I spent all my ‘growing up days’ in one town, suburbia at its finest. The same group of friends followed each other throughout our Texas school days. We led a sheltered life, secure, even in an eternally warm climate. I never dreamed I’d grow up and marry a career military man and rear my children in multiple states usually having snow drifts in our various backyards.
My children don’t talk “lak me”. Once when they were little, and I was ‘home’ for a visit with the parents, I met an old friend at a playground so our kids could play. She promptly informed me that my offspring “talked funny”. In other words, they didn’t, and don’t have, accents that give away where they were raised. They do, however, possess a curious knack for imitating my Texas twang. They’ve lived in many states, on opposite sides of this great country, and now even in Europe. They’ve seen lands and history of which many only dream, and their Facebook friends don’t all post in English.
But, they also know what it means to pack up. Furniture. Their rooms. Their memories. Again and again. They know what it means to pitch in, without being asked, because Mom and Dad need to attend another function, dinner, ceremony, hospital room. The term ‘family’ means more than just blood to them. Family means those whose lives we’ve shared for a time and still remain part of our ‘bigger circle’. It means those relationships that time and distance don’t rip apart. These folks mean the world to this family.
My youngest is 9 and has never known a world without a war waging in the Middle East. Our ultrasound appointment, the exciting one when we discovered she was a girl, occurred on September 11, 2001. Several days later the oldest screamed and ran terrified on the playgound when she saw fighter jets protecting us over Colorado Springs. In those early days after the Towers fell, we’d talked about how all planes everywhere had been grounded. Then her 7 year old eyes saw our own jets in the heavens and thought they came to attack us. The last 10 years have required the most from military kids. Some don’t know what it’s like to live a complete year with dad or mom at home. Hard to fathom. These fragile, yet invincible souls, know the ache of worry of deployment, even if masked with the need to take care of the home front, and support the parent left behind. Ten years.
My mother tells stories of her own sacrifices as a child during World War II. Proud Americans gave up back then for the war effort, willingly, and with a smile. They did without……coffee, sugar, butter, tin foil…..to support the troops. Even though the current country at large has lived with the concept of being ‘at war’ these last 10 years, the ‘average Joe’ hasn’t been asked to contribute personally, except, of course, tax dollars. No one has had to sacrifice….anything. Our lives have remained comfortable, other than having to watch the news of casualties on CNN. Amenities are plentiful. We are not asked to sacrifice. That is, everyone BUT the military child. For 10 years, these children have given up bithdays, holidays, vacations, sports games, bedside prayers with a parent. And some, God bless them, have given up the loved ones themselves. And they weren’t asked if they wanted to.
April is the Month of the Military Child. (Ironically, somehow last week that did not matter to Congress.) We look down the road of these children and families who have given a decade of worry for these war efforts. What will their adulthoods render? In a country known for it’s excesses, these are the ones who understand about giving up for the greater good, who understand that they can’t have everything, who will never take for granted the presence of loved ones, who know that ‘things’ will never fill the void left from a missing personal hug. They understand that individual freedom is worth fighting for. In another 20 years, these children, who know and value the true heroism inbedded deep in a parent who serves, will be our leaders.