Sunday, March 29, 2009

Military Sacrifices

Well, my husband just got back from one of his trips he so often takes with the military. He was "on the other side of the world", as I tell my children. We were thrilled to all pile up into the minivan yesterday afternoon, cups in one hand and some toy in the other, to go pick up Daddy from the airport. My children have been asking and waiting, and asking and waiting, for this day to arrive since he left almost three weeks ago. In the grand scheme of things, he was not gone very long. In the first three years we were married, my husband was gone more than two and a half years of it. Luckily, the long trips were when Nicholas was under two years old or before children were a part of our lives. And, the most fortunate thing of all, is that my husband returned from all of those trips safely.

I was never part of a military family while I was growing up. I did have a lot of military "brats" (as they are often referred to) as friends while I lived in Virginia Beach, VA. The Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News area (combined are also referred to as Hampton Roads) is full of military personnel and military families. I know for sure there are Navy, Marines, Army and Coast Guard families in that area. There may also be a few Air Force, but I do not know that for sure.

Not really being a part of a military family, I was not exactly aware of what sacrifices are actually made by those people and their families. Actually, while I was growing up, I never thought I would be a military wife. I didn't like the idea of my husband having to be gone so much, and really thought that most military families are torn apart by infidelity, an emotional separation from being apart, or the military member's death. Now, that I am a military wife, I cannot doubt that those things do happen; but, I really prefer to think that those situations are not the vast majority.

Besides putting their lives in danger, these military men and women leave their families, homes, and sometimes other jobs to go fight and train to fight for our country. They leave knowing that perhaps they will not return....or when they return things will not be the same. They know that there may be births, deaths, ailments, accidents, birthdays, milestones, ....LIFE happens whether they are home or not.

Separation is hard on families and relationships. Sometimes, as a military wife, it is hard to keep stable footing. There is always a trip upcoming. And really, I know that I have it easy. My husband rarely goes away for as long. Also, what he does when he is gone is not nearly as dangerous as what he used to do. We, as a family, "gear up" for when my husband is leaving, trying to mentally prepare ourselves for the changes that inevitably happen when you go from a two-parent family to a single-parent family. We deal with all of the challenges while he is gone...all the tantrums and fighting and instability issues. Then, he comes home and we deal with that stress. I figure that it must be difficult to come home also. It must be hard to leave your life, adjust to a new place and what living there involves, then be thrown back into your real home life (possibly with young children or whatever special situation). I feel for military families- going on from day to day, trying to keep life as normal as possible. Sometimes, the military person is gone so much that the "normal" for their family is when they are gone- not when they are home. Some spouses can do it. And sadly, though expected, some cannot.

I feel it takes a strong individual to be able to handle a military marriage. There cannot be, for example, a woman who is so very dependent on her husband that she can not function in everyday life without him. Now, some of these women (although it can be either gender) move closer to their own families when their spouse is deployed for the help. Maybe it is help with the children, or emotional support, or financial support, or whatever. But either way, the impact on family members of military personnel is huge; and, not all spouses can handle the separation and stress.

So, I feel that military spouses are a unique group of individuals that I am proud to be associated with. I admire them: every waiting, always wondering, and never knowing. I am proud to be a military wife and very proud of my husband- who continues to sacrifice his own life and family for the safety of strangers, as he has for the last 22 years.

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