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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Loving a man in uniform makes concept of war all too real

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By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer

The scenes of soldiers embracing wives or girlfriends before marching off to war were always moments that belonged to someone else when I saw those kinds of photographs.

Not until I began dating a military guy did I become one of those people who might have to say goodbye that way.

After weeks of telling me his chances of being sent to war were remote, my boyfriend volunteered to go to Kuwait to fill an open spot.

He told me about it while he was still weighing his decision, factoring me into the equation. Selfishly, I didn't want him to go. But I didn't want to be the one to keep him from doing the job he trains for and the thing that is so central to his identity.

For a while, all I could do was clam up and burst into tears. I cried at the thought of being apart for six months. I worried about his safety. And I worried about whether we would still be together when he came back.

Luckily for me, his commander chose another volunteer.

That's what it took to make this war real for me. It was easy to see the war as my rival, politically and personally. It wasn't my war. I saw it more as a brutal game set up for men to play, something I could just put out of my mind instead of thinking about how to solve the world's problems.

But war doesn't easily fit in the back of your mind. It's not supposed to. Whether we like it or not, it is our war. It touches all of us.

I keep thinking of all of the other friends and families of those in the military facing the constant uncertainty of whether their loved one fighting for the country is OK. The ones left at home also are making sacrifices.

Some people look to prayer for solace about situations beyond their control. I'm finding my comfort in the words of a 17th-century poet. In his "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars," Richard Lovelace wrote:

"I could not love thee, Dear, so much, Loved I not honor more."

Those words make it easier to look at honor and duty as the passions of the people who volunteer to fight for us instead of seeing the fight as the enemy.

Loving someone in the military, no matter your thoughts on the orders they must follow, means accepting choices that are not your own. It means realizing that love in the safety and quiet of a relationship can be matched by passion for a job that is dangerous and strong. That is the duality of life and choices.

My mom had a way of putting it in perspective during our weekly phone call. Moms have a way of doing that. She said sometimes couples have to agree to disagree and respect personal choices, then love each other in spite of those things.

Then she recited the line from Lovelace, because he had a way of making it sound more poetic.

Tanya Bricking writes about relationships for The Advertiser. Reach her at tbricking@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8026.