Today is Veteran’s Day and it makes me stop and think about sacrifice and love.

My family and my life have been directly affected by war and its consequences. Several members of my family are veterans and have served their country proudly and honorably. Today, I’m thinking mostly of my Dad and Andrew, and how service and sacrifice have effected them. My uncle, Eddie, was killed in Vietnam in 1970. He had been in combat for only two months and was 20 years young. The loss of Eddie devastated my grandmother and forever changed my father, his father and his siblings. Even though I never knew my uncle, I have always felt a connection to him and have always been touched by how much he meant to my Dad. There is a piece missing from my father that cannot ever be recovered, and it hurts to know that his family, like too many families, had to deal with the reality and tragedy of war.

My husband, Andrew, was in the Army when I met him. The idea of him being deployed was a hazy possibility in the distance of our love-struck reality.  Within three or four months of moving to Little Rock and finally living in the same city after a year of a long-distance relationship, we learned that he and his unit would be deployed to Iraq for a year. I was terrified, angry and sad. I knew in my heart that he would be okay, that he would return to me unharmed and that he would grow into a stronger, more humble and seasoned version of himself.  He didn’t want to leave his family. He didn’t want to inflict the fear and anxiety on us that was like a ball and chain for nearly 365 days, but he wanted to go. He needed to go. He needed to contribute and he wanted to honor those that had gone before him. For those things, I am eternally grateful and proud.

Although that year apart was one of the worst years in my life, I am thankful for it. I loved Andrew. I knew I wanted to marry him, and I knew that if we could get through a year of such hardship that we could make it through anything. We learned so much about eachother – both good and bad. We fought. We cried. We were angry and lonely. We were also 100% devoted and tried our best to be what the other needed even though we had no common ground to stand on. We learned to love eachother in a way that we hadn’t known possible. We discovered that our love and our friendship were more important than anything else in the world. We wouldn’t be the same without the deployment. We needed that time to learn, grow and love more deeply. It was a miserable time and I wished everyday for Andrew to return home, but I am thankful for that year and I am thankful for a husband who was willing to sacrifice everything for the greater good.

War isn’t the same for everyone. For my Dad and his family, it was heartbreak and loss. For me and Andrew it was painful growth. No two people have the same life experiences, but I know that love and sacrifice have touched all of the men and women who have served their country in combat. To all of the veterans, thank you for your sacrifice. To all of their families and friends, thank you for loving and supporting your soldier. For the all of the good and bad that is war, we would not be where we are today without our servicemen and women. For all of these things, I salute you.