When your boyfriend comes back from war, tell him you love him.
For the past year, he has heard nothing but shouted orders, only promises of brotherhood from men that now stand dead; he may need a reminder thatsometimes words are used in places other than the battlefield.
Do not expect him to be the same.
Maybe he left you as the man who humored you when it was your night to cook, or the man who knew just how to hold you after a bad day of work, or the man who sent your mother flowers every Mother’s Day that you forgot to, but war has changed him, and he is not that person anymore.
Do not expect him to be.
He has seen things you will never understand, he has lost things you never knew he had in the first place,
Things no amount of love can get back.
You must learn to love him, or let him go.
Loving him will not be easy.
There will be nights where you think you are meant to give up.
If your heart still beats out of your chest when he smiles, do not.
Learn to love the new him, every scar on his body, every last word tattooed upon his heart, learn who he has become.
When he can’t sleep because your ceiling fan sounds too much like a helicopter, turn it off.
When he whispers the names of his friends in his sleep, learn to hold him.
Remember which ones did not make it out alive.
If his hands shake when he pours your morning coffee, remind him you have learned to do it yourself.
He may need to kiss you harder than he did before the war just to remind himself that you are real.
Sometimes, you should let him.
But other times, you must tell him to stop.
Show him there are still things better and more beautiful than force.
There are things better and more beautiful than power, even if he does not remember them anymore.
But remember that he is learning too.
Be there when he smiles again.
Echo him when he learns to laugh.
Let him hold you when he tells you that you are the reason, you are the answer, you are the why.
Believe him when he says that although you are not the reason why he was able to come back, you are the reason why he stays.
Let yourself smile when he says it.
But when he asks you to marry him, take a second to listen to your heart. Look inside of it, see if he is there, ask yourself if his presence still makes you as crazy as the summer before the war, if your heart tells you yes, give him that answer.
But if it tells you no, let him down easy.
Do not marry him for guilt, or pity, or for his sacrifice.
His country may owe him part of his life for his service, but you do not owe him yours.
And if you are married, with six empty seats for the friends he lost, smile at your guests when they thank him for his service.
If your eyes meet, know he has not forgotten yours.
Being a navy man is hard. There is no denying that.
But being a navy girlfriend is not any easier.