From my POV: Family is never lost

By Elaine Huang

Family is most commonly defined as a group of people united by the ties of marriage, blood or adoption. When one talks about their family, it usually consists of their spouse, parents, children or siblings. Although most children are born into loving homes, some are forced to seek another family outside of their blood relatives. 

To me, my family extends beyond the traditional definition. Over the years, I have built a family for myself through friendship. I see my family as the people who have gone through life’s ups and downs with me and have helped me see the good in the world. My family is the people who gave me the life I live now. They were willing to take the person that I was someone who was so broken and glue back the pieces with love and compassion. 

I was someone who saw this world as a place of hatred and sadness. I didn’t understand why politicians would fight for a cause or why people would do small acts of good in such a broken world. My family made me realize why this is a world worth fighting for. Maybe it is true that this world is filled with tragedies that we can’t change, but it’s the small moments with my family that I cherish every single day. Those moments are what make this world a place worth fighting for. I want everyone to be able to feel the kind of peace that I felt when I was with my family, and that is a huge reason why I try my best to do good. Maybe this world is inherently horrible, but that just makes the good of this world so much more valuable.

 

What broke apart my family? 

What broke apart my family is a war on a land that is very close to our hearts. As the place that united my family, it was the first place that we were able to call home. 

Life there was peaceful. With most of the houses in the town painted white or gray, our home stood out. We had our bars and fences in turquoise and even the roof was a light shade of blue. Even today, it is no different: I can still spot this house on Google Maps if I put it on satellite. 

I woke up to the bird songs every day and walked along the river every morning. With the tall grass around me growing over my head, it was the best place to be when I wanted to hide and avoid house chores. Life there was simple, but also fulfilling. I loved my life there more than words can describe. However, I wish there was a way to know that you are in the good old days before you’ve actually left them. 

Starting around late Nov. 2013, peace was no longer the word associated with that land. After the government’s decision to abandon an agreement on trade ties, protesters took to the streets in the capital and other major cities to voice their concerns. It was first a protest, then a riot and then finally one of the worst days of violence on that land. 

Infographic by Elaine Huang

This was when we realized that it was time to go. We didn’t intend to abandon this place, but instead to go somewhere that would allow us to help. To us, this was a land worth protecting, a land worth fighting for. To us, it was not about anything else but to protect our home. I remember every step that I took when I left. I put my hand on our front door and swore that all seven of my family would be back home one day.

The U.S. was the place that we decided would allow us to help our home. A lot of things were now different, and as someone who loves familiarity, I hated the changes that came along with the move. Although it was a house I had previously lived in, it wasn’t a house that grounded me. It was cold and empty, and I felt like a big part of me was torn away. 

Once we landed, everything happened so quickly. Before I was able to fully process what it meant to join the war, two of my family members received their letters of deployment. As there were lots of complications with this deployment, we were informed that it would be extremely difficult to get in contact after they leave. 

My body froze when I heard the news, as I didn’t know how to react to it. The fear of war came crashing down on me, but I knew that they were doing the right thing. That land is a home I want to go back to. It gave us so much, and finally, we were able to give back. 

People say it hits hard when it hits home… Well, this one hit home. With the closest conflict zone to be just hours away, “staying positive” was becoming increasingly more difficult. 

My life without my two family members was like walking through a dark tunnel and their return was the light that I was walking towards. No matter how hard it was, I knew that as long as I kept walking, I would be able to reach the light at the end of my tunnel. All I could do was to take care of what was remaining. We did our best to stay strong. We kept a roof above our heads while paying close attention to the war, which no one in the U.S. seemed to care much about. 

For a very long time, things were on a constant decline, and it stayed that way until late 2016. That was when we received a letter saying that there is a possibility that those who had deployed would be back soon. It was a letter filled with hope written by my family members. A letter without war, one that was painting a future reminiscent of the peaceful life that we lived before. 

Less than two weeks after we reviewed that letter, we received a call from the U.S. Department of the Army. They thanked us for the honoring work that our family has done, and in the end, reported both of them missing. At that second, the light at the end of my tunnel dimmed. 

The promise that I made to that land was one that I couldn’t keep. Four years have passed since their MIA report and their status is soon changing to POW, which will also mark the end of their search from the US government. We called that land home because home is where the family is, but my family is now out of my reach. 

Losing family members at such a young age were the hardest things I have ever been through, and also an experience I had learned the most from. The conflicts on that land still have not settled and it pains me to know that more and more families are being affected. With the mass amounts of uncertainties in the world, all we can do is to value every interaction and cherish each moment we have with our loved ones. There may be a lot that the world is able to take away from us, but the love we have for our families will never be lost.

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