This is all the more true in the midst of a pandemic. Many of the symptoms of Covid-19 could also be the common cold, allergies, or fatigue. My wife and other doctors are figuring out who to test and when, as they work with a population that must live and work in close quarters. They must balance mission readiness with proper caution.
When we think of essential workers, our minds turn to grocery stores and medical offices and hospitals here in the United States. We talk about the important roles played by teachers and members of the clergy. But the military is another part of our society that cannot be shut down because of a virus.
Although I will miss my wife, I am proud of the role that she will play in helping others. She is a part of something bigger than herself, offering her skills to a community of people who sacrifice for our country. She is not naïve or unaware of the troubling things that have occurred in this country’s past. She’s dedicated not merely to a set of abstract ideals, but to the people she serves.
She is deploying in the middle of a pandemic, but there are also young men and women who signed up to serve in the middle of that same pandemic. Some will be newly minted high school graduates making their first forays into adulthood. They deserve the best medical care that their country can provide.
When our two oldest children returned home from camp, we ordered their favorite pizza. We sat them down and told them that their mother would be leaving soon. We thought that if we told them about the return date instead of the length of the absence it would be better. But despite all the planning, we couldn’t protect them from a profound sense of loss and sadness. The younger two, who are 4 and 6 years old, don’t have a good grasp of time; they don’t understand how long she will be gone. The older two got it. They hugged her tight and fought back tears.
I thought back to that dorm conversation all those years ago. I remembered that I signed up for all of this, the good and the bad. My wife isn’t the only one who serves. We all do.
Esau McCaulley (@esaumccaulley) is a contributing opinion writer and an assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope.”
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