I'm going to go way off topic tonight. It's not that I don't have gaming stuff to talk about, I do, and it's awesome. It's just that several things have come together lately that I need to talk about. This will not be pretty and it will not be the usual. It will, likely, not be interesting for most of you.
I'm a Marine. I have been for 24 years now. I've deployed many times, four times to combat. I've been married for 14 years. My wife was a Corpsman (medic) stationed with the Marines for most of her nine years in the navy. We have two sons who are a wonder and a miracle to us. Really. Every day I'm amazed and enthralled. They are my joy.
They were born through IVF, after many, many, many tries. Our eldest (9) is special needs, he died in child birth and was brought back to us. He had a twin who we lost. It took us three years to realize that something was not "normal" about him. We have spent all the time since helping him to understand that our normal is all that matters. Our youngest (7) was conceived at the same time, they are twins in a scientific way, though not in a way that most people are prepared to understand.
I was in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was back in Fallujah in 2004, that was interesting. I served in Helmand in 2012, also interesting. I sailed aboard an icebreaker in Antarctica for two years, right after my marriage. My wife and I were married for six years before we got to spend more than six months together. We didn't know if it would work out. We weren't sure we knew how to live together.
Tonight I was drinking scotch with one of my best friends (there are three, my wife, this man, and a soldier who I have known since we were both young sergeants). My friend's son, who I helped raise, killed himself while I was in Afghanistan. It was the single most crushing event of my life and still has the power to bring tears to my eyes. Both of us have received extensive training in how to spot these issues and deal with them. We saw nothing. No matter what is going on I always make time for my friend. It's a duty but it is also part of the core of who I have become. We stand by our own and we never leave a Marine behind. We love each other in ways that I've never felt for those I've not served with.
Now we get to what set all this off. On facebook tonight I saw a picture of a triple amputee. He was holding his new son, and had lost his limbs in combat. My first thought was of the woman who had stood by him as he lost those limbs. She had made love to him, had gotten pregnant with his child and delivered that child into his arms.
I'm certainly not the man I was when my wife and I married. I'm darker in some ways, more distant in some. I would like to think that I'm deeper and more interesting. I don't have the courage to ask her if she would agree. Our marriage has become stronger over these years. The bad has been very, very bad, but the good has been great. I am eternally in awe of the strength of the woman I married and I am so amazed that she has stood by me, and loved me, through all of what life has thrown at us. No woman deserves the ride that she has gotten, but humanity survives because we can take the worst and stand back up and kick life in the nuts.
War is the most horrible and the most uplifting experience a person can experience. It is not all bad; far from it. It is the best and the worst of humanity. It changes us in ways that cannot be explained to those who have not been there. I did not want to become the man that I am today, but I would not change any of the experiences or choices that made me who I am.
War and wargaming are two different things. I wish for my boys a long life of active gaming. Many armies. Many genres. I want them to learn to glue and paint and game. I want them to feel the exultation of leading their lead minions to triumph and to feel the sting of watching their hordes fall to the superior tactical acumen of someone then just met in a game shop.
I hope they never serve in a war. I think all warriors dream that their war is the last. That what they fought for is meaningful and that the horror is too horrific to be repeated. We all know that humanity will never learn that lesson and that our sons, and daughters, will only learn the lesson the way we did, in person with a kick to the teeth.
Tonight I'm thinking of those who live with the warrior. The wives and husbands. The children. They love us as we are. Some only know us in our new, flawed, changed, uplifted, form. Some knew us before and learn to love us anew. Some of us survive our wars but can't survive our peace. For my love, my children and my brothers, both here and those I've lost in war and peace; the price is worth the cost. It is not the "cause" that we were asked to fight for. It is the brotherhood we found. We ask too much of you and you give it, because greatness is part of the human spirit.