Anyone who has ever taken a train has heard the warning — and if we don’t exactly jump, many of us instinctively look down to the narrow slit of space between the edge of the platform and the sill of the compartment door. Well, not exactly a space. More like a trap which we deftly avoid by simply lifting our feet one at a time.
An interview this morning with Admiral Mike Mullen and his wife Barbara Mullen brought home the point that there are other gaps we need to mind:
the gap between combat veterans and civilians
the gap between civilian and military families
the gap between combat vets and their own families
Hard for me to imagine treating every phone call as a threat and watching Facebook the way you watch the monitor for signs of life in an ICU — the way a military wife does when her husband is deployed. Yet that is the reality for so many — just listen to Gold Star families or read articles like the recent piece FaceBook and the Afghan War. Hard for me to conceive handing my baby to grandparents because I have committed to carry an M-16. Or being forced into a sexual relationship because he is my commanding officer and I don’t feel I have a choice. Yet this is some of the reality women veterans describe in In Our Own Voice.
The same gap exists within military families.
Minding this gap is about as hard as stepping over the one between platform and train is easy. Because it means stepping into an ‘unknown’ we’d just as soon ignore. I am grateful to veterans who speak out at forums like the Truth Commission, to troops who speak to filmmakers like Junger and Hetherington, who made Restrepo, to all the troops and families who let us show their story in Chaplains Under Fire, and to the many, many more who grant interviews and relive painful experiences in an effort to mind and bridge the gap.