As A 6-Year-Old, I Saw My Dad's Deployment As A Legal Crime, Not Something To Be Proud Of
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As A 6-Year-Old, I Saw My Dad's Deployment As A Legal Crime, Not Something To Be Proud Of

It's quite simple: everyone expects you to be proud of him. None of us are proud.

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As A 6-Year-Old, I Saw My Dad's Deployment As A Legal Crime, Not Something To Be Proud Of

No one told me about the deployment until the week before. My brother had known for weeks, my mom had known for months, not me. The whole week leading up to it felt surreal. The night before I rolled around on my narrow twin bed, trying to imagine what things would be like without my dad around for 18 months.

As I crawl out of bed ready to greet the day I have been dreading, I could feel a large pit already building in my stomach.

I walk down the stairs with care to not step on the creaky spots. Glancing up through my blonde hair I notice my father from across the room. He is kneeling by the fireplace with a photo of his father in his hand. The photo shows my grandfather in Vietnam, looking very dirty in a khaki green shirt. Behind him, there is nothing but dust. This is just what you do in my family, if there is a war you take a deep breath, and you go help. For generations, we leave our families to go fix problems that are not ours. I looked at the clock, 6:23, there is almost no time left.

When we get to the airport we are ushered through customs along with two other military families. Immediately they escort us to the USO Center, where they take all armed forces officers to say goodbye. We play board games for a few minutes and everyone ignores the fat hot tears endlessly rolling down my cheeks. Some higher up official walks in, and the soldier's hands shoot up to meet their foreheads.

"The plane has arrived, we will be meeting at the gate in five minutes," the official says.

My brother and I trail behind my parents, I look out the large foggy window at the plane that would take my dad to Afghanistan. Three men in army uniforms came marching off the plane pushing some large cargo draped in an American flag. Confused, I turn to my brother,

"What's that?" I ask.

"It's a casket," he says flatly.

I wasn't quite sure what that meant. My dad's commander announces to the men that it is time for final goodbyes. I can feel that my entire face is wet. A tight hug swarm around me, the rough fabric on his uniform pressed against my face.

"Bye, dad."

I say, my voice as plain and dry as my brothers'.

"Bye, sweetie."

The days after are quiet and hollow. My mom sits outside on a lawn chair and stares out into space when she is not at work. My first day of school is tomorrow and I am livid that my dad is missing it. My teacher's name is Mrs. Green. My brother, Andrew told me one time our next-door-neighbor Jeff got called on to spell the word together and he could not. So, Mrs. Green made him write a paragraph about why spelling is important. Mom says not to believe anything Andrew said about school because he is just trying to scare me.

The next morning Mom puts my hair in two little blonde braids. I put on a white skirt with blue polka dots and a pink shirt with a butterfly on it. Looking in the mirror for a second, I can feel a little tear creep up in my eye. However, I do not have time for that, I can hear my mom calling me saying it was time to go. I slip into my white light up Sketchers and I am ready to go. I run outside just as the bus pulls up.

Some of the other kids start to whine and cry and to my surprise, some of the moms do, too. Saying bye to my mom, I run on to the bus. I am so ready to get away from her. She acts like a vegetable most of the time sitting and staring off. A large part of me resents her. She gets to talk to my dad every day on the phone, I am lucky when she lets me take the phone for a few minutes. The bus is a dirty sardine can, full of kids of all different ages that talk to loudly and spit their gum out on the floor. As I walk down the aisle a leg reaches out and trips me. When I look up a pale boy with red hair screams loudly in my face.

"Watch your step first grader!"

I find a seat in the middle section and put my book bag next to me. Everyone is talking to someone except for me, so I just look out the window.

Crooked houses pass me by one by one. Shingles cling onto roofs and windows slump in on themselves. Somehow each one is fitted into a neat little square of grass with a fence and a mailbox. A dog runs out of one of the houses and barks wildly at the bus, I wonder what he is saying. We pull up to the school and outside are all the teachers and staff there to greet us. Each one wears a Columbia blue shirt that reads North Wales Elementary.

They wave as we walk past. Some of the kids wave back, I just look at the pavement. When we get into our classroom Mrs. Green has us all sit in a circle on the floor. Mrs. Green is on old stout women. She has hands like thick leather gloves. Her entire face is cut with deep layered wrinkles and she has a wart on her chin. I decide Mrs. Green is a witch, like from the story Hansel and Gretel; and the only reason she is teaching is so she can have a large selection of kids to pick from. Mrs. Green notices me looking at her and asks me to introduce myself to the class.

"Hi, I'm Makayla Collins," I say.

Another girl stands up as I say that and screams

"Oh my gosh! My name is also Makayla!"

I look at the other Makayla and smile but, Mrs. Green seems less amused and takes this as an opportunity to tell us rule number one: Absolutely no calling out, if you wish to speak raise your hand and wait to be called on. Other Makayla looks a little dejected and she sits down. The rest of the day goes the same way, a kid gets excited and Mrs. Green scolds them. Andrew's story about Jeff was seeming increasingly likely.

While Mrs. Green is reading to us the classroom phone rings. She gives me an uncomfortable look and mumbles something incoherently into the phone.

"Makayla your father is on the line in the office," she says, seeming slightly annoyed that I was leaving class already.

I walk down to the office wondering what my dad wants to say to me. People have told me sometimes soldiers change when they go to war. Would he already be different? I pull open the obnoxiously heavy glass door to the office. Inside a peppy brunette woman sits at an oversized desk.

"Hello! You must be Makayla." She chirps.

"Well here you go, your dad is very eager to speak to you."

She presses the phone into my hand. The plastic feels warm against my clammy hand. "Hello?" I say reluctantly.

"Hi, sweetie! How is the first day of school going? Oh, I wish I could be there!"

"School is weird," I say.

I could feel the peppy woman's eyes piercing into the back of my head.

"Well, I think you just need to get used to it a bit. Did you make any friends?"

"Yeah." I lie.

"Oh, that's great I know you'll love school but sometimes adjustments can be hard." "What's it like over there?"

I say, not wanting to be the topic of conversation for any longer than I have to. "Well… There is a lot of dust. But we have a McDonald's on base and that's pretty cool." I can feel my face getting wet again. The receptionist pushes a green box of tissues towards me. This is too much.

"Well, dad I should probably get back to class, thanks for calling though."

"Okay… Yeah. Goodbye Sweetie I love you so much."

I can hear the tears in his throat too. "Bye, dad. Thanks for calling." I hang up first. The receptionist looks at me like I am a broken doll.

"You know we don't usually do this on the first day, but would you like to talk to the guidance counselor for a little bit?"

She says with annoying optimism.

"No, I think I'm just going to head back to class, for now, thank you."

When I get back into class everyone is staring at me. Mrs. Green had apparently informed the class of my father's orders to Afghanistan. Great, I thought, another reason for everyone to stare at me. The rest of the day everyone avoids me like the plague, except for one guy who comes up to me and asks me how many people my dad has killed. I roll my eyes and walk to the bus. I decide school is stupid and that I will find a way to make it bearable.

When I walk in my mom is hunched over the kitchen counter. She is crying, she is always crying. We all cry all the time. Crying in bed at night, crying in school, crying on the phone with my dad. We are three big babies. With wet faces and puffy eyes, we uncomfortably carry on. No one really understands why we are so sad, they can understand that we miss him, but not why we wear it around like a wet American flag draped across our shoulders.

It's quite simple: everyone expects you to be proud of him. None of us are proud. We are more like complicit witnesses to a legal crime. The long line of fathers leaving wives and wives becoming stagnate vegetables is a crime itself. All the while things carry on and kids grow up. The damage goes largely unnoticed by most. But I always notice all the yellow ribbons tacked onto trees all over town. I notice the quite mother with the crying newborn and the stunned toddler. I see the father come home, a husk of what he used to be with glassy eyes that are empty from seeing too much.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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