So this was supposed to be my Veteran's Day post and well, as is obvious I didn't get around to it til a few days later. Go me! Its that time of year when everybody gets sick and with four kids if one gets it they all do. I'm pretty much decided to restrict our outings so I can keep our kids healthy this winter, it adds up quickly. Anyway, so on to my belated Veteran's Day post.
When I decided to join the Army, it was a big step for me. I'd grown up with a relatively patriotic family, but my parents' experience with the Military wasn't great. My Mom's Dad was kind of a lifer and he'd never really been around while she was growing up. He had made the Army his priority and came around every couple years, a trend that continued most of my childhood as well. He'd been divorced several times and had been unfaithful (I'm not saying this is true for all soldiers, obviously), where I'm going with this is that his example wasn't really the best to go by. He was a great soldier, but it left his family life much to be desired. So, my mom wasn't a big fan of Military life or the idea of what it represented to her. Now we all know that the Army/Military life isn't for everyone. I was once told that it takes a special woman to be able to be married to a soldier and it most definitely is true. If we weren't made of something tough, we wouldn't make it through the deployments, the drill weekends, the two weeks or more a year and all that comes with this life.
Its not a life someone who isn't a soldier or married to a soldier or a Military Brat can fully understand. Its hard to explain the different way we have to do things and sometimes I feel that we get looked down on for that, since we break from societies 'Norm.' So, the day I told my Dad that I was seriously considering joining and that I wanted him to know, perhaps (I hoped) to get his blessing. I was 20 and didn't need permission and I wasn't looking for it, but I wanted to know that I was going to get support from my family. I already knew my Mom wasn't going to be super excited, but this was my decision and not anyone else's. My Dad asked me if it was what I really wanted and I told him that I was pretty sure it was. He then proceeded to tell me that my Mom would try to talk me out of it (which was pretty much a given) and that there are somethings that parents want for their children & some that they don't. I was kind of shocked, to be quite honest. I knew that my parents would at least be wary about the idea of their oldest daughter joining the Army and that it would take some adjusting to, but I felt immediately the disapproval of my decision and I was hurt.
I had made a big decision, a life altering decision and I suddenly felt very alone. Later that same day I cornered my Mom and told her the news. I was going to enlist on my birthday and I wanted her to know. She tried talking me out of it, but the more she tried the more I felt that this was something I needed to do. I wanted to show them that I could do this. That I could be a soldier and that just because I was a girl & because they hadn't wanted different things for me, didn't mean it was the decision. It was my decision. So its exactly what I did. It took a few weeks longer to get through all the necessary stuff to join, I had to have my ankle evaluated since I'd had surgery a couple years before. But I finally enlisted Aug 4th, 2005 and was scheduled to leave for Fort Jackson, South Carolina by the end of the month.
Seven years later, my parents have come around. ;) (Love you guys!) They are super awesome about alternating every other month with my in-laws to watch our kids, while my Hubby & I go to drill each month. My parents have swooped in a few times and come to the rescue when babysitting falls through with my in-laws. I am grateful for all their help and even if it seems like such a small thing as to take the grandkids for two or three days, its a big step in helping me to succeed as a soldier. Having support from your family is so huge! I know a lot of you understand that, without our families (blood or otherwise) we couldn't do what we need to.
My first six months in the Army were rough in all sorts of ways. I mean its Basic training, right and then AIT and you're expected to follow orders. And really how many people like to be yelled and told to do stuff that sucks? Not very many, but the longer I was gone the more accustomed to it I became and a much stronger person for it. It was also rough, because my Hubby, who was my then fiance/boyfriend, who had been my biggest advocate and support about joining was being so supportive. All the letters I imagined I get from him and my family while I was gone, that imperative support, wasn't there. I got a handful of letters from family, three post cards from my Hubby and a single letter, which actually was him breaking up with me during AIT. I saw how much a single letter, a post card could buoy one's spirit. I felt alone and lost without all the support I thought I'd have.
Finances were tight for my family at the time, so coming to my Basic graduation wasn't an option, but I thought my sweetheart would come and cheer me on. It took alot of mental adjusting to not be angry with everyone. I was hurt and confused, and well far away from home. I survived, but it wasn't easy. After I came home and my Hubby had already headed to premob training, we managed to work things out between us and were married just a couple months later. He got four days leave before they were supposed to head over to the Big Sandbox, and we got married, then I sent him back on a plane to not see him for six months.
I learned something new while my Husband was deployed, I learned about support and about giving and receiving it. It was hard to be apart the entire first year of our marriage. We had to find ways to keep up our relationship, I had to support him with letters, care packages and with just being there for him. A kind of rock at home. Now I didn't always feel that way, but I tried my best to be that for him. I knew what it was like to be away from home and feel as if life was moving without you & no one caring. I didn't want him to feel that way, I wanted him to know that I supported him, in all that he was doing. It was easier in someways because we were both soldiers and we understood in a manner of speaking what we were going through. I also learned I had to teach my family about being a soldier's family.
And no I wasn't having classes with the big white board or chalk board giving lessons. I talked all the time about writing him letters, about the more mundane things he was doing over there, I tried to keep them involved. I didn't run from my family, but instead tried to show them that being a soldier didn't make us bad guys doomed to cheat and leave their families behind. Like I said as time has gone on, my family has changed and sees more then what my Mom grew up with. Not all soldiers are like that.
Being a soldier and being married to one, I understand how important it is to show our Troops support. I know there are all kinds of programs out there that send care packages, books and all sorts of things to the soldiers who are deployed, which is so wonderful. I wish more people took part in them (myself included). I know its hard if you don't have a soldier in your family or a friend is one, its hard to put yourself out there to send a card or buy things to go in a care package. I don't think I could ever stress enough about how important it really is to support our Troops, whether you personally know a soldier or not. We should all be willing to put ourselves out there for them, because without their sacrifice we wouldn't have the freedom that we do. They put themselves out there for everyone, every citizen, every child, every family, they sacrifice their time and their lives (in some cases) for us. Shouldn't we be willing to give something back?
It breaks my heart when I see pages of Facebook that talk about 'F*** the Troops' and the like. We fight so people can say things like that, the freedom of speech that these people enjoy has been all because of the sacrifices our Troops make every day. The freedom we all enjoy didn't come free, it came at a cost and for some its a huge price that they've paid.
There are so many ways to support Our Troops, even if all you do is like a photo on Facebook that shows a soldier or a comment or thought that talks about Our Troops in a positive light its something. Somewhere a soldier is going to see that and its going to give them strength. We can't let them go through another Vietnam War, where horrible, horrible things were said about them. We go and we do what we're told. We leave our families behind, we go so far away from those we love and put ourselves in harms way. Not everyone can say the same. Not everyone is willing to give that much of themselves for others.
I'm glad I can say I'm part of that small percentage who is willing to sacrifice my time and if needs be my life so that Americans can be free. Take a moment and thank a soldier. It doesn't have to be Veteran's Day to do it. Show them that you appreciate all they do, because they do it for you!