Off to War


Today is the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. We lost more soldiers in the war that followed than all the modern wars combined yet it is looked upon with admiration. Respect and tribute goes to the “greatest generation” for their sacrifice.

A couple of years into WWII my parents lost their home to a fire. They lost everything.  While trying to understand how it happened my Grandmother suggested it could have been the Japanese. As crazy as that sounds, she was serious. So a Japanese war plane flew across the continental United States and targeted a little farm house in western Illinois then flew back? Not likely. But those were different times and sometimes people believed whatever their imagination let them. (By the way, 20 years ago my father passed away. Half of my children, 6 of his grandchildren, have no memory of him. That is in part why I blog. I also recognize that in the future there will most likely be grandchildren who will not know me either so I will address them shortly).

It was also during this time that young people were committing suicide because they were disqualified for military service. Their grief of not being able to do their part in the war effort was so bad they just could not bear it. Simply amazing.

31 years ago I went to war. I eloped with my wife on Pearl Harbor Day 1985. I never referred to it in that phrasing till a couple of days ago. I was joking at the time but in a way it makes sense.

In the beginning there was the romantic phase. We were in love with each other and with the idea of marriage. Divorce was not an option. People also went to war with visions of glory and victory. Defeat was not an option. And that, I believe, is the first principle of success in either marriage or war. You must go into it believing you will win.

I wish I could give you a clear description when I first realized your grandmother was the one for me. Words fall short yet that’s all I can give and that makes me sad. Maybe it is meant to be that way. Like a personally designed gift. It was like when I joined the Marine Corps. I did not fully know what was waiting for me but I knew I would make it through. Her smile, how her eyes always reminded me of a puppy dog – adorable but a little sad, the way we fit together, her passion that WE could make history, no obstacles and very little baggage. She was just so happy that we were US and all I had to do was take her hand. She was all in and she was all mine. It was like a reaction between 2 unique compounds that produce its own original result. Some say it’s chemistry and that comes pretty close.

We had many, many moments of success; Each birth of a child, every act of forgiveness, learning to affirm feelings, all the hugs and laughter along with every intimate moment. And I usually kiss with my eyes open so I can look deep in her eyes and see the connection. The handhold when walking. The toe touch when sleeping. I can’t tell you how many times I will crack a joke about something stupid and we will lay in bed and giggle like toddlers who refuse to go to sleep.

Of course wars are not all filled with moments of glory and neither is marriage. Battles usually have casualties. Thankfully, all you have to do is get off the front line and get some extra attention. Take some time to recover, 5 minutes, 5 hours. When you feel like it, return to the battle and prepare for whats next. But ALWAYS with a unified front. You will not make it alone.

I have never felt alone in my marriage. We have always worked together. Yes, there are big things that can damage a marriage beyond repair. Infidelity and deception will rip the whole thing apart. Just like a soldier who loses a limb. You can recover but it will never be the same. I’ve never cheated on your grandmother and I never will.

In addition to the commitment to ultimate victory there is also a requirement of stubborn perseverance to communication. It has to be undeniable. You must talk things through. Not always right away but eventually. My parents would argue then go away and come back together later as if nothing had happened. It’s a horrible way to live. So many lives were lost on the battlefield because of poor communication. If you get cut off from your platoon then you are a sitting duck. If you get sent the wrong coordinates then death can be just around the corner.

Smarter people than me have failed miserably in their marriage simply because they refuse to honestly admit they have a communication problem and their commitment wasn’t that strong to begin with. The war was over before it began.

It is such a strange thing to be able to return to a moment. It is such a fragile thing that some moments remain while others pass away.  Like a spiderweb in the rafters. Some can endure the most aggressive storm and hold fast. Others drift away on the slightest breeze.

I remember the moment of December 7th, 1985. I remember my vows to your Grandmother. I remember knowing we would win. I knew there would be many moments of success. Still, I was unusually surprised by how aggressive some of conflicts became. You can never fully prepare for them. By their nature they arrive unannounced. But we faced the enemy that was trying to end us and came through it.

It’s not time for the parade just yet. The war is not over. But we’ve moved off the front lines. We are in the rear now supporting other troops and trying to be a good example to your parents. Because the day is coming when they will need be ready to move into battle with no fear. The victory is theirs and glory is waiting. All they have to do is be willing to fight.


Published by: Jeff Vance

After 53 years of life I begin again. After 45 years in the church I've left. After 31 years of marriage I'm happier than ever. After 23 years in radio I try a new career. After 12 children I'm tired. After 2 years of writing I'm discovering.

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