COURAGE on the home front

How a newly engaged couple dealt with separation during the Persian Gulf conflict

JULY 1990. Karen and Randy Craft have just announced their engagement. Karen, who is in management, has returned home to prepare for a fall wedding, and Randy has returned to his assignment with the US Marine Corps in North Carolina. Several days later, he leaves on a training deployment. But it is cut short by events in the Middle East involving Iraq and Kuwait. Randy's unit receives immediate orders to sail for the Persian Gulf.

"I was stunned when Randy called with the news," Karen told the Sentinel. "I wanted to immediately fly to see him. But his base was closed to civilians and on highest alert, so I stayed home. Instead of preparing for a wedding, I found myself preparing to deal with an unexpected and scary world event that had totally changed our lives. All of a sudden, I had to deal with an uncertain and terrifying future."

From what Karen was reading, Randy was going to be part of a huge amphibious landing force that was predicted to have 50-to-60 percent casualties.

"I wasn't the only one dealing with fear and uncertainty," she said. "Many of the families at Camp Lejeune were dealing with the same fears. I had many phone calls with Randy's commanding officer's wife. We prayed to support the deployed Marines and the spouses, children, and families left behind.

"I quickly learned that being married to someone in the military means always being prepared—emotionally and spiritually. Even when the world is at peace, they are in the field, on ships, in the air, training and preparing in case they are needed. Prayer has become a daily part of my life as my husband goes about his military duties. And it started all those years ago in Desert Storm."

Karen talked about the brand of courage needed by the families (including pinch-hitting grandparents), concerned friends and neighbors, office colleagues, and many others back home.

"Courage to me involves doing what is right all the time, no matter what the situation may be," says Karen. "Sometimes courage is most needed when the challenges are subtle. Everyone knows that those serving in the military need to be brave—to do their duty, serve their country, face the enemy. But not everyone is fully aware of the courage needed by their families—to continue to live their lives every day as normally as possible while a loved one is away.

"I find that many in the military turn to the Bible for comfort and hope. A favorite passage is from Psalms: 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble' (Ps. 46:1). A present help—right now, in this place, at this time. This is true on the battlefield and on the home front.

"In my prayers I turned to God for help, for answers, for peace, for direction. From the beginning, I prayed to be governed by God, not by desperation of fear. To know that Randy was governed by God, not by world circumstances or even by the military leadership.

"And as trivial as it sounds, I also had to handle disappointment. I was supposed to be getting married. What was going to happen now? Why was this happening now? I prayed to deepen and increase my understanding of God as ever-present Father-Mother, as loving creator, as Ruler over all, as omnipotent. I also asked God for the ability to see everyone as His precious child, made in His image and likeness, loved and cared for by Him."

Karen told us that gradually she began to grasp that there is a divine law of harmony that cannot be interrupted.

"I realized that the timing of our wedding, the timing of everything good, rests with God, and I could trust my present and my future to His love and care. I could also trust my fiance (and everyone else in our joint spheres of activity) to God's love and care.

"As I accepted that God is in complete control of every event of our lives, and is truly omnipotent, I remember realizing that God isn't the strongest power on earth or even the greatest power on earth. He is the only power!

"I sought to feel the strength and love of God every day. I had to learn that it is God that sustains me. That I was not dependent on a person, or a peaceful world, or a wedding for my happiness. I was totally dependent on God for my joy and peace.

"I also prayed to see how everyone is sustained by God, everyone is dependent on Him for joy and peace—even those in conflict in the Middle East."

Yet there were many unresolved issues tumbling through Karen's mind in the summer and fall of '90.

"It was almost frightening," she admitted. "When should I leave my job? When should I sell my place? How would I get my engagement ring? When would I see him again? Would I see him again? Would we get married?

"I was grateful for my job and for caring co-workers and family members. I had a sense of purpose each day to live as if I truly knew that God was in complete control. I found courage to go about my daily activities and not let the situation paralyze me. Randy's family was terrific. They called often and even flew me out to be with them in California over Christmas.

"All our plans went on hold. As it turned out, Randy and I didn't see each other for nine months. I ended up getting my engagement ring through the mail. In fact, my post office in Ashland, Massachusetts, knowing I was expecting it and the circumstances of Randy's situation, stayed open until I could get there and get it! I opened the package while Randy and I were on a phone call together."

Karen readily admits that communicating was tough. Letter delivery was sporadic, and phone calls were few.

"We had to maintain our relationship with each other on a spiritual level. Drawing closer to God, we knew we were drawing closer to each other. We both gave more thought to being kind and patient with each other, and to sharing love, encouragement, and hope in our letters. We had many wonderful discussions that way—about faith, courage, strength, commitment, true partnership.

"I sent care packages as often as I could, and Randy did manage once to send me flowers while he was out on his ship in the Persian Gulf. I remember my co-workers bursting into tears when I received them. We sent lots of cards and prayers to each other the whole time he was gone, and continue to do that now.

"We have worked to maintain our spiritual relationship, loving and cherishing qualities in each other, and working hard to avoid criticism and selfishness.

"Together we've learned that war situations change, but that the power of God is always the same. There is a divine law of harmony that can never be interrupted. It's the harmony that God establishes in our lives. Every day is a gift from God—a day to live for Him, not for ourselves. For His glory, not ours.

"Worrying never solves anything. It's knowing and trusting God that brings peace to thought and life. Just as I've never doubted that the sun will come up in the morning and that the harmony of the universe is intact, I find it natural to trust my life and all life to God's law of harmony.

"Sometimes, it's hard to think of others when your world is threatened, but thinking of others helps put your situation in perspective. It's not just a question of putting on a happy face and pretending that all is well. It's knowing that all is well because God is infinite good, now and always."

November 5, 2001

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