Topic: Reflections

Invisible Service–Military Families Bear Burden of American Freedom

I knew I was away from home too much, I missed too many Little League games and anniversary dinners. I thought I could make up for it when I was back home.

Explosives, a Couple of Flamethrowers, and No Ordinary Men Against a Forbidding Jungle

The ships with our 437 helicopters would reach Qui Nhon harbor in about four weeks. They needed a place to land.
Unit Christmas party in San Angelo, Texas, in 2007. From left to right: Marty, Sadia Heil, Erinne, Sheena, and Kate. Photo courtesy of the author.

Firefly Friends Guided Me out of the Darkness of Formidable Loss 

Reuniting with my friends felt like taking a deep breath of fresh air: exhilarating and good for my soul. 

Two Guys to a Bag, One Bag at a Time. We Each Became Experts in a Macabre Parade.

I wondered whether the lighter bags held small soldiers or only body parts. I kept no count of the work. I still don’t know how many we carried.

Can I Be Like the Hummingbirds, With the Strength to Fight Another Day?

My backyard is where I come to clear my head. It’s the place I come to reconcile memories before they become thoughts that feel painfully real.
Paratroopers from the 1st Platoon, A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Spartan Steel conduct security combat patrols in Khost province. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army.

We Saluted Under the Night Sky. Each New Loss Felt Harder Than the One Before.

The images of desperate Afghans swarming to flee Kabul at the end of the mission filled me with a painful sense of loss.
Airman 1st Class Mary Amstead, 23rd Wing judge advocate general law paralegal, poses with an assortment of alcohol bottles at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Illustration by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

No One Promised Tomorrow so We Lived for Today. But Before Victory Came, I Flamed Out.

Another day of training in the books—and another night spent letting loose the inner beast.
Coming Home painting by Steve Alpert

A Portrait of a Soldier—Inside Those Lines Was the Story of War

It was a story of the troops who make it home, of those who make the ultimate sacrifice, and the families who receive a life-altering knock on the door.
Derek Nadalini played guitar as a hobby for years before handing himself over to the Global War on Terror. Photo courtesy of the author.

I See My Life in Music, So I Used It to Find My Freedom and Peace After Years of War

It was three in the morning. I was entirely alone. A long career of looking adversity in the eye and daring it to stop me didn’t prepare me for this.