A split second is all that separates who I am now—a wife and mother—and who I might have been—an invisible military widow.
On August 19, 1993, the love of my life sat in the passenger seat of a cutvee truck on the road from the Port of Mogadishu to UN headquarters. In the back, two soldiers manned an M-60, and to her left, her driver was at the wheel. On the side of the road a man beat his camel, desperately trying to force the animal to move. Sensing danger, the driver slowed down and saved four lives.
The command-detonated land mine blew a 5-foot- crater into the ground, lifting their cutvee into the air and smashing it back to the ground. Sniper fire zoomed overhead, and the soldiers raced for cover behind a crumbling wall. Catching their breath, they saw at their feet, the long, black detonation wire snaking down to the blast crater. The bomber had escaped with his detonation controls into a tunnel behind them.
Good training and luck—that’s what kept them alive. One broke an ankle. The others bore ugly cuts along their faces and hands. They all suffered from hearing loss. And at least one, Gina, came home five months later with post-traumatic stress disorder.
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I met Gina in college seven years before. She joined ROTC, we fell in love, and right before graduation, she switched her first duty station from Germany to Ft. Eustis, Virginia, to be with me. Like most queer military couples, we were shocked when Bill and Hillary Clinton proposed that gays and lesbians should openly serve. They were naïve, but it was a kind gesture, the first time my relationship had ever been publicly recognized by anyone, much less an elected official.
Then Gina was sent off to Mogadishu, to head up security at the port—where weeks before, four MPs had been killed when a bomb was detonated under their cutvee. I was invisible. She called me after her land mine incident, so that I didn’t have to hear the news from her parents or worse, the media. When she stepped on to U.S. soil again, I waited on the curb, as wives and husbands and children ran to their soldiers. She was exceedingly thin, and in the dawn light of December, her bright blue eyes shined from her sunburned face. I couldn’t cry. I could barely smile. Emotion would give us away, and the news media was there to welcome its hometown hero.
In that split second, I could have lost the love of my life and my whole future—the mother of my daughter, my wife, my partner, my best friend. And only a handful of people would have known my pain. I would have received no folded flag or military benefits or even a comforting look from her commanders.
My vote against Trump is dedicated to all of us queer military families, who lost or almost lost their loves in complete silence. Who fought against the midnight monsters of PTSD or phantom limbs or scorched skin. Who coded letters and emails and called their loves their “best friends.” Who put off having children or getting married. Who were almost never asked how they were holding up or if they wanted a casserole or help with the lawn. My vote against Trump is for the invisible warriors—at home and at war.