KILLEEN, Texas – Having arrived in Fort Hood from another assignment with little more than the clothes on my back, I was in Wal-Mart Saturday night looking for some basics.
Watching families walking together through the store, I was – I admit – feeling a little sorry for myself that I was away from my own family … until I had a chance to meet the young woman ahead of me in line.
She couldn't have been much older than 20 years old and was tiny all over except for her bulging tummy. It's an overused phrase, but she was glowing.
It was her first child, she explained with a smile of pure joy. The clerk asked her if her husband was as excited as she was. "He's not here," I heard her say. "Oh, is he deployed?" the clerk asked. "No, he was killed in Iraq."
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It's a side of the war we don't often see. The names of the fallen get a mention – maybe – on the news, but the stories of those left behind are largely untold.
I had a chance to talk to my new Wal-Mart friend for a few minutes after we both checked out and found her remarkably reconciled with her situation. She had some family in town, she explained, and they would help her raise her son. I thought back to when my own son was born and remembered that as emotional and exhausting as those first weeks were, at least I had someone to laugh and cry about it with at the end of the day.
She didn't want any attention, and she didn't want to be on television – because, she explained, her situation wasn't special or unusual. At least not here in Killeen. She knew a number of women who had gone through the same thing.
I'm here in Fort Hood covering a heartbreaking story, but stumbled upon this other one by chance. The death of a soldier – wherever it happens – is just the beginning of a military family's sacrifice.
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