As I write this, Theo has been in the Army 16 months, nearly half of his 33-month commitment. Most days I don't feel like an Army wife, only a lonely one. I still live where we always lived. When I visit my husband, we stay in his off-post apartment, he stays in his civvies (albeit with that distinctively Army haircut, the High Fade), and we spend the lion's share of our time in civilian spaces. I have never attended an FRG meeting, never met his commanding officer, never shopped for groceries at a commissary, never experienced a battalion sendoff or welcome-home event.
My husband is Army, but my life is civilian. And in a pecular way, that parallels the national condition: We are a country at war, a civilian population at peace.
In this strange Army-yet-not existence, I can't help but notice that we live in a nation where our tenth year at war merits fewer headlines than the latest drunken escapades of the Jersey Shore cast or the latest catfight on Real Housewives. Where supporting our troops is a bumper sticker or a lapel pin, not a personal sacrifice. Where the biggest debate about our decade-long occupation of foreign lands is its impact on the federal deficit, not the blood it has shed or the virulent new enemies it has bred.
1% of the population lives (and dies) the consequences of a decade of war. 99% of the population doesn't even have to think about it for days, weeks, even months at a time, except to complain about its price tag--the kind of price measured in dollar signs, not crosses at Arlington Cemetery.
How wrong that feels. How immoral.
When Theo joined the Army, I made peace with his decision--and oh, the irony of that expression!--by telling myself that it is important that we have an all-volunteer military, not a draft. That if men like Theo did not serve willingly, someone else's son, husband, brother, or father would have to serve unwillingly. No one should be forced to serve their country, I thought. No one should be conscripted into a service that may require their very life.
I still believe that. I fiercely believe it.
And yet. And yet. 10 years into this war, I cannot help but wonder: If draft lottery numbers were again being read on national TV, might not this war be likelier to end? If a Congressman's son or a Fortune 500 CEO's son could at any moment be drafted to bleed and die in Iraq or Afghanistan, would we still be there?
I also cannot help wondering: How "willing" are many of our volunteer military, in a nation where the unemployment rate still stands at more than 9%? In a ruined economy, it's as likely to be a paycheck as patriotism that leads someone's steps to the recruiter's office. Or health insurance: 39-Year-Old Joins Army to Save Wife's Life.
More than twice as many American lives have been lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than died on 9/11. More than 6,000 and still counting. The American injured number in the tens of thousands. The Iraqi and Afghanistan civilian dead, in the hundreds of thousands. Civilian injured, perhaps in the millions.
Enough. Enough. By even the most bloodthirsty measure of justice or vengeance, enough.