September 11. For years that date meant nothing more than the day before my brother's birthday. I didn't directly know people who were in the buildings in New York or D.C., in the planes that hit those buildings or in the plane that crashed in that Pennsylvania field. How was I to know when I was a high school freshman, running late for basketball practice because I was listening to a strange news update on my dad's car radio, that I would be sitting here, 11 years later, as a military spouse and new mom?
I never thought I'd go into labor without my husband by my side, holding my hand, feeding me ice chips like they do in the movies.
My daughter's due date was 9/11—and her father, my husband, is currently serving on his first deployment to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the war that began as a direct result of the terrorist attacks that sunny September morning. I never thought I'd go into labor without my husband by my side, holding my hand, feeding me ice chips like they do in the movies, but I did, and survived it.
More than that, though, I cannot imagine a reality where he doesn't come home whole—not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, too.
The reality of war is that so many people do not come home. Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began in 2001, over 6,000 American mothers have had to bury a child who made the ultimate sacrifice. More than 30,000 troops have come home wounded, being forced to adapt to a new way of living amid growing anti-war sentiment and declining civilian support for the troops. I don't want to know the day that I have to survive something like that, but it is a thought that continuously passes through my mind and that of every military spouse.
Those affected by the events that September morning will forever be in our family's hearts, but just as importantly, so will those who have served and are currently serving. There isn't much coverage of the war these days; the news is overshadowed with coverage on the economy, healthcare reform and the back-and-forth banter and criticism that comes with each election cycle.
However, September 11 was a day that forever changed the future of America, a day whose events shook us to our core and forced us, as a country, to look around and see the rest of the world as a friend or foe, and force countries into the impossibly black-and-white division that is "with us, or against us."
When I think about my 13-year-old self, it isn't the bad hair and the innocently huge boy problems that I remember from that year. It is that fact that I was growing up in a world that had the war and the fight against terrorism at the core of every major moment. I hope that my newborn child, and particularly the children in the countries where we are at war, have the opportunity to know and build a life without it.
It is people like my husband, brother-in-law and the countless others currently serving who make that hope a possibility. Whether you agree with the wars that resulted from that day's terrifying events or not, I hope that you still support the troops fighting it.
May we never forget.
Paige is a new mom and Army spouse. She owns and runs Black Dog Branding, a small marketing firm for small businesses, and blogs at Come + Take It. She is proudly from Austin, Texas but currently (temporarily) living in Savannah, Georgia. You can follow her on Twitter @paigehewlett.