On September 11, 2001, my then-fiancé and I watched in horror as thousands fell to their death in a mass of steel and glass. I remember thinking, “Jesus is going to be busy today,” but what I remember the most of that day was the reaction of the man I love.
He looked at me and said with steely confidence, “You know I have to sign up?” I did know. It was both our obligation and our gift to the country we love.
Bella Beaven saying good-bye to her daddy and his battle buddies May 2012 (Memories in Time Photography)
My husband is now about half way through his deployment to Afghanistan, where he and his fellow 993rd Transportation Unit soldiers proudly organize and conduct convoy missions. They are mechanics, gunners, and truck drivers. It is their job to get materials, supplies, personnel, and equipment across Afghanistan without being blown up. It is arguably the most dangerous mission in the war on terror. So for us, the families of the 993rd, there is only one question that matters — who’s fighting for our soldiers in Washington?
The simple answer lies within the freshman Congressional Aides for the 113th Congress. You, young aides, can enourage your boss to give our soldiers everything they needs to protect themselves against bullets and bombs. You can ensure your congressional member fulfills their fiscal obligation by insisting that every dollar spent at the Pentagon is wisely spent. You can hand your boss talking points about body armor that allows Soldiers to move and weapons that don’t jam in the sand? Or will you sit quietly by as burn pits, for example, continue to spew toxicants into the lungs of our warriors?
Your work doesn't stop there, however. When they return with a chest full of medals to a grateful nation, will you be proud of how your boss made sure they had a job and a home so they may set about rebuilding their American dream? Will you personally look for every opportunity for your boss to improve and enforce Veterans Preference, Service Member Civil Relief Act, the GI Bill, and VA home loans? Or will you turn a blind eye to the high unemployment of Hour warriors?
When some come home hurt, as some surely will, are you going to make sure they have what they need to heal? Will you make sure they have someone to talk to about the terrible things they saw? Will you personally fight to make sure they have access to limbs that are as close to the ones they left in the desert sand as modern science will allow? Will you demand that they have access to the finest burn unit the world has ever known? Or will you just accept that we can’t afford to make our wounded warriors whole?
There will, of course, be warriors who don’t come home; people your age who were just in awe of and eager for their future as you are right now. Families like yours will answer the door to see a uniformed stranger with a folded flag in their hand. Will you make sure their family is cared for while they put the pieces of their lives back together? Or will you sit by as banks steal our homes?
As you start your exciting new life in the world’s most powerful place, remember there are people not so very different from you starting their exciting new life in the world’s dangerous place. One doesn't exist without the other. You’re a team. One to preserve our nation and one to defend it. So live this new life everyday with one thing in mind; you have the power to be their army in Washington but, first, you must enlist in their fight.
Heather Beaven is a proud Army wife, mother of two daughters and a Navy Veteran. She is the CEO of The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates.