A soldier and his Samantha
It's the voice filled fatigue the likes of which those of us who haven't been there can't begin to imagine. It's a voice seeking reassurance in a world gone utterly mad - searching for someone who will say "the awful won't last forever."
In this case, the words were from a British soldier whose marriage proposal left on the wrong voice mail has set off a war-time search the likes of which hasn't been seen since people wondered about the identities of the smooching nurse and sailor in the iconic World War II photo.
"Hi, baby. It's me. I'm sorry I couldn't call you last month but you know what it's like out here,"the soldier begins. He's calling from Afghanistan, and he doesn't realize that he's pouring his heart out to the wrong person. Later in the call he says "one of his guys" just got blown up and wishes he'd gotten around to setting up a video link so he and his girlfriend could talk online.
Her name is Samantha, and she's pregnant with his baby. "My little soldier," he says, and you can tell he's going to be a great daddy. "I will do everything in my heart ... I will do my hardest to fight ... to protect you."
No, I haven't heard those exact words. But I've heard the voice.
"I'm OK ... but it was horrible," my husband told me a back in the summer. But he wasn't calling so much to tell me that he was OK - word hadn't even broken stateside about the attack when our phone rang - but for us to reassure him that he was OK.
He needed to touch base with a world where the biggest problem on a sunny Saturday was making sure both kids get to their soccer games rather than making sure all your buddies survived. A world where the after-action reports focus on how to do the birthday parties more efficiently next year and not on ensuring that your base is protected from insurgents. A world where empty combat boots are displayed as a reminder that Dad will be home and not as a memorial to someone who never will.
I hope the unknown British soldier dials the right number next month and his Samantha gets to hear the words she missed this time. I hope the soldier also knows that we heard, not only his words, but what he didn't say as well. For military families, that part of the message was more bittersweet than the misdirected proposal.
Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.