Delayed Effects of Deployment
How one man’s service in Iraq changed his family.


Nancy French

3. Events in the news aren’t as distant. September 11 was the catalyst that caused David to join the Army. Though Austin was just an infant when those buildings fell, he and his sister certainly understand the connection between terrible events and the consequences for the men and women in uniform. Now they realize that events being discussed on the news could affect our family life, which gives the information a certain heft. This means I’m a little more cautious before turning on the news, unless I’m prepared to have a long discussion about North Korea.

4. It’s forced us to rely on God. There’s an old Stonewall Jackson quote that goes something like this: “My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready. That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.” 

Years have passed since that moment in the kitchen. Austin no longer believes he’s Spiderman and is now old enough to shoot hoops for his school’s basketball team and trap for his school’s gun team. Camille is old enough to get her driver’s-license permit at the end of this year. But walking through the deployment, and recovering from it, has taught us the necessity of trusting in God. When we came face to face with God’s sovereignty, it caused us to loosen the tight grip we believed we had on our lives. It allowed us to more freely live for something more than ourselves. 

Which brings me to a lasting, wonderful effect of the deployment: After David returned, we started the process of adopting a little girl from Africa. When we got our referral photo, we saw the tiniest, most malnourished baby sitting on the floor of an orphanage half a world away. She was beautiful — her name in Amharic means “beautiful.” As we were going through the adoption documents for the hundredth time, David held up a piece of paper. “Look at this!” he said. On the line reserved for the day of her birth was scrawled “November 22, 2007.”

It suddenly dawned on us that somewhere in an African village, a baby was born on the very day David was flying into Iraq for the first time. I remember being apprehensive about our future on that day, hoping it would involve simply a warm homecoming after about a year. But God had plans for us, and was lovingly preparing a future greater than we could ever imagine.

My vision of the “perfect” family really had changed significantly since that day in the kitchen when David told me he wanted to join the Army. Instead of four plates set haphazardly on the kitchen table, we now have five. 

Nancy French is the editor of the Faith and Family Channel at Patheos and blogs with her husband David at the modestly titled blog “The French Revolution.”