Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Beginning and End (04/16/09)
I ran across a CD of photos the other day. I slipped the disc into my computer and was surprised to see that they were pictures and videos my son in law had taken while in Iraq. I wasn’t sure what I would be looking at and was hoping I wouldn’t be intruding to view them. Most of the pictures were of the country side. The terrain was dry, treeless and boring. You could tell that it was probably very hot, with very little shade to offer shelter.
As I finished looking at the still pictures I thought back to all the emails we had received from Jesse while he was deployed. You could sense that he was homesick and lonely. In the beginning, the communication was meant for his family and close friends, keeping us as informed as the Army would allow. His messages were very well written and often filled with witty stories or interesting facts about the people and culture. He withheld all the information he knew would worry his loved ones.
Friends and family would ask about him regularly and we would share a bit of the news. After a while, there were many requests to forward his emails on to others so they could follow him and be praying for his safety. It didn’t take long for the word to spread and soon Jesse’s messages were linked all over the world. His writing talent and personal touch kept everyone waiting with anticipation for the next email to come. We would all laugh and cry as we read. Jesse knew that people were following him and sending out prayers, but none of us really knew how many lives were touched by him. Many folks would email him back – people he didn’t even know. Even now, several years later, I occasionally have someone comment on how they enjoyed hearing from him. He had become a hero to many and a reminder that all the soldiers needed our support and encouragement.
As I continued to view the CD I opened up files that were videos he had taken of the area. There were several sequences of moving views out of a chopper door. All you could hear were the loud sounds of the whirling rotor blades. Then there was a guided tour of his quarters, narrated by him. But lastly were the videos of Jesse reading a story out of a children’s book for his daughter Abby. He talked to her just as if she was there and read all her favorite stories that he read to her at home – Good Night Moon and Mrs. Spider’s Tea Party.
My eyes filled with tears as I thought about how he must have missed his little one. She was only 18 months old when he left. This was his way of keeping her memory of him fresh, and also enable him to feel that he was parenting her even from far away. She loved watching them and would point at the screen and say “Daddy”. My daughter installed a web cam on the computer. It was pretty unsophisticated and the image was not the best. However, it was a blessing to see his face and hear his voice in real time. There were times when she would not have any message from him for several days. He finally explained that all communications were cut off when a soldier was killed so there would be no premature news leaked to the family of the deceased. After learning that, I know my daughter must have been uneasy whenever there was a communication blackout.
Time seemed to drag on, but at last it was over – for our family at least. I am so thankful that we all had a happy ending to his deployment. He had made it home safely. He came home to a daughter that recognized him and reached for him almost immediately. He came home to once again hold her in his arms and read her all the books she loved. He came home to a family that loved him and appreciated his sacrifice. He came home to have another little girl. We are so glad to have him back and will forever cherish the emails that, for a few moments each week, took us outside of ourselves and to a land far away.
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