I love watching movies. It’s one of my favorite things to do — especially when the movie doesn’t think for you; those are the best ones. Of course, I have an all-time favorites list dating back before my husband and I were married. Up until last year, one of them was “Black Hawk Down.”
Before becoming a MilSo (a military spouse) I remember feeling a tremendous sense of pride in our military when I watched it. My best friend (now husband) was a soldier, and he was a good guy that I’d known since childhood. So the first time I watched it, I loved it even more.
I felt I could relate as a
civilian to his military life.
I was in awe of what the soldiers overcame in this movie. I know Hollywood takes liberties with “true” movies but as a creative nonfiction writer, I appreciated the details that made the story come alive, the dialogue was authentic; and the emotional arc and character development were on target. Over time I only remembered that it was a good story.
Alas, I was wrong.
When it came on TV this time around, I decided to watch it with my husband, who had deployed several times. Within minutes my stomach was twisted up in knots. My pulse raced and I couldn’t place this weird sensation. Less than an hour into it, I needed a restroom break. Watching it as a MilSo (military spouse) was hard. How did I not see this when he was just my-best-friend-who-was-a-soldier-fighting-in-a-distant-war-kind-of-thing?
When I returned from the bathroom, it grew worse. My husband’s face was tense. Turns out he had worked (in other capacities) with some of the deceased soldiers portrayed in the movie. He knew them by name and rank and knew others who had worked with them as well. As he spoke about them and his experience (well, at least what he could tell me anyway), the room grew smaller and the ringing in my ear persisted. This was too real.
I realized a few things that day — why I didn’t watch war movies while he was deployed, and how fortunate I was to have him home. Some indeed gave all so others like him could survive. The family and friends of these brave soldiers paid the ultimate price. And every day, they are faced with that knowledge and live a new reality without their loved one.
How could I be so clueless?
This was another MilSo, someone else in my community who is as brave and courageous and admirable as his or her soldier. The pain and fear, joy and sorrow of each deployment ... these MilSos felt it, too. How different the movie seemed now through the eyes of someone who knows military life intimately.
This is not a movie; this is someone’s life.
To all the military spouses out there who gave up their husbands and wives for our freedom, for my freedom, for the freedom of my child, thank you for showing us how to live in a different, new way with those who have passed; thank you for showing me how to put one foot in front of the other and move forward with life after tragedy. Thank you for reminding me to be proud, that I love and am loved by an amazing individual who fights a fight many are not willing to stand up for.
Thank you for writing about your experiences, for helping to shape military legislation, for being my voice. Thank you for your service at home — during peace and in comba. But most of all, I apologize for taking you for granted and liking this “story” that is your life.