I didn’t realize that an army birthday party would one day turn out to be an army career. When our children were young, we wanted to instill in them a respect for everyday heroes. We practiced speaking well of those in authority and those who serve our country. Though we didn’t know anyone currently enlisted, we admired from afar those serving in our military. Children’s dreams are the foundation for their futures, so it only makes sense that the Army would one day become the path for our son.
When my son was newly at boot camp, my emotions were erratic. I was proud of him. He was off on the adventure of his life. His personality and skill set were completely in line with a military career. Two of our children had moved out ahead of Ben, but this was so different. His release was formidable. I was proud, confident and satisfied in his trajectory. Yet, I was fearful, anxious and just plain missing him. The everyday tasks were no distraction. My eyes were watery while cooking dinner, driving down the road, or looking into the eyes of my younger children.
Military life is different than college or any post secondary commitment:
Boot camp is the entry point for any serviceman but also for the family. We kept in steady communication throughout his cross country trip to the base. He texted me when he arrived safely at each layover and then as the bus pulled through the main gate. After that, the line went cold. No more messages, no more updates, and no hope to hear his voice for a few months. In any other situation I would have panicked. But I knew where he was and that no news is good news.
Though we could no longer check in through our long established methods, we found a way. The ancient practice of letter writing was an Army approved form of communication. We spent more money on stamps for those 14 weeks than we had in the past two years. Someone from our family sent a letter nearly every day. Amazingly, we received just as many.
I knew that we all needed transition time to adjust to being a military family. What surprised me was the emotional fortitude that was being built in me. In the first few days after he left, I was walking in Target and a soldier walked by. I started crying. This was not an isolated incident. However, the longer he was gone, the stronger I became. I could finally hold myself together when military personnel walked by. It didn’t matter if it was someone from the same branch of service or another (my son-in-law serves in the Coast Guard too!), I was starting to understand the sacrifice. I knew that there was likely a family somewhere else missing the serviceman that just crossed my path.
Acknowledging the sacrifice:
The men and women who serve are worthy of our thanks. With all my heart I want to show them appreciation for their service. I used to be too shy to approach a stranger and simply say “Thank you”. Now, understanding more, I get too choked up for any words to come out. The same is true when I see an elderly gentleman with a veterans cap on. I truly am grateful for their service, I just can’t get the words out. If you can muster it up, thank them for their service. Thank them for me and for the others without a voice.
My heart swells up with American pride when I cross paths with a serviceman. Less than one percent of Americans are in the military. Knowing the hours they invest and the physical demands that they endure causes me to admire them. Realizing now my own limitations to express my thanks I came up with a plan. I went to a local coffee shop and picked up some five dollar gift cards. This would be a way to convey my gratitude amidst my speechlessness. I just wrote a little note on the gift card. Now when I encounter someone serving I can easily hand them the card that conveys my sentiment, no words necessary.
Give to everyone what you owe them….if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:7
If you have a family member serving you also have my appreciation. I know you miss your loved one at family events, holidays and in the mundane of life. I know you worry and are anxious for the day when he/she is home for a visit. You wait for the phone to ring or a text to come through and unashamedly take those calls no matter what else is happening. As you pray for your precious family to be reunited again, have confidence that the Lord is with them. He watches over them with sharper eyes and more loving care than we even know is possible. And dear military family, thank you. You are part of what makes our country strong and gives our soldiers a reason for their mission. May God bless you all on this Veteran’s Day.