LOPEZ: Do you watch Army Wives and Coming Home on Lifetime? Other than that, does popular culture know you exist?
NANCY: I don’t watch shows like that. I tried it once while David was gone, and it was too much for me to take. Plus, my life was different from those ladies’ because I didn’t live on a military base with a bunch of other people going through the exact same thing. I was kind of going it alone with very few friends in the military and no friends who were going through deployment. But you’re right: Servicemen used to be American heroes and celebrities (think Alvin C. York) and now you are hard pressed to realize that a war is going on.
: What ought we never say to one who has been to war?
DAVID: That’s a tough question. I would say that when talking to a vet, and the war comes up, the default should be to listen more than you speak.
LOPEZ: What ought we always say when given the opportunity?
DAVID: For most, a simple “thank you” is more than sufficient.
LOPEZ: Does every day have a different meaning for you now (civic holidays in particular)?
DAVID: I came home for leave on Memorial Day weekend in 2008. I can remember watching a NASCAR race that started with a man on the bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” I had to leave the room; it was just too much to take. As I keep in the forefront of my mind the men who fell — fulfilling the promise we all made to never forget them — I’m reminded that life is precious, nothing is guaranteed, and the greatest privilege of my life was serving with the 2d Squadron, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment.
LOPEZ: Besides helping put your kids through college, why do you hope people read your book?
NANCY: It’s a story of war, service, marriage, family, and love. Someone at church asked me, “Who should I buy this book for? I don’t know anyone who’s in the military.” I hope people — even if you would never join the military and think it’s irresponsible to leave kids at home to join the war effort — read the book and consider some of the points it raises: What does it mean to be a good parent in modern society? What is a patriotic duty? How can marriage survive long absences? And, critically, what is life like for those who serve?
LOPEZ: Nancy, when you heard from David that there are men deployed who don’t get mail and care packages, you did something about it. What can everyone reading this do to fix that problem?
NANCY: I created a little program (called Operation Send-a-Box) that sent a care package to everyone in David’s unit. We were blessed to get $250,000 worth of cool supplies sent — thanks in part to NRO readers! — to demonstrate support for the soldiers risking their lives for our freedom. Although most people won’t have the resources to replicate such an ambitious effort, everyone can show support to service members by baking food (that’s always the southern solution!), fixing household items, and being physically present in military families’ lives. In my case, memorably, I had to ask the deacon of my church to come and pull my kid’s tooth after a couple of hours of angst over a possibly premature extraction. Although I doubt that’s what he had in mind when he told me he was willing to help while David was gone, he served our family in a way that will forever be remembered. Thanks to all the people at Zion Presbyterian Church!
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.