I often wonder what goes on in your head. What images you have seen and truly what your memories are. In the 31 years that you have been alive, you have spent over 1 of those years in Afghanistan fighting for your country. Now 1 small year out of 31 really sounds tiny in the grand scheme of things, but that is around 365 days of risking your life for others. That is waking up every day to the unknown and going to bed every night with a sigh of relief that the day was over, only to wake up and do it all over again.
You went on your first tour in 2007. I didn’t know you then but from the pictures I’ve seen and the stories I’ve heard, you were surrounded by a wonderful group of soldiers. You lost a lot of good people that year and I am so incredibly sorry for that Shawn.
When we met in the spring of 2008 you told me that you were in the military. Being a small town girl that really didn’t mean much to me. I was naive and in a bubble. War happened years and years ago, or at least it happened far from me and that was all that mattered. As time went on and you went on course after course, I started to understand. I started to understand that this was serious. That you…you were a hero. A real life hero. I actually called you my real life GI Joe.
You had a purpose in life and that was to serve.
I remember the day you told me you were going overseas. Still really unsure as to what that actually meant, I remember nodding my head and going along with it. Who knows if we would still even be together, we were still fresh, new love birds. I wasn’t worried. We would deal with it when the time came.
October 18 of 2009 came all too fast. I will never for as long as I live forget this day. We stayed up all night the night before just being together. Holding each other and wondering what was in store. We didn’t talk much about what was happening or how incredibly hard it was going to be. It was almost like you weren’t leaving.
As the sun came up and you put your uniform on, it started to sink in. I remember feeling like I couldn’t let any emotion show. You had to go. We knew this was coming and you had to go.
It was time to head to the base.
When we got there it was a rush of emotion for me. How much time do we have left? Who are all of these people? Who will be by your side when I’m not?
It was hard.
Watching families say goodbye. Watching loved ones hold each other as though they would never see each other again.
It was hard. A crazy kind of hard that I didn’t even know existed.
But we laughed, and we talked with your amazing friends that came to send you off as well. I am so incredibly happy they were there too. But again, the time came where they left us alone to have our moment together. A moment in my life that I never thought would happen.
A moment where I felt like there were things I needed to say to you…just in case.
A moment that I knew was so incredibly important yet I had no words. We just sat there and looked at each other. Didn’t say much at all. I remember this so clearly.
And then you said it…
“Nicole, I have to go…”
My heart sank so deep in my chest.
I knew you had to go, that’s what we were there for. But…how.
How was I supposed to just walk away and let you go?
So you walked me to the hallway where we hugged.
I held my composure and pretended as though everything was fine, basically what I always do when in tough situations.
I looked over your shoulder as we hugged and watched a young girl sob while she said goodbye to her soldier.
This was real
This was happening
I had to go.
So I did. I hugged you. I kissed you. I said goodbye and to call me when you could.
I turned and I walked away and I never looked back.
I don’t know if you watched me walk away or if you just turned and went on. But I had to go. If I had taken just one more moment to look back at you, I honestly don’t know if I could’ve let you go.
When I got to the car, I cried harder than I knew a human could cry. My heart hurt more than I thought I could ever feel. And I felt more alone than I had in my whole life.
As I drove off, I wiped the tears and put on a strong face but the minute I walked through our front door and saw your shoes, it was all over. I cried uncontrollably hard for probably a good half hour.
And then I stopped.
And all I thought of was you.
What could you be feeling and thinking and experiencing.
You had these ranks, these missions and goals. You had people to protect and a country to serve. You had this entire world on your shoulder, yet here I am crying uncontrollably for you.
I have always wondered how you are so strong and how you always hold it together.
Shawn you are my hero and you always will be. You did your time for your country. You lost great friends and you did wonderful things. You have lived a life that people can’t even fathom. I actually love the look on people’s faces when you first tell them you served for 9 years. It’s a look of admiration and intrigue.
So to my husband, the person who gave me this life that I knew nothing about, I love you, more than you can possibly even know. I am so incredibly proud of you and I know when the time comes to tell our son about your journey, he will be too.
And on this day, November 11th I will remember you. I will remember your fallen soldiers, their families who lost and the families who waited. I will remember everything and I will never forget for as long as I shall live.
I love you Shawn Modde. Thank you!
A photo my husband put together…