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There are two kinds of heroes: those who go and offer their lives, and those who stay behind, faithful, hopeful and strong. We know and honor the heroism of our warriors, but we too often forget about those who stay at home, who sacrifice with their fear, their longing, and their loneliness.
I remember when my parents took me to the airport after a month's leave at home with them, prior to my assignment to Vietnam. My father, normally a very stoic man, had tears in his eyes. My mother, a woman who would cry with abandon while watching the then-popular daytime program, "Queen for a Day", did everything in her power to remain dry-eyed, though I could tell it was a herculean effort for her.
Like most young men, I naively thought of the war I was going to more as a romantic adventure. I could not know the long hours of worry, and the terrible thoughts of possible loss that must have gone through their minds during the thirteen months that I was in Vietnam, not until I became a parent myself. They watched the news every night, seeing the unfolding events of the Tet Offensive in Khe Sanh, Hue, and Saigon. They had to listen to the weekly KIA and WIA counts that were rising with frightening speed during those long days and months of the Tet.
Loved ones today, like mine over forty years ago, go on with their daily lives, doing the things they've always done, but always with nagging fears at the edge of their consciousness. They cannot help worrying. They are not in the immediate danger that their loved ones are in, but they are always aware of the potential for the phone call, or the arrival of an officer in dress uniform with a chaplain in tow.
While our young men and women are on the battlefields of today's wars, their loved ones back home, like those of every age, heroically endure the empty spaces in their homes and hearts, and the long wait for their return.
I remember the joy and relief on the faces of my family and friends, on my return. We see this joy and relief on the faces of those who welcome their loved ones home today as well. We must remember those on the home front and support them. Their sacrifice, too, has been great and generous.