What would it be like to wake up sweating from nightmares that were real? To live through the blood and death again and again?
What would it be like to see a friend, more than a friend, a buddy you spent more holidays with than your family in the last year, wounded, bloody and dying?
What would it be like to eat fast food without the happy meal, food prepared thousands of miles away, not made to order but to eat under orders?
What would it be like to live in constant fear, not from home invasion or an abusive ex-husband, but from a stranger who doesn’t know your name or your face, but wants you dead?
What would it be like to leave your family and know how much of their lives you will miss before you see them again, or never see them again?
What would it be like to be under fire, with no help nearby and none on the way? To run out of ammunition and time? To know this is where, and how, your life would end?
What would it be like to be deemed a hero, but never get the chance to wear the medal or hear the accolades on your behalf? Or perhaps even worse, to stand by the flag-draped coffin of your friend and wish it was you?
What would it be like to return home and be expected to get on with life when that is the last thing you are prepared to do? When a part of your heart is still far away and lost? When you are expected to be “normal” again, and you don’t even know what that is anymore?
What would it be like to be maimed, crippled, blinded, paralyzed, forever? And have to face the rest of life with those scars that will never heal?
What would it be like to feel emotions so strongly you can hardly hold them back, at the oddest times and places, and no one else around you understands what’s going on or why? And you hardly understand it either? But you feel you have to be strong.
What would it be like?
Most of us will never know.
To those of you who do, to those of you who have served and suffered, we thank you.
And God bless.