Living with a combat veteran is an honor. Yes, it can be stressful at times. Even my son, the combat veteran himself, has asked me “Mom, why do you think I’m worth helping?” when he is feeling discouraged. Aside from the obvious, that he is my son and I would move Heaven and Hell both to help one of my children and have no problem going Mama when someone mistreats them, there is another reason. It was the infamous, tragic morning of 9/11 ten years ago. Not the actions themselves but what my son said that morning.
He was still asleep when the attacks happened. His younger brother and sister were at school. He was three weeks away from leaving for basic training at Ft. Jackson, SC. He had begged me to let him join while still 17 but because of a feeling I had, I told him I would not sign the papers and that he had to wait until he was 18. He did just that on his 18th birthday. To this day, he thinks I felt something. I remember asking the recruiter “What if there’s a war?” as I sat there with the papers in my hand that needed to be signed. He assured me there wouldn’t be. Still, I couldn’t do it. I turned to my son and told him I couldn’t take the responsibility of giving permission just in case. He didn’t argue with me. As I said, my kids respect when I have a feeling. It’s a mom thing, mother’s intuition.
The morning of 9/11, I woke my son up and begged him not to go to basic. I told him what had happened to the Twin Towers. We heard on the news about the other two planes hitting the Pentagon and going down in the Pennsylvania field. I realize other families were going through tragedies, our entire country was being attacked, but I have to admit, my immediate concern was in regards to my own children and how this would affect my son’s enlistment.
My son turned to me and gave me a hug. “Mom, it’s even more important than ever that I go. For you, for Jeremy and for the Munchkin (his pet name for his little sister). America is mine.”
My son and all the other combat veterans did not hesitate to go. Some signed up because of 9/11. Some were more determined than ever to honor their already existing obligations. The young man who defended his family, his friends, his country, did not bale on them. He encouraged his younger siblings, he whispered in my ear the day he was deploying to return to my writing dream.
He had dreams also. At first, he wanted to be a history teacher. Then he decided while on active duty to follow a passion and go into film directing. He can write also and we even talked about the possibility of his model-beautiful sister getting a part in one of his future films.
That is the young man I see when I look at the combat veteran in my family. On his bad days, when the nightmares return, when he argues with me due to memory loss and PTSD, when the headaches from his physical brain injury get bad, I think back to the morning of 9/11 and the incredibly wonderful young man who didn’t hesitate to honor his promise to his country.
Today, I write, for pleasure, for my own fulfillment and for this wonderful organization, Family of a Vet. I am thankful every day that my son came home alive. He didn’t come home entirely, though, and he didn’t come home alone. If you are the loved one of a combat vet, you know exactly what I mean.
Our military heroes did not turn their backs on us. A war zone is not a movie with a guaranteed happy ending. Even when I feel stressed and discouraged with government issues, and yes, my son’s TBI and PTSD symptoms, all I have to do is remember what he said to me that morning ten years ago. I fight for that young man. I don’t give up. I make noises, write, talk to veterans sometimes even at night on the phone and online, who need someone to just listen and understand.
So families and friends, we know you need a place where others understand and we have that here. We know that like us, you have to be the combat buddies here at home. We have to help others realize that our military paid a high price for defending us. We need to try to help the public understand that TBIs and PTSD are not negative characteristics but battle wounds from war. It’s more important than ever: for your veteran, your family, for yourself and your country.
Submitted by Monica Newton, proud mom of a combat veteran