Soldier’s duty evokes emotions, changes

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

It’s been seven months and I am finally starting to put the pain behind me.

Last March, the guy I was dating came home from Iraq. He had been deployed for 14 months – probably the longest and most torturing 14 months I’ve ever experienced.

I cried myself to sleep nearly every night. I would burst into tears when I saw an American flag, or when the evening news reported another U.S. solider was killed or when his long-awaited phone calls were cut off after five seconds.

I constantly worried about his safety – where he was and if I would ever see him again. I lived phone call to phone call and letter to letter.

I was depressed and nothing felt right. I hated myself, I hated him for leaving and I hated everyone for not understanding my pain. I would involuntarily break down and scream “will this ever end?”

It eventually did. He came home, but I couldn’t get over the past year. I would cry thinking about those long months. Looking at pictures, watching videos or hearing stories about Iraq upset me. I couldn’t put Iraq behind me.

Those 14 months changed us both. We decide it was best to go our separate ways, but the pain still lingers. I still cry when I hear songs like “American Soldier” or “Letters from Home” on the radio. It still hurts when I talk to the parents of former classmates who are in Iraq and I see the pride and fear on their face as they talk about the last time their soldier called.

Although that year was hell and our relationship didn’t last, I still would do it again. Because I learned how crucial family and friends are to soldiers during a war.

Family and friends give our soldiers reasons not to give up and to keep fighting. They wear star-shaped pins with pride, tie yellow ribbons to street signs with appreciation and hang flags with honor.

They write to soldiers and send them packages to let them know they are missed. Some even write on a daily basis. And to a solider, nothing is better than a letter from home.

They lie awake each night wondering where their solider is and if he or she is safe. Each day they hope and pray they will soon receive a phone call or letter.

They never give up. They keep going day after day. Their love is much stronger than any distance or any war. And they know in the end, it will be worth it.

And it is.

There is nothing more beautiful or patriotic than watching soldiers step off a bus and be greeted by hundreds of smiling faces streaming with tears of joy. And watching soldiers hug their families for the first time in a year.

Slowly, the pain of Iraq is going away. I’m starting to forget those lonely nights and those mornings when getting out of bed was impossible. But I refuse to forget the soldiers that are still in Iraq and Afghanistan and their family members who wait each and every day for that one special moment when they know it’s all over.

Heather Mangan is a sophomore journalism major and Collegian Campus Editor.

#1.884584:3649476605.jpg:heathermug.jpg:Heather Mangan, Columnist: