Friday, November 18, 2011
16 Nov 11 - Military Families
The other night a few friends stopped over to play some cards and consume some adult beverages. They represented a small majority of family, friends and soldiers all of which have been with us through thick and thin. I thought it funny that night that there were more family members than I remembered from my childhood. I’m not sure where the family line gets crossed when you’re in the military. Friends that have been there forever become the support to your family that you need to do the job that you do. No matter where I was in my career our friends were there for us from moral support, emotional support, mechanical support, or even support to fix the plugged toilet courtesy of my kids.
My family changed during my tour with the military as I met people that would become my brothers, sisters, and elders that would guide me, mentor me. Many of my brothers and sisters were there for me when I couldn’t help my loved ones back home. They understood what I was going though as many faced the same obstacles of separation. Being separated I felt my wife’s pain as she described what was going on back home and understood the words that were never said. I knew that for everything she shared there was much more that she held back knowing there was nothing that I could do. The only thing I could do was encourage her and give her the emotional support that she needed to get through.
Susan being the soldier’s wife that she is has understood the importance of the military family and has adopted many of my brothers and sisters as if they were her own as well. It’s not about a person’s color, their race it’s about the common objective that brought you all together. It’s more than just serving together side by side it’s about being there for each other whether a shoulder to cry on, a hug, or someone to buy you a beer. The military had a way of bringing in individuals from all walks of life, giving you matching uniforms, putting you in the locker room together for the first time and heading off moments later to play your first professional game. Some brought a game book, some humor; a few strong backs and some came with weak minds complete with strong hearts. Kind of like a chef assembling ingredients with a pinch of this and a little of that and behold a meal fit for a king.
I use to feel so guilty leaving Susan at home with four kids while I traveled to some place or other knowing what I could expect when I got to my destination. There was always that awkward moment upon arrival and soon you would meet someone with your values and beliefs and you were no longer alone. Sure you were faced with hard work but there was always a feeling of family for the most part. What made it worse looking back was I knew what her world would be like without me there and there was nothing I could do but rely on our friends if push came to shove. No matter where I went I didn’t want to be there a way from my family. But if I had to leave usually the people that I was with were in the same boat and we almost always made the best of a bad situation.
The line in the sand has been erased as neighbors, friends, soldiers I served with and their families became our family. All of my kids have benefited from the military family having aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters from different walks of life. The family circle becomes even wider as our kids friends become our adopted kids. Same thing being said many of our friends think of our kids as if they were their own as well. When one of our friends is hurting, we all hurt, when one celebrates a major mile stone we celebrate as well.
Imagine a tall majestic tree swaying back in forth as the wind blows. The tree has many branches of different sizes and shapes just like soldiers in the military. Some of the branches have many little branches that are growing bigger and sprouting their own branches as well. The leaves represent the different families, back grounds, and the individual reasons they serve. Once a year they show their true colors and celebrate that they are family. No matter your belief we can all agree that the brilliant colors can and do take your breath away. What’s important to remember though is that even though there are many branches and lots of leaves now, at one time the tree was just a sapling. Our friends are kind of like Mother Nature and gave the tree water when it needed it, sun shine to grow, provided the fertilizer to grow, and love to make our world a better place.
Being a military family you want to believe in the play it forward philosophy. I have been so blessed by the support of our family and friends that there is nothing that I wouldn’t do to give back to those that have given me so much. Right now there is a member of our extended family that needs us to keep him and his family in our prayers. I’m ready to help and will give my unconditional support no matter the time of day.
This Thanksgiving as I eat my meal surrounded by the many branches and leaves of our tree I will give thanks that I have those that I love around me this year. I will also say a prayer thanking those that still serve and asking God to look out for our extended family serving in harm’s way. If I were to die today I would consider myself blessed by so many men and women that I am proud to call my brothers and sisters.
In closing I just want to share a thought with you about life that I think is so true today. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain!
That is all,