This morning, on September 11, many of us reflect. I think about where I was 11 years ago today when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. This morning, I rode a creaky subway to work, my thoughts consuming me. As I meandered my way through the humid tunnels and up toward a buzzing Times Square, I passed six middle-aged men wearing Army uniforms. I emerged onto the street, my cheeks graced by the cool hints of fall, picked up my iPhone, and called someone that matters very much to me.
We dated for almost three years. During that time, he spent ten months or so in Afghanistan. A staff sergeant in the Army, it was his second tour there. Because of what happened this day 11 years ago, this amazing man I feel fortunate to know, his life, the lives of his friends and family, and so many of his peers, will forever be changed.
The phone rang three times, and then he answered. "Thank you for your service," I said.
He paused and said, "Today, that means more than you know."
... I won't go into the rest of the details from the conversation. What I will say, though, is that I was 13 years old when 9/11 happened. My 13-year-old self had no clue that she'd go through a period of time in her life loving someone so much and cursing the very day that changed his life forever. Heck, she had no clue how much it would change her, too.
Loving someone in the military is an experience unlike any other. You sacrifice so much of yourself to help make things better for them, and you're never once angry for it. The deployments happen. Your friends think it's only a little weird that you're spending time with your significant other's family while he's not around, but it's a bond that really can't be put into words. When you care so deeply for someone who is halfway across the world getting shot at, you reach for strength from those around you who truly understand.
Seeing those men in uniform getting out of the subway this morning made me realize that even though he and I are no longer together, we navigated through an intense period in our lives with one another as our biggest support system, and that will forever keep us bonded. He was the first man I ever really loved. Today especially, I thank all of the men and women who have dedicated their time and efforts to Operation Enduring Freedom as a result of the events that happened today, 11 years ago. Today, I say thank you. Today, I hung up with an "I love you."
Do you love someone in the military?
Image via Tom Hannigan/Flickr