In America this weekend is a special holiday. For many it is the weekend that signals the beginning of summer activities and involves lots of beer, food, family, and summertime fun. For others it is a time of remembrance and a time to think about those loved ones who have gone from their lives through that old enemy death. Yet for others it is a time to honor our fallen heroes who have given the ultimate sacrifice, their life, for us to have freedom. You guessed it, is Memorial Weekend, the last weekend in the month of May.
I was a military wife for many years. My now ex-husband entered the United States Army as a private, the lowest rank, and he worked as a Tank Mechanic. From there he went to Officer’s Candidate School and when he graduated he was commissioned as a 2 Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and his job was a Chemical Warfare Officer. By the time he entered the Army he was a naturalized American citizen because he was not born an American citizen. After a few years and a promotion the battalion he was a part of was disbanding due to military downsizing and so he applied for medical school and was accepted. Our family moved to the community near his medical school and seven years later he was back in the Army commissioned as a Captain and his job was to be a medical doctor in the Army. He retired from active duty military service several years ago and joined the National Guard and later the Air National Guard. After serving more than twenty years of accumulated service he retired from the Guard. By then all our children were on their own except for the little boy we adopted from China. The Army gave him many opportunities. They gave our family many opportunities also.
My children have memories of nearly every summer while growing up as moving. My eldest daughter’s birthday is in the summertime and invariably every birthday we were in the middle of moving somewhere. She loved the traveling life. But my second daughter didn’t enjoy moving so often and I remember always scrambling to find out where the nearest military hospital was so I could get her treated as she would always become ill. My youngest daughter was born while her Dad was in the Army and so she is our only official Army Brat, in her baby book is a certificate that states she is an Official Army Brat and is signed by Norman Schwarzkopf who was a three-star General at the time. The family, myself included, loved the military lifestyle for the most part.
Because my ex-husband is an ex, I have never really had the opportunity to thank him for his military service to our country especially since he retired while still married to me but not wanting me to be a part of his life any longer. Oh I thanked him while we still lived together and even had a surprise party for him when he returned from a deployment in Iraq. But I never got the chance to tell him that I appreciated all his hard work taking care of all the military families as their physician. I know this may sound strange to some of you, but I really believe that we owe a lot of thanks to our military soldiers and their families.
Divorce is quite common in military families and I can fully understand why it is so prevalent. The Army had a saying that if they wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one. The preference of the military for the most part traditionally was not on family needs but soldiering needs which includes a lot of training and deployments that take soldiers away from home. The spouse is the one who has to pick up the slack and be both a Mom and Dad to the children and most of the time the family is far from extended family who otherwise might be able to help with the children. I was thanked often by my ex-husband for making his life as a soldier easier in many ways. He seldom had to worry about the family while he was gone for training or deployments. There were a couple of years that were an exception but still my parents came and helped him even during those tough times.
So to my ex-husband I say thank you for your military service to our country. Thank you for keeping on when you were tired, when you would rather have been home with your family, when you would rather be out sight-seeing rather than going on yet another training march. Thank you for loving our country enough and that you served her well even though America is not the country of your birth. Thank you.
For all the soldiers out there that you know, please take the time to say thanks this weekend. Thank them for their bravery, for their time served for the long hours that they have trained, for the sweat and hard work they have gone through. Thank them for doing their assigned jobs well and for following the orders that they were given and for completing each task as best that they could. Thank them for being willing to live in sometimes strange circumstances and without many of the comforts of home, for the cold showers in dorm-like rooms that had barely enough heat in winter or cooling in summer. Thank them for hours spent in a tent on desert sand or in a rainy jungle or in a hidden forest. Thank them for the hours spent being homesick and longing for a hamburger, hot dog, and cold pop or beer. Thank them for the spirit of giving and for them keeping on when many would have simply given up. Thank them for refusing to become political pawns in the political games that surround their chosen career. Thank them for being willing to go to a place they won’t be told where they are going until they get there and with only twenty-four hours’ notice. Thank them for coming back and becoming productive members of the communities that they live in and for transitioning to civilian jobs that are never as challenging nor as fun as their military jobs. Thank them for everything they do to keep our country great.
For the soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice, their limbs, or their minds, or eyesight and hearing, for those who are disabled stop and say thank you. Thank you for all the things I have listed in the above paragraph and thank you for the added pain and suffering you have experienced and continue to experience. Thank you for being so very brave. Thank them for what they deal with daily and ask them how you can help them. Give them some encouragement while you are thanking them. And for the families of those who paid with their lives remember to stop and say thank you and ask how they are doing and listen to their answers. If you knew their son or daughter, brother or sister, or spouse or parent, share with them some of your good memories, something they might not already know about the one they miss so much. I am sure it will mean so much to them that you remember their loved one.
For the families of soldiers I want to say to you a big thank you. So much of what you have experienced is so different from most of the rest of Americans. Hang on to those memories and cherish the moments you have with the bonds you have forged among the military community for they will be friends you can count on when times are tough. Enjoy the benefits of living overseas and learn about the country you are stationed. If you are stateside then learn about the area you are stationed and take advantage of the opportunities to explore a new place and learn something new. Think of this time in your life as an adventure because a time will come when you are no longer in a military family and you will live in the same place for more than three years. You will be thankful that you traveled and saw what there was to see and explored new places.
To the ex-spouse of a soldier I want to say a big thank you as well. Your life was not easy because soldiers are not easy to live with sometimes. The pressures of war, deployments, and training can tear relationships apart, I get that! I don’t blame you but I do want to thank you. You have much for me to thank you for, thanks for being supportive for as long as you could or was allowed to be. You are important and not forgotten by me.
Taps is playing on a post or base and we all stand at attention outside our cars if we are driving as we face the central flag pole and watch the flag being lowered. It is the ending of another military day somewhere in this world. Thank you God, for answering our prayers and keeping our soldiers and their families safe.
Until next time…Katherine