One of the most heartbreaking things troops must do is say goodbye to their loved ones before they deploy. If they've found a good one, they know their love will be waiting for them back home. Those troops will look cling on to that bittersweet silver-lining while their beloved waits, always dreading, on some level, the realities of war.
It falls on the shoulders of the troops to let their love know that things will be okay. Even if the worst happens, they will always love their spouse, fiance, girlfriend/boyfriend, children, and family. No matter how long they've been together or how many times the troop has deployed, it never gets easier — even if they say it does.
1. Right before they leave
Logically, troops should be spending every waking moment getting ready for war — training, making sure their gear is right. And yet, troops always spend every last second they can with the ones they love.
It's the kiss that no one ever wants to end, but it must. Duty calls.
You've got to fill an entire year's worth of love into one hug and kiss. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)
It doesn't have to be as expensive as a diamond necklace and it doesn't have to be as elaborate as a diary full of love notes.
Troops can leave behind something even as simple as an old sweatshirt for their loved ones and they'll never let it out of their sight. But they probably won't complain if it's something nicer than the junk they forgot to clean before shipping out.
If you think you can leave undone chores as a "sweet gift" for your spouse, you better hope they're not the type to let that sit for an entire year for your ass to clean later. (U.S. Navy photo by MCS Seaman Garrett LaBarge)
Loved ones will always send out care packages filled with sweet cards, treats, and whatever else troops asked for.
Troops don't usually send care packages back — there's not much to send back from Afghanistan. But it's always nice when troops return the favor by writing letters.
I don't want to get anyone in trouble with their loved ones, but the mail system does work both ways. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Smith)
4. Phone and video calls
While deployed, it feels like life returns to normal for just a few moments when troops get their hands on a phone just to hear those three words: "I love you."
Because technology is amazing, troops can now call home on video. This is a perfect chance for dads to read their kids a goodnight story (even if it's morning time for them).
Always a peaceful moment... until the internet craps out or the video buffers one frame per minute. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Ashlee J. L. Sherrill)
5. That first kiss upon return
It's finally over. The plane landed. The formation is over. They've been trying their hardest to stand at attention while also trying to find their loved ones among the waiting crowd.
You'll never see a truer and more passionate kiss like the one a troop's waited an entire deployment to give.
Happy Valentine's Day from the troops to our loved ones! (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Holli Nelson)