Being far away from family, is only one of the many hardships of being in the service. It is strange to think of feeling lonely with so many people around you all the time, but that is just how a soldier feels…probably more than they will ever admit. It doesn’t matter if they are married or single. There are always family members that they miss. We would have a hard time understanding their feelings, even if they are our own family member, because we are not all alone in a foreign country, with enemy fire all around us, wondering if we are ever going to get to go home to our life again, and they are.
A lot of times, these men are on long shifts that seem to never end, and in war situations, their bed can be a hill of dirt, sleeping among the bugs, with one eye open, and carefully listening for the sound of guns or explosives, or more importantly, footsteps. It doesn’t make for an ideal sleeping situation. Yes, they are afraid. Bravery has nothing to do with the lack of fear. Bravery is standing your ground, in spite of the fear. That kind of situation takes its toll on the men and women who find themselves in it, and the need for occasional breaks is vital. Unfortunately, trips home are not aways possible, so when they can they explore the area they find themselves in. Many times, these men will not come this way again, so it can be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Sometimes the area they are stationed is of great interest to them, as it was to my dad. A big part of his ancestry has its roots in England, so being stationed in Great Ashfield, in Suffolk, England, he had the rare opportunity to see where his family came from. I don’t know how much he was able to see of it, but to me, just knowing that my feet might have walked in some of the same places as so many of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, would be awe inspiring.
When we think of our soldiers, we get a picture of a man in camouflage, holding a gun, and taking cover behind whatever shelter they can find. We see them as fearless, brave and courageous. We never picture the man behind that facade. The man with hopes and dreams for the future. The man with loved ones who are constantly on their minds. The man who wants to do his duty, because he knows it is necessary, but beyond that, he just wants to go back home to his family…to kiss his wife and kids, or marry and have a family to love, and to return to his parents and family, who can’t help but jump every time there is a knock on the door…praying that it isn’t men in uniform, who are there to tell them that they have lost something of great value to them…son, daughter, husband, or wife. He just wants to make it home.
There is so much heaviness on the hearts of these men, and no way to change what is. It brings a great need for some down time. You can’t continue on, and do a good job, without it the ability to set aside the stress and fear of combat, for a just little bit of fun to take your mind off of it. So, the men and women, our soldiers, look to the countryside that they find themselves in, hoping to find a smile or two, and something to smile about. They do the fun things they can find so that after a time of rest and relaxation, they can go back and do their duty once again.