• Sue Skalicky

The Veteran's Wife

He stood up from being down on one knee and respectfully argued his desire to serve. He longed to journey through the rest of his life with me by his side, but he also desperately needed to serve his country. My young idealistic mind could see only the discomfort of a life where someone else would make the decisions of where we would live and how often my husband would be home. Yet, he saw something entirely different. He saw a life of sacrifice given back for the gift of freedom for which those before him had fought.

We were standing in a meadow at 9,500 feet encircled by 12-14,000 foot mountain ranges. A young man stood nearby strumming a guitar, having given up singing the lyrics when it became obvious that our discussion would not end quickly. During those agonizingly long minutes I begged my boyfriend with my words and my eyes to lay down his needs and let our life together and our future family be enough. But, with dirt and meadow grass clinging to his knee he stood firm.

I, too, stood firm, nervously passing the dozen roses he had given me back and forth between my hands, mimicking the thoughts that were bouncing around in my mind. The beauty that surrounded us was lost in those moments as we both scrolled through visions of the years ahead. In my mind I grieved what would be lost. In his he saw opportunity and being a part of the very fabric that gives our country its strength.

Today, I sit and write this in my favorite chair in our home of nearly twenty years. We’ve been married thirty-three years and this is our eighteenth address. If I could sit down with my younger self, who had stood in that meadow experiencing an awkward marriage proposal and finally relenting to live a life for which she had not dreamed of, I would encourage her with some truths I’ve learned in the past three decades.

First of all, I am okay all these years later. It wasn’t an easy journey. But, as I look back now, I’m grateful for that. Like the moments after a strenuous workout, my mind, body, and spirit are active and engaged today because of the energy developed doing the work.

I’ve also come to realize that the dreams I held in my heart that day I stood in the meadow listening to the young blond boy, didn’t die. Instead, they grew ever so slowly through raising children, packing and unpacking, and saying goodbye and hello. They simmered in my maturing, our arguments, our long seasons of time spent apart, and the almost daily ritual of letting my dreams go. I’ve learned now that the time the seed spends in the soil is what gives it strength to live in the light.

I can now see the sacrifices our family embraced as honorable, even though at times I was exhausted and angry. I am proud of my husband’s lifelong commitment and loyalty to ensuring our freedom. His disability is a mark of honor as he lives out his retirement.

I am who I am today because of what was decided that long ago day in the meadow on top of the world. And I’m glad. I am blessed. I am strong. I am grateful. And I’m so proud of that blond boy who asked me to marry him so long ago.

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