work. That said, I believe that my family could not be in better hands with Carrie watching over Pace. So many others, friend and family alike, most of whom are reading this blog, have kept an eye or ear out, watching over them both. It means everything to me.
Missing the growth of my own young family has been one of the most difficult aspects of this deployment. Watching Pace grow via youtube and photo email attachments has at times been the only sunshine in what is often a very dark place. What a strange combination of feelings. My elation and resultant smile when watching him take his first steps or sound out his first words and then the inevitable wish that I could have actually been there for it and scooped him up on the spot to hug him senseless. I have often thought of what it must have been like for my own father, a man who spent 28 years under the same premise. My mother also, who held it all together with not just a singular little one, but three. Talk about perspective…. And they did it with cassette tapes, photos, pens and pencils.
So we each grow and learn just a little bit more as the days and months pass. Carrie, more and more beautiful, more and more amazing in my eyes, an incredible wife to me and mother to our son. She is everything I could have hoped for. Every day, unknowingly, making my dreams come true. And then little Pacey boy, testing his limits, crawling last I saw him, now sprinting, laughing, exploring, swimming and dancing, exhausting his mother and her mother, yammering the basics of what will surely soon become an endless stream of words and questions. Questions I haven’t the first clue how to answer. And then myself, temporarily displaced but proud as I watch the videos and look at the pictures, more and more aware of how lucky I am, so thankful for the extra effort my wife has taken to keep me involved despite being so far away. Thankful also, for the tremendous love and support of friends and family. And lastly, ready to come home so that I may pull them all close. What a moment that will be.
See you all soon.