The metal edge clinks against the dining room table as he sits down for dinner. When he rests his hand on my back, I can feel the extra weight of it against my body. I can feel it digging into my flesh when we make love. Again, it’s there as we snuggle on the couch. The sun catches the worn sides as he holds my daughter’s hands. At breakfast, lunch, and dinner it is always there; he never takes it off. It never leaves us and it never will. Sometimes I find myself staring at that bracelet and wishing it, and all the pain and heartache it brings with it, away. It has become a part of us; a part of our family. It represents something different for each of us. For my husband, it is a friend, a mentor, a man who impacted his life, who he fought beside, ate beside, laughed with–a brother. It represents a relationship I will never understand as I have never been there. I have never been on the other side of the world fully relying on the man next to me to bring me home to my wife and children.
Instead, I have been on the other side. The waiting side. That remembrance bracelet represents everything I fear. It is a constant reminder that there are one too many wives who are living my greatest nightmare. I hate that bracelet. Every time I see it, I see the face of his wife at the funeral. I feel the punch to the gut that the phone call brought. The guilt I felt for feeling relieved. I see her standing tall and strong, a true warrior’s wife; a warrior herself. And I see what my life would be, were I to have a bracelet, instead of my husband.
That bracelet represents the months of waiting, every year, done by hundreds of wives. We go on and live our lives; we go to that playdate, ballet class, soccer practice, and school meeting. But we feel our breath catch every time we see an unfamiliar number flash across the screen. We wake from a dead night’s sleep (if you can get there) with a pain in our stomach because we know. We know that we will be making phone calls today; we know that somewhere, someone’s life is collapsing around them. You can prepare yourself every day, walk through scenarios, you have a POA, you have a funeral plan, you have a list of babysitters you can call, a list of phone calls you will make. The more you plan the less likely it is to happen, right? That bracelet represents the woman who will forever be waiting; whose plan didn’t stop her nightmare from coming.
I also see so much love when I see that bracelet. I see a part of someone special touching our lives every day with his reminder. I see the family comprised of no blood relation, that surrounds his wife and holds her up when she cannot stand. They will always be there. I love that bracelet. It is a reminder that there is something more out there, there is something worth fighting for, there is something worth laying down your life for. As my daughter believes, there are real-life superheroes who are out jumping out of airplanes and saving the world. Her daddy is one of them. Those bracelets represent the real-life superheroes we are blessed within this world. And today, another bracelet is being made. Another wife is living a nightmare wished upon no one. Another child will be fatherless. Another reminder of the sacrifices it takes to live the blessed life we have.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on February 6, 2019.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.
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