THE SOLDIER’S BURDEN
She can still remember how it all started as if it was yesterday. She had attended a friend’s birthday party, Deji who happened to be friends with soldiers who he met during his Youth Corps service while serving at the Military hospital In Borno State. Kunle and Ahmed just returned from a mission at Sambisa forest, they were celebrating another ‘’narrow escape from death’’ as they called it. Adetola, ‘’can you help us with the toast’’, asked Ahmed. Tola smiled and gave a beautiful toast. Ahmed was smitten by her beauty and the way with which she spoke. They quickly exchanged numbers and talked for a while on the phone even when he was training at the camps. They had gotten to know each other so well in spite of the long distance and her busy schedule as a banker.
Ahmed had just come back from one of his peace keeping mission at Bakassi Pennisula. She was so surprised when called to tell her he was in Lagos for a while to see his family. He had wanted to meet up and talk a bit. Seeing him was a breath of fresh air, given that she worried about him a lot and his military movements even though they were just ‘’ friends’’. During their conversation that day, he made mention that he was thinking about her for a while now and wanted to let her know about his feelings towards her. Tola could not believe her ears, she had hoped that he would say this one day, but behind that hope was fear of the journey she was to embark on. Being friends with a soldier made her days worrisome, the thought of anything happening to him was disheartening. Ahmed wondered why she was taking so long to answer .Finally, she said, ‘’Of course, let’s give it a try and see where it goes’’.
Their dating years were one of the best moments in her life. She remembered how he used to drop in her office all dressed up looking so handsome in his army uniform. She was envied by most ladies in her office even though they all talked about how she should get ready to face all the challenges. Her family, on the other hand were a bit skeptical about Ahmed, not because he was a soldier but because his tribe and culture was way different from theirs. They had hoped she had married Deji who was a Medical doctor from a good home. Her mum had already planned, how she would sew her ‘’asoebi’’ with her friends and supposed in- laws. The ‘’Owambe’’ party had already been arranged in her mind. Given that she could not change Tola’s mind, she tolerated Ahmed’s presence whenever he came around.
Their wedding was the talk of the whole town, people could not believe why Tola would be making such a huge mistake as they called it. The ceremonial activities of the soldiers got everyone excited. The wedding pictures were beautiful with her white gown and his green suit complementing their smiles.
After one month, a call came through; he had to report to Sambisa Forest for an urgent mission to rescue some hostages that have been taken from a remote village. There was something about this mission that Tola did not like .She just had this pain in her chest like something heavy was coming. Ahmed looked at her as if going through her thoughts; he assured her he was going to be back as soon as he can and that he would talk to her as much as he could. She wanted to stop him from going but she knew what she was getting herself into when she became his wife. He had a duty to perform to his country. He was theirs before he become hers. Sadly she had to accept this fact. His bravery was among the qualities that attracted her to him but that same quality has become her worst nightmare. Ahmed left knowing what was ahead of him and that Tola would be waiting for him if he gets back.
One day, she heard a knock at the door. Her heart skipped, she wondered what would be behind that door. She had imagined this moment for a while. Everybody’s warning kept rushing through her mind but she knew regardless what happens she would do it all over again. Slowly, she walked towards the door and she heard a familiar voice. It was Deji and some other voices she couldn’t recognise. When she opened the door, Kunle’s face said it all. ‘’Where is he she wept?’’ ‘’ Right here’’ she heard a voice she said. Suddenly a lady appeared wheeling him in,Tola ran and embraced him. He looked so different from the man she married. His face bruised and right leg cut off.The tears in his eyes kept flowing, she knew what he would be thinking. He was no longer the handsome soldier who swept her off her feet, he had lost his physique but she knew that he still had one thing keeping him going his ever beating brave heart .It did not matter how he came back, what mattered was that he was right here, right now. Though his military career is no longer certain she knew that his bright days were far from over. She just hoped he would see this too.
This Story is dedicated to all the women out there who are brave enough to go through this journey with these soldiers. Sometimes they are lucky to have their husbands back alive, sometimes they are brought back in a coffin. All the same your love and compassion is not forgotten. Also to the brave men out there who are fighting to protect this great nation, your efforts are not forgotten.
THE SOLDIER’S BURDEN