2: Tears on the Tarmac

The hardest part of deploying is when it’s time to roll out,
Families crying left and right while their kids scream and shout. 
I kiss my wife and hug my kids and say I’ll be home soon,

Tell your friends your daddy’s in Afghanistan til June.

Stephen Hobbs, “Pre-Deployment”

War is a brutal business. But preparing yourself to leave your home and loved ones, your creature comforts and everyday pleasures, perhaps never to return from some foreign field, is an entirely unnatural event. A soldier trains for this day, prays for it, talks about it endlessly with his comrades-in-arms, and then suddenly the orders appear and it's real.

There are tons of gear to prepare, weapons to make ready, forms to fill out, medical checkups and vaccinations. And then, whether that soldier is a nineteen-year-old recruit or a combat-seasoned veteran, he or she comes face to face with that stark document-the last will and testament.

Who's going to get my dog and my pickup truck? I've heard I can have my remains turned into a sapphire pendant for my widow to wear. I can't picture my kids playing baseball without me, forever. Who's gonna want a chick with only one leg? What am I doing to my mom?

Everything you do, you know this may be the last time you do it, yet these are things you can't bring up, certainly not to your family or friends. People tell you secrets they never would have told you before because now they think you might die.

Words you never expected to hear are whispered in corners at farewell parties. You cherish every moment, every breath, while trying to make damn sure nobody can see that storm inside. You tell yourself that in just six months, or nine, or thirteen, you’ll be back. But you know that not everyone comes back alive.  And still, above it all, your buddies are depending on you. Failing them is your greatest fear of all, so you lock that smile tight and carry on.

A pre-deployment soldier’s ideals-duty, honor, country-war in his head with that longing to just forget the whole thing and go surfing. But that big fat bird’s waiting somewhere on the tarmac, and the path to its steel cavern is a one-way street.


Robert L. Cunningham, International Photographer/ Military Embed

Steven Hartov, New York Times Best Selling Author


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