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I Serve Too



My dad is often met with the phrase, "Thank you for your service."

In the Walmart checkout line, after church sessions, between gas station pumps,

His camo uniform actually seems to stand out rather than blend in.


When I was younger, I always wanted to show off that my dad was a soldier.

Giddy excitement came with presenting him as if he were a shiny new trophy.

He is a hero in everyone's eyes.

But I never realized how demanding it was for the rest of us.

I always tried to hide my disappointment because people always called me strong.

I had a standard to live up to.


After 4th grade, I stopped asking my dad to participate in career day.

I knew I'd be hit with his I-hate-making-empty-promises-but-I-want-to-make-you-happy look and another "I'm so sorry, maybe next year" that I knew would never come.

I would drag my feet around the gym floor, disgusted by the jealousy I felt as I stood in front of each table only half listening to the presentations.

I think I might've even cried.


The same feeling returned every time we got the letter.

My mom's forced smile and rehearsed "it's time for a new adventure" never really fooled me.

I mean, of course I looked forward to the new chapter, but I still couldn't shake that feeling.

I tried to ignore it, but every time it came back, it was worse.


I vividly remember the day we left.

I'm pretty sure it was raining.

Or maybe I had just imagined that the sky was crying with me.

I remember touching my bedroom door-frame one more time.

I remember how slowly I walked down the stairs trying to hold on as long as possible.

I remember thinking about running away into the forest behind our house.

I remember inhaling the sweet smell of pine and dirt.

I couldn't have ever imagined how much I'd miss that.

I remember the way the car was silent.

But most of all, I remember sobbing all the way to the state line.

That was the first time this routine had ever hurt so much.


No one talked about how hard it was.

It felt like no one even understood.

No kid should have to face so much change in their life.

But I did.

I grew a disliking for summer, but what child could ever hate summer?

It's supposed to be an escape, but to me, it felt like I couldn't.

How could I be a kid when I couldn't find joy in things I had before?


You see, I hate shining this light on the subject, but I have to, because no one else did.

The thing about grief is that it's more like a tidal wave of fear.

I could start to feel my sadness turn into anger and jealousy.

And it scared me because it wasn't me.

I never asked for any of it.

But no one asked me how I felt or what I wanted.

It never really mattered.

So I never said a word.


That's probably the hardest thing I've learned throughout my life, how to adapt.

I didn't have a choice.

So no, I didn't ask for this life,

But... I wouldn't change it for the world.

I've experienced things and learned things that some people will never know in their entire lifetime.

Yes, I've been angry,

Hurt,

Lonely,

Sad,

Scared,

And stressed.


But I will always be a true American patriot.

I will always stand for the flag.

I will say the Pledge of Allegiance with pride.

I will honor the fallen and salute the brave.

I will pray for our troops.


I am proud to be an American.

I am proud of the sacrifices my dad and so many others have made.

And I am proud of myself,

Because I serve too.

2 Comments


Guest
Apr 20, 2023

Thank you for sharing! Keep writing!

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Jasmine Lugan
Jasmine Lugan
Feb 15, 2023

This is a beautiful piece, thank you for sharing your story.

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