1 hour ago
Friday, March 20, 2009
There are times when I am ready to tear my hair out because I am so sick of this deployment, of separations, or of the military in general. The combination of loneliness, poor communication, lack of even an image of my soldier for months at a time, and the fear of the known and the unknown is certainly enough to make any normal person tear their hair from their head and run stark raving mad. I often wonder how on earth active duty and career military wives can stand their lives. They must surely be made of something different from what I am...much sterner stuff.
Then there are times when I am ready to burst from pride in being a military family. This happens most frequently when I am on the road (which is also frequent, as I have a long commute to school). Military families are proud of their airmen, Marines, sailors and soldiers, and with good reason. That pride is often expressed through specialty license plates, bumper stickers, car magnets, or window labels. There are the "Support Our Troops" and "Keep Daddy Safe" yellow ribbons, the "Proud Mom/Dad/Grandparent/Wife/Sister/Brother of a" service member decals, the "Army Strong" or Marine seals, and the unit crests or identifications. I always give a mental nod to these fellow travelers, smile a little wider and know that I am part of something that reaches across the country to touch lives.
It's the things that are closest to home that really get me excited, though: National Guard plates around town, or identification with a unit in which I have family or friends. Those are the ones that make me want to wave in acknowledgment that we share a common bond that's more than just being a military family. We may run into each other at an FRG get-together, or see each other at the armory for one reason or another. Our children may be in a school support group together. Yet here we are, seeing each other at the store or in the car-rider drop-off line, a perfectly average, civilian errand.
And so I find myself torn between military pride and a yearning for that civilian life. I question whether the military is really worth all the hassle and heartache. Do any of the "perks" of military life, even a part-time military existence, balance out with what we lose? The kids and I are no longer innocent of the possibility of loss or the ache of absence. We know a fear that most civilians don't, with the exception perhaps of the families of law enforcement officers, firefighters, and the like. Even those families usually don't have a fear that a far-off day last year may have been the very last time they'll have ever seen their loved one.
There are so many distressing points in the life of a military family. The positive aspects are not a balance for them...but being a part of that community of other military families may be the only way to cope with the madness. It doesn't make up for the hard times, and really it's not supposed to. But we can each bring our small measure of strength to the table for a short while, knowing that it isn't forever--it may only be an instant of recognition on the interstate, or a smile of support from a Vietnam-era wife to an Iraq-era wife during a chance encounter at the store--but every connection is one more thread in the safety net that is there to catch us when we fall. There is no chance that we won't at some point, though some of us may fall harder than others. Those threads may be all that we have. Maybe that's why those points of pride mean so much to us...they are that which hold us together each day of this military life.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Washington, DC at night is a completely different place. The traffic and crowds are lighter in the early spring before the cherries blossom, and the memorials seem more meaningful cloaked in darkness rather than bright sunlight. It was almost possible to hear the voices of the men and women speak from their etched images on the Korean War Veterans Memorial wall. "The Price of Freedom" resounded from the stones. There was a tremble of fear at the thought of our family being added to those who helped form those memorials to the fallen. There was also a thrill of pride that we are integrally a part of the generations who have served this country. We are the newest generation of citizens to walk other soil under the flag or to support the effort at home. There is no place to feel more strongly that we are Americans.
Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.
~President Harry S Truman