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What is happening in Afghanistan right now is beyond tragic. There has been a heaviness in my soul over these last few days as I have seen stories unfold.  I do not want to minimize anything that the people of that country are going through right now, but with hearing and seeing so much of Afghanistan in the news right now, I thought I would share my experience with it from 17 years ago. 

I was only 17 when I found out. 

My first love, the love of my life would be going to war. 

I was 17 and I had no real concept of war, but I was terrified. 

It had been a slow Saturday morning for me. I was still in my pajamas when I picked up the phone to call my boyfriend’s, now husband, parents to check in. We had been dating for about a year and a half at that time. Phillip had left for boot camp a few months before so I had made it a habit to call and see what they were up to every now and then. Phillip’s dad answered and made small talk for a minute, but then said, “Did you hear the news?” “No, what news?” We were leaving in a few days for Phillip’s boot camp graduation so I assumed it had to do with that. 

“Phillip is being deployed to Afghanistan.” 

I was 17 and I had no real concept of war, but I was terrified. 

My father-in-law is a wonderful man, but the bluntness of his statement sucked the air straight from my lungs. I think he gave a few more details, I really don’t remember. I hung up the phone and walked outside to my dad. He was talking with a neighbor, but all I had to say was, “Dad” and he knew. He rushed over to me and I collapsed.

I was 17 and I had no real concept of war, but I was terrified. 

Later, hours or days, I’m not sure, Phillip was able to call from boot camp and tell the news himself. Our world was rocked.

I was 17 and he was 18 and we had no real concept of war, but we were terrified. 

In the weeks and months that followed, Phillip trained and prepared. He was able to come home for a week or so before he officially left. His parents had a goodbye party. It’s a funny thing – being immensely proud of someone and being immensely petrified of whether or not you will ever see them again. Every experience and moment you have together, you wonder if it will be the last. Will we ever go on a date again? Will we ever go hiking together again? Will we ever watch a sunset together again?

I was 17 and he was 18 and we had no real concept of war, but we were terrified.

I drove down to his base before he left because the leave date kept getting pushed back. We spent every possible moment together, but eventually the moment came when we had to say goodbye. We stood there, hugging, kissing, crying, internally begging God to see each other again one day. My body moved to the car and started driving because it had to but I was in a daze. I think the flow of tears from my weary eyes was continuous as I made the 5 hour trip home. 

I was 17 and he was 18 and a fuzzy concept of war was starting to take shape, and we were terrified. 

Over the next 12 months, the fuzzy concept of war became clear as we settled into fear and the unknown being our constant companion.

I started college and seemingly lived a normal “freshman in college” life but inside my head was far from normal. Every soldier lives in high alert mode, ready to spring to action at any given second. The life of a soldier’s loved one is much the same, only they are ready to receive “the notice” at any moment. My phone never left my side, my mind was never far from “the worst,” and my heart never was released from the ache. 

I was now 18 and the concept of war was real, and I was terrified.

I wrote letters every day and we were able to talk on the phone every week or two. My internal world was a rollercoaster but my external world was safe. Phillip’s internal and external world, on the other hand, was a rollercoaster without safety harnesses.

Phillip was now 19 and as IED’s exploded, helicopters crashed, and friends died, the reality of war was tragic. 

But even in those dark hours, there were glimmers of hope. The Taliban may have had a strong grip but they did not rule the minds and hearts of the majority of the people. There was still kindness in the Afghani people, there were still smiles as the men and soldiers shared stories over tea, there was still laughter as children and soldiers played soccer, there was still respect between one human to another, even if one was American and one was Afghani. 

Phillip came home forever changed by his time in Afghanistan. I was forever changed. Yes, there are wounds that still ache but there are also memories of friendship, not just between him and other soldiers, but also between him and Afghanistan. Afghanistan expanded his world beyond the Shenandoah Valley. Afghanistan showed him the most ruggedly beautiful mountains. Afghanistan took his breath away when he looked into the night sky. Afghanistan brought comradery between soldiers that he had never experienced before. Afghanistan brought new friendships to me as I met other soldier’s significant others. Afghanistan grew the love we shared. Most notably, Afghanistan plunged Phillip and my faith into deeper waters where our only lifeline was Christ. 

Phillip was 20 and I was 19 when he came home. War was a reality that we would face again together in only two years, two weeks after we would marry. We would walk that road terrified again, but also hopeful because of the experience of Afghanistan. It was one of the most trying times of our life, but it also was one of the most enriching because we walked closer to Christ and to each other. 

Every night, while Phillip was in Afghanistan and later Iraq, after I wrote my letter to him, I would pray Psalm 91, asking God to protect and care for Phillip. I also would ask Him to help me to trust in him as we continued to persevere through war.

Now, my heart breaks for Afghanistan. War and tragedy is their reality. I will pray Psalm 91 on behalf of the Afghani people and trust that God knows, God sees and that God will intervene in His perfect way even if it is not seen by us.

“If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” Psalm 91:9-13

Jesus, only you can bring healing to our world. Come swiftly.


  • Avatar Wanda Spangler says:

    Meredith, I went through the same when Tom was deployed to Vietnam. I met him right after he came back from his first tour and he deployed again about 15 months after we were married. Only those who have experienced that kind of goodbye can understand the turmoil of emotions you endure. The day he left and the days after until I received his first letter in three weeks (no internet and an occasional short call through the USO) were unbelievably hard. Military families make huge sacrifices too. And like Afghanistan, the end was about the same. I understand. God is truly our refuge.

  • Avatar 77hokie says:

    Wonderful writing. I remember talking to Phillip about his unit providing security for Afghanistan’s first free election and how proud the people were to be voting. Thanks to soldiers like Phillip,young and terrified as he may have been, they gave Afghanistan’s people 20 years of democracy;women’s rights ;education and God willing, they will find a way to come through this chaos and find that path again.

  • Avatar Debbie says:

    I’m so thankful for Gods protection and love for us and for the Afghani people. I thank God for you Meredith and what a great wife and mother you are. This is a hard time but I’m so thankful God protects and sees us through hard times. That was a great post but brought tears to my eyes and was hard to read right now. Love you so much Mom Read

  • Avatar Ginger says:

    I know exactly how you have felt. Every time I found out James was being deployed my heart broke an I prayed Lord keep all the military men and women safe and bring them home, I also prayed for the people in those countries, I cant imagine a life of constant war and fear. It breaks my heart every day as I watch the news> i was so thankful when he returned in July after being told he would be there until at least September. I thought they did a great job to get everything done so quickly and get to come home so soon, I didn’t realize how many people were left there and so much more that could have been done to help the people before they left. I pray for our leaders that they will do what is right and get the rest of the Americans out of there . Thanks for your story Meredith. I also prayed for Phillip every day while he was deployed. My son in law was in Afghanistan for a year when he was 20 and he hasn’t been the same since then. God Bless our military.

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