Combat Melody

by Col. David Murphy
USAF, Retired

Editor’s note: David Murphy is a retired colonel living on Osan Air Base with his active-duty wife and three boys. During the recent Key Resolve and Beverly Midnight exercises, he reflected on the life of a military child. David, thanks for sharing.

Our sons didn’t sleep well last night. The gunfire and explosions made the journey to the land of dreams difficult. Throughout the night, sirens blared and bugles called, beckoning men and women to combat. Sounds of violence across the street are not the melody of rest, rather the din of war. These are sounds no human should endure, whether child or adult. Antithesis of what should be, they sadly prevail around our sphere.

Much is written about the trials of military service, less so about strains on military children. Since we adopted three young brothers in 2007, we’ve moved six times. Our oldest son has attended eight different schools, the other two seven. They’ve said goodbye to more friends than I knew in all of my elementary years. The life of a military child is different from what so many American children experience. For them, a home is temporary, school is a transition, and friends are momentary. There are countless benefits to being part of a military family, and I’m thankful to the Air Force which provides them. But there are also many costs, some identifiable, others only known within each heart.

My military friends with older kids tell me the boys will miss it when it’s over. That may be true, but for now they endure a unique life, a universe far different from my experience at their age. Each morning, as they leave for school, their first sight is the barbed wire on a security fence and a concrete fighting position. These are constant reminders that we are at war where we live. Security here is fleeting and temporal, something that could evaporate before school is even out for the day. This is the world of Osan Air Base, Korea.

Hill 180 forms a large part of Osan Air Base. The “Battle of Bayonet Hill” occurred here on February 7, 1951. Captain Lewis Millett led the men of Company E from the 27th Regiment, 25th Division, Eight U.S. Army on the bayonet charge which secured this land and earned him the Medal of Honor. Even as this area was secured by their sacrifice, I remember the high cost of the land which contains Osan, on which its families live.

And as I write, the sounds of gunfire still surrounding me, I’m reminded the war here in Korea is not over. The Armistice holds, because of the readiness of the Korean, American and allied men and women who make the military their calling. They have counted the cost and stand ready to fight. That long line of men and women, the lineage of Capt Millett, prepare for war this week. In this training exercise, that gunfire, those explosions, they aren’t real. They come from blank ammunition and bomb sound simulators. The horrid sounds they replicate are what so many children around the world endure each day, the sounds that remind them they are neither free nor secure.

For our family, these are the blessed sounds of freedom secured, of men and women willing to train day and night, willing to sacrifice, ready and trained to fight. The sounds of war and the wonderful roar of jet engines as fighter aircraft launch throughout the night make restful sleep elusive. But I wouldn’t trade this sleeplessness, this melody of combat training for any other sound. This is the harmony of men and women training to do their mission, working restlessly through the night to secure the freedom of my family and yours.

Sleep well my sons, your freedom secured by this combat lullaby.

Stars and Stripes Month of the Military Child

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