Portraits of courage

MOUNTAIN HOME AFB, Idaho -- Courage has many faces. It's not just found on convoy duty, in the cockpit of a jet or behind a 50-caliber gun. According to the dictionary, courage is the "mental or moral strength to persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty." Who better fits this description than the spouses and children of our deployed warfighters?

They suffer the difficulty of multiple separations, the fear of a hundred unknowns and countless birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and special days lost to the ages. They get no medals or ribbons. When their loved ones return, a grateful nation receives them but hardly gives a thought to the courageous sacrifices their families have made. And yet, they don't complain. In fact, their support does not wane. Their encouragement does not falter. Their prayers do not cease.

These heroes will never have a parade in their honor and history will little note their sacrifice. But we know who they are. They are our wives, husbands, children and parents who weep when we leave, unfalteringly support us while we are gone, and embrace us when we return.

Who are these courageous ones? It is the wife who sleeps in an empty bed on a cold night and celebrates her anniversary alone? It is the child whose mom cannot help blow out his birthday candles or a dad not there to marvel at the innocent beauty of his teenage daughter's first homecoming dance?

The strength of our military is ultimately not in bombs and bullets. It's in the absolute certainty that when we go to war, our families will unfailingly support us and when we return they will still love us. Sometimes that love is as simple as a young daughter putting on the flight cap of her father with the anxious anticipation of seeing him again.