Valentine's Day in Afghanistan
February 14, 2012
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Feb. 14, 2012) -- A Soldier gets a care package in the mail. The package is from his wife. As she insisted, he waits until Valentine's Day to open it.
Inside there is a heart, he presses it, and he hears his wife's voice.
"I love you and I miss you. I can't wait for you to be home and I'm thinking about you always. Love you babe," said Mrs. Franco.
Her husband is 1st Lt. Christopher Franco with Charlie Company, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. Franco is deployed to Forward Operating Base Price, Helmand province, Afghanistan.
"I couldn't ask for a more amazing wife. A Soldier couldn't be more thankful for how patient and understanding she's been throughout this deployment," said Franco. "I've never met someone so loving, caring and again patient. This is no easy task for any relationship."
When a loved one is in a combat zone, family members stress levels are often heightened. Stress can increase not only out of concern for their Soldier's well-being, but also having to take care of home responsibilities that are normally shared.
"Deployment is hard. It's hard for Soldiers to be separated from their wives, but often it is even harder for wives since they don't have the support like Soldiers have with each other. Valentine's Day is all the more important for men to stop in the midst of their routine and send their wives that special note and flowers to remind their wives that they are special and not forgotten," said Capt. Scott Koeman, Battalion chaplain with 4-23, also deployed to FOB Price.
Franco longs to be with his wife to celebrate Valentine's Day. His message to her is simple.
"Happy Valentine's Day, I wish I could be there. You should be getting your bear with flowers, without lilies because they would probably kill our cat," he said.
Newlyweds, the couple just celebrated their one year anniversary.
"I love her very much and can't wait to see her in a few months," said Franco.
Another Charlie Company Soldier, Staff Sgt. Pedro Chavez, received an enormous Valentine's card in the mail. Surprisingly, the card made it to Afghanistan without a single dent. He would like his wife to know that he loves her, misses her, and can't wait to get home.
"As a chaplain, I'm reminded over and over again about the demands and stress deployment places on marriages. Many of our Soldiers lift weights and improve their physical stamina. I emphasis with my Soldiers what the Bible says in Ephesians 5:28-29; 'Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it.' Any day that a Soldier calls or writes his wife to tell her that he loves her he is actually investing in himself and that is a Valentine's Day. If he does something special because it's Feb. 14th, that's great too," said Koeman.
For one Soldier, Pvt. First Class Veronica Jakab, a cook with 4-23, Valentine's Day makes her think of her mom. Valentine's Day is her mother's birthday, and she has a few heartfelt words for her.
"Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you and I'm thinking about you on Valentine's Day," said Jakab, who is also deployed to FOB Price.
There are undoubtedly thousands of deployed service members thinking of their loved one's today, and families praying for their military hero's safe return home.
"Valentine's Day is a special day," said Koeman. "It's special because it reminds a man to pause in the midst of the demands of life and appreciate the woman he so dearly loves. He takes notice and says to his woman, 'You are the most important person in my life. You are the love of my life. You are my Valentine.'"