It was before dawn on September 11, 2003, the first day of her three year enlistment. I had tears in my eyes as the recruiter's car disappeared around the corner with her inside.
Months later I attended her graduation from basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. She was so trim and fit that I barely recognized her. There were hundreds of graduates and a lot of ceremonies and marching.
And a few months after that she was sent to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. While many in her group asked for a Hawaii assignment, she was one of the lucky four that made it there.
I was happy, because I thought she'd be in a safe location. Soldiers from that base hadn't been deployed in many years. Yet six months after she got there 25,000 were sent to Afghanistan. She was was among them.
The year she spent in Afghanistan, in a front line combat area, was almost surreal to me. I somehow numbed myself to the reality of where she was. There were days when we spoke on the phone and it was as clear as if she were at home.
She completed her three years and returned home. But not unscathed. She was injured in an accident while there. Plus she has other scars that aren't visible. But they're serious enough that she has 100% lifetime disability.
Today, as always, I'm grateful that she made it back. And I'm grateful to the many others who do what it takes for our peace of mind and security.