Friday, February 8, 2013

To Those In the Shadows

Contributed by Dusty James Ginsbach, Fides Graduate Fellow

Yesterday, I said goodbye to my brother as he prepared to board a plane en route to Afghanistan once again.  This is the first time he has been in the Middle East without me.  It is a new feeling for me to be the one left behind.  I have always been the one walking through airport security with the rucksack on my back, doing my best to push through the heartache, focusing instead on the task at hand.  I have never been the one that watched as the uniform walked away and then, silently, looked around not knowing where to go next or how I should feel.  Now, I know.

So often in the University setting, we commit our attention to those students that are returning from combat situations, active duty service, or long-term “breaks-in-study”, but these are not the only students affected by military service.  Commonly, our students are the loved ones left behind.  They are expected to continue their lives as if nothing has happened.  They keep their jobs; they continue their studies; and they perform all the household tasks by themselves, without the help of the partners or parents that have left them behind.  Seven times in six years, my wife has stood by my side as I checked duffel bags and rucksacks.  The scene has been replayed hundreds of thousands of times across our nation during Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Noble Eagle, and New Dawn.  In a moment’s passing, the burden of life doubles as one-half of a partnership walks out the door.

I am not suggesting that military dependents or spouses need—or even want—special consideration.  They have sufficiently proved their braveness and strength by mere association.  I only ask that they receive their due appreciation.  It is as simple as giving them a nod of understanding, a few reassuring words, or any other positive demonstration of acknowledging their sacrifice.

I have taken for granted those that have supported me throughout the years. They have given so much and I have greedily taken without reciprocation.  I hope that in some small way I may make amends.  It is too late for me to fully repay the toll which I have taken on those that I have abandoned in service to our country, but this is my first true attempt to contribute to the well-being of those left behind.  To any university employees that may be reading this, hear my plea and shine a beacon of acknowledgement to those in the shadows supporting our men and women in uniform.  To those that fall in the latter category, thank you. You mean the world to those that must leave you here at home, even if we have been too blind to realize it in the past.

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