AS I WRITE this, Aric should be somewhere between Afghanistan and Fort Bragg, N.C.

"Somewhere between" pretty much describes the life of a career soldier in a time of perpetual war. They seem to be always in transit, en route, deployed in the Middle East or redeployed back home. They call it rotating, an apt name for the spin cycle they're in.

Their lives are an alternating current of tearful good-byes and tearful reunions separated by long stays in places where people try to kill them.

Don't get me wrong, you don't hear a lot of whining from soldiers. So, I won't whine for them.

But on this weekend that we set aside to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, let's also remember the repeated sacrifices of those who live their lives somewhere between war and peace.

Johnny doesn't come marching home from war the way he used to. There are no ticker-tape parades in Times Square, no "VJ" day or "VE" day.

There's no "V." Victory now is to get home with your mind and body intact. American soldiers still win battles. But armies don't win wars anymore.

These wars don't end. Soldiers in outfits like the 101st Airborne Division which will replace the 82d Airborne Division that Aric is serving with in Afghanistan can expect to be back in the Middle East before this war ends.

Maj. Aric Arnold, who is married to my daughter, Cheryl, is en route to his third homecoming from the Middle East in the last seven years. The 14 months he spent in Afghanistan were his longest deployment. But he's had extended stays in Iraq and Kuwait.

That's not counting time in Korea, where he spent the first year of their marriage. Alone. That's not counting the side trips to Egypt, the Georgian Republic and Kosovo.

By now, the five months of heat and insects he endured on a humanitarian aid mission in South America must seem like the good ol' days.

Oh yeah, there was that year he spent at Fort Leavenworth and the training days in Nevada and Alabama. But those are like business trips. They don't rise to the level of hardship. When Aric and Cheryl are in the same country, it's almost like being together.

Their lives are not unusual. Hundreds of thousands of career soldiers and families live this way. They manage remarkably well considering the difficulties of maintaining long-distance marriages.

Pentagon figures show a steady increase in annual divorce rates for active-duty soldiers from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 3.6 percent in the year ending last September.

The Centers for Disease Control says that 43 percent of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce within 10 years, or about 4.3 percent a year. By that reckoning, the divorce rate for active-duty soldiers is laudable.

Still, there's no denying that family life suffers from repeated deployments and the instability of this "home and away" lifestyle.

Our family can't complain. Aric is being rushed home a couple of weeks before his unit to be with his mother. Rev. Lula Custis is scheduled for heart surgery Tuesday. Her son will be at her side.

Aric and Cheryl were married on a Memorial Day weekend. So, this will be one of the very few times he's been home for his wedding anniversary.

If he gets back today, his youngest daughter, Aaliyah, 12, will get to play her first softball game with her dad in the stands. Ashley, 20, their oldest, should be in town from summer school in London before her parents go back to Fort Bragg.

She wasn't sure she'd see her father until she finished her internship here at NBC10 in August.

So, it's bonus time for our family. And yes, we know we're blessed and highly favored.

On this weekend that we set aside to remember the ones who didn't make it back, our soldier is coming home.


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