Skip to main content

Army wife: Our sacrifice could be worth the cost

By Rebekah Sanderlin, Special to CNN
  • Sanderlin glad Obama listened to experts, knows days ahead may be hard for other Army wives
  • Sanderlin: "There is no bright side and no silver lining" to deployments
  • Army wife hopes deployments will mean troops will get what they need to stay safe

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, mother and freelance journalist who lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, near Fort Bragg. She writes the "Operation Marriage" blog and column about military family life for The Fayetteville Observer newspaper and is a frequent contributor to other national and regional publications.

(CNN) -- I'm not an auto mechanic, I'm an Army wife, a mother and -- when time permits -- a journalist. So when my car needs work, I take it to someone with oil on his hands and years of experience looking under hoods. The same is true for plumbing problems, legal issues and medical care.

I don't assume that I know better than the experts. When necessary, I get a second opinion but, ultimately, I always yield to the advice of those who know more than me.

With that in mind, I am thrilled that President Obama has decided to listen to his experts -- the military commanders and strategists -- and is committing more troops to Afghanistan.

But as an Army wife at Fort Bragg whose husband has already done three tours of duty in Afghanistan, I can't help but close my eyes, grit my teeth and brace myself for the hard days ahead. As happy as I am that the president has finally made a move after months of deliberating, I know that this announcement is likely bad news for me.

Deployments are awful -- just awful. There is no bright side and no silver lining. For most of us in the military community the luster of sacrificing for our country wore off a deployment or two ago and we are now coasting on the fumes of commitment and shared sacrifice.

Many of us who are married to the military aren't even sure why we are willing to endure yet another deployment. We just are.

Our spouses see the fight firsthand and are reminded daily of why this battle must be won. They get pep talks at work and enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow soldiers. We at home just hear the gripes of war-weary Americans and see the news reports of waning support.

We don't experience the victories, we only see our children developing emotional problems, our marriages falling apart, our careers sidelined, our dependence on antidepressants climbing, even our houses crumbling from years of neglected repairs.


That's why a troop surge in Afghanistan brings mixed feelings. More troops there means more casualties -- a word I don't take lightly. Casualties are people, people with names and faces that I know. I see their wheelchairs at my kids' schools and I've dropped flowers on their freshly dug graves.

A troop surge may mean that even more of my friends will be widows and more of their children will be fatherless. It certainly means more Little League teams in my community will be missing a coach, more families here will know each other only on Skype and more pets will be abandoned. It may very well mean that I will spend more years being both mother and father, and that I'll have more conversations with my children about why their daddy is always gone when so many daddies never leave. These are not things to celebrate.

But right now, after just hearing our president give an inspiring speech, I'm going to consider that this plan may mean that my friends who are in Afghanistan now will finally have what they need to stay safe. Maybe it will mean that if and when my husband has to go back there, he will be in a better and safer situation.

And, more than anything else, maybe it will mean that our nation will succeed in Afghanistan and that all of these years that my husband and I have lost together, all of these friends we've buried, all of these injuries he and others have nursed -- will have been worth it.

I am not a strategist. I do not know what will take us to victory in Afghanistan. I cannot say if sending 30,000 more troops is the right or the wrong decision. All I know is that the president consulted the experts and then he sought second, third, fourth -- and who knows how many more -- opinions, and this is the solution he has reached.

I commend him for making a definitive plan. I will pray for his wisdom and for the strength and safety of the troops who will be going into harm's way, just as I pray for those who are already there. I will also pray for all the families back home who are about to send their soldier or Marine into the fight.

Theirs is a battle I know. For many of them, their war is just starting.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rebekah Sanderlin.