I wrote this article a few years ago and haven’t really tried to get it published. So, instead, I decided to share it here. I come from a family with military roots and am proud of my brothers, brother-in-law, cousins and grandfather who all served so selflessly. This story, however, is about the spouses and children of our brave soldiers and the sacrifices they make so we can live in a free country. I salute them and vow to support them in any way I can.
Keeping the Home Fires Burning
Driving down the road the other day I saw several yellow ribbon magnets on cars saying “Pray for our troops” or “support our troops.” It got me thinking about the sacrifices our troops make; many making the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. I have the privilege and honor of knowing several of our country’s bravest and I think about all that they give to protect our country and the freedom it provides. I have seen the preparation that goes into the deployment and the homecoming. I have seen the tears of sadness and longing as they leave, as well as the tears of joyfulness and relief upon their return. I have witnessed the loss of a dear cousin and the deep despair in his wife’s and daughters’ eyes. I’ve seen many pictures of the hero’s welcome they receive when they get home from their deployment. I’ve seen the pictures on the Internet of our soldiers relating to children in the countries we are helping and seen some where our soldiers are sleeping in a man-made ditch near their Humvee for a night of “rest.” Seeing all this causes my pride to swell for just knowing several people who have served or are serving in our nation’s military.
But, what about what we don’t see? What about the sacrifices of their families? My sister, Kate, is married to a Marine Corps fighter jet pilot. In their 11 years of marriage they have moved 4+ times; living in base housing, hotels, rental homes and finally their own home. They have been blessed with three beautiful boys. But, they have been living separately for the majority of their time together as he was either deployed or away from home training for deployments. I have told her numerous times “I don’t know how you do it. I know I could never live that life.” It takes a very special and strong woman to willingly take on the responsibility of being a military wife. My sister does it with a style and strength that many women don’t possess or don’t wish to possess. As a military wife, Kate willingly becomes a part-time single mother. The difference between her and other single mothers is that a part of her is always attached to the man she loves, fighting for the freedoms and protection of people she will never meet. The man that makes her complete is still there for her, but the longing is something that takes her into many a late night praying for his safe return. Her need to feel comforted and loved goes unfulfilled for months at a time while she waits. The time between phone calls or emails is painful and filled with anxiety. She fills that time with children’s activities and the daily routine of life but when all the kids are asleep and she lies in her bed at night, he’s not there.
For those of us that don’t live this life, it is easy to take so many things for granted. When my son says something that made me laugh I often pick up the phone and call my husband to share it with him. We laugh together and tell each other “love you. See you at dinner.” That doesn’t happen for a military wife during a deployment. When I get cold in the middle of the night, I can warm myself in the arms of my husband and drift back to sleep. That doesn’t happen for a military wife during a deployment. When the garbage needs to go out, the lawn needs to be cut, the toilet needs to be fixed or a catch needs to be had with a child; I call on my husband. That doesn’t happen for a military wife during a deployment.
Ten years ago my nephew entered into this world and blessed our entire family. I flew down as soon as I could to meet him and congratulate Kate and her husband. As he slept in my arms I never thought about the sacrifices he would have to make as well. I’ve watched him grow into such a strong and smart boy over the last eight years. But, I’ve also watched him grow wise beyond his years as he took on the role of “man of the house.” This role has matured him ahead of his peers. I have talked with Kate concerning her fears about the boys not knowing who their dad is when he gets back from being gone for so many months. I have seen them get creative with ways to make sure their young sons stay connected to him somehow while he is away. I can only imagine the fear of not knowing whether your child will recognize their own father. I think about the missed father/son camping trips with his Scout troop. I think about the missed soccer games with the other dads cheering on their sons. I think about long distance Father’s Days and missed birthdays. Children grow and change so fast. A child experiences so many new things in a day let alone over the course of a few months. These experiences are shaping who they are going to be as they grow. What a sacrifice to have to make at such a young age. Again, I can’t imagine my children going through this. Thankfully, children are oftentimes more resilient than their moms and dads.
During World War I there was a song written by Lena Ford and Ivor Novello. This song talked about military families and encouraged them to “keep the home fires burning.” Time and again this phrase is used but we often don’t think about what that actually looks like.
So, the next time you see a yellow ribbon honoring our brave servicemen, remember the heroes behind them. Remember that there are wives and husbands who are sharing their spouses with us so we can be free. There are children sharing their dads and moms with us so we can feel safe. There are those that have paid the ultimate price to share them with us. They keep going on and doing what they do best; living the lives they chose as a sacrifice for their country and what it stands for. They truly do keep the home fires burning.
THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES!
YOUR SACRIFICES NEVER GO UNNOTICED OR FORGOTTEN.
YOU ARE ALL TRUE HEROES!