This is a military town. Roughly half the residents are active-duty military personnel. Military spouses, kids, and retirees make up a significant additional chunk. Someone at Walmart with shaggy hair or a beard triggers a double-take (Look! Someone who isn’t military! Get an autograph!). Artillery sings our bedtime lullaby, olive-green helicopters overhead drag me awake in the morning, and machine gun fire hammers through the air at lunch. I never thought I’d have a favorite explosion, but it turns out I rather like the sound of rockets.
Someone is always deploying, deployed, or just home from deployment. Many are on their third or fourth deployment. As we prayed in church for yet another friend heading out to Afghanistan this week, I realized there’s an important area of local life that Miss Manners doesn’t cover: Deployment farewells. It’s easy addressing the spouse left behind – ask her to dinner, see if she needs a hand around the house, mutually grump about the Army – but what do you say to someone who’s deploying?
“Have a good trip” doesn’t quite cut it. They’re heading to a war zone, not popping up to Delaware for a family reunion.
“Come home safe”/”Have a safe trip”/”Be safe” – because otherwise they’d be skipping through minefields picking daisies? It seems pointless rubbing in something they can’t control.
“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Lovely, it’s true, but not exactly something you spit out in an after-church chat with someone else’s husband.
“Enjoy yourself”, because who doesn’t love dust, mediocre food, and IEDs?
“Come home with your shield or on it.” Yeah…the Spartans were great at morale.
So far the best we’ve come up with is “Good Luck” and “We’ll be praying for you.” What do you use?