The military is more than statistics, strategy, politics, and war.
It is a collection of men and women who train, live, and work in the service of our nation’s freedom.
It is their dedication and commitment to their duty that afford us all the way of life that we enjoy each day.
Let us not forget that the number of persons serving our nation in its military are not limited to those in uniform.
Remember their families: their children, their parents, their wives and husbands.
Because if you think they are not also serving, you are mistaken.

I couldn’t help it. I had two I needed to include this week. Yesterday, my husband left for his fifth deployment in five years (Note: We are active duty Air Force. Our deployments are much shorter than our Navy and Army brethren, at least in the flying career fields.). As I stood in the terminal watching the families give hugs and separate for an extended period of time, it occurred to me that those of us left behind deserve credit of our own for what we do. With a tear in our eye we wave goodbye at the terminal, but as both troops and spouses part ways, we walk away knowing that we BOTH have a job to do. While one serves overseas, one serves on the home front. If the children weren’t cared for, the bills weren’t paid, the house maintained, etc, then it would result in distracted service-members unable to focus on the task at hand. Those left behind must also stand with one another to be sure that their sisters and brothers have the support they need to carry on their lives, and to find the positive in life. We serve our families, we serve our spouses, we serve one another, and we serve our country.

In my experience, deployments also offer an opportunity to grow independently and have more to share with one another upon return. It has given me the ability to bond with my fellow spouses, and make lifelong friendships that I would otherwise never had the time to foster. Deployments have shown me that I am stronger than I could have ever dreamed I was by testing me over and over again. As any spouse of someone whom deploys can attest: Deployments are magnifiers of Murphy’s Law at its worst. If it can break, act up, act out, have an accident, require medical treatment or otherwise cause you to appreciate the support your spouse could have offered had they been home: it will happen during deployment. The kids will get sick, you will catch it, someone will have to go to the ER, your car will need to go into the shop, a major appliance will give out, a storm will threaten or steal your power, and the dog will have an issue that needs the vet. It’s just that way. Every time. While my husband has been away in service, I have encountered viral meningitis, post partum depression, car accidents, sold the home we owned, moved across the country, not to mention countless trips to medical professionals and hours of home maintenance and child rearing, and I don’t think that’s impressive. It just is. You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be, and I learned that sometimes the greatest strength I’ve got is the relationships I’ve made. My friends have saved me time and time again. They have cared for both me and my children when I was unable, and I would do the same for any of them without a moment’s hesitation without a second thought whether they realize it or not.

The hardest part for me recently is watching this all through the eyes of my 3 year old. I’m not sure if she doesn’t get it at all, or has it completely understood. The conversation usually sounds like the one I had this afternoon leaving the terminal:

Her: Daddy has to go away for a long time?
Me: Yep.
Her: He has to fly his airplane far far away?
Me: Yep.
Her: Are you staying?
Me: Yep.
Her: Is Suzie and

[Boy] staying? (Suzie = Doll, Boy = her brother)
Me: Uh-huh.
Her: Then we’ll be ok?
Me: We will be just fine.
Her: And Daddy will come back soon?
Me: Not very soon, but Daddy is definitely coming back.
Her: Well I love him, and we can talk on the computer, so it’s ok. Can I have a lollipop?

It just goes to show two things: 1) The military “brats” serve. They have to deal with separations, moving, and all of the stuff that goes along with it. 2) The strength of the military family. Girl doesn’t question that my friends and I have her wellbeing under control. She doesn’t worry about that stuff, because she trusts us after we have shown her that we are worthy of that trust. Because we too are serving.

I do recognize the hard work the men and women of our nation’s military, and I give them a standing ovation for what they do. I love and consider my husband a hero because he affords me the opportunity to stay with my kids while he goes off to work overseas. I cry for him missing major milestones, but also am grateful because I know that I could never do what he does. He doesn’t think he’s a hero. He just thinks he is doing his job. I think any man that loves and takes care of his family and his responsibilities the way he does is a hero. I’m blessed to know many such men, both within and outside of the armed forces. He just happens to be my best friend, so he gets a special mention.

While it sounds like I’m looking for a thumbs up, pat on the back, or to become the next sainted martyr, the opposite couldn’t be more than the case. I don’t think what I do is extraordinary. I don’t think we deserve praise. I don’t think my life is any “harder” than anyone else’s. I DO think that the military lifestyle is DIFFERENT than most, and that many people don’t understand it from the perspective of the family. That is why I thought that I would give an honest glimpse into what we go through. There is much more than is put into this email. Maybe I will revisit it another time. For now, I simply offer this explanation of the significance of two photos depicting the Simple Value of Service.