Every year, November is recognized as the month of Military Family Appreciation. A time to honor and recognize those sacrifices and challenges that families make in support of their service members. Regardless of rank and service branch, every military family shares a common thread of sacrifice.
A sacrifice in time apart due to training and deployments.
A sacrifice for holidays and birthdays missed.
A sacrifice in changing jobs, starting new schools, and relocating.
And in those unthinkable times, a sacrifice of losing their loved one.
For those who are not affiliated with the military, they may think our lives don’t look too different. Our service members get up and go off to work, our kids still go off to school, we still work, and just every few years we move around a little. If you ask someone about the military you may hear the general answers of they get free healthcare, free school, free housing, and they go fight in far off lands that many probably cannot find on a map. But for a military family, life is very much different from the scenes often depicted on a movie screen or even in the popular tv show Army Wives.
What is military life really like?
Real, in person, military family life looks messy, and all tied up with a bow at the same time.
Our service members spend countless hours, days, weeks, months away from their families. There is always training to be done, and of course the deployments. Several of us remember the 12-15-month deployments and are now ever thankful for the 6-9-month deployments. They answer our nations call to go fight in that far off land to keep us safe and to preserve our way of life. They will miss birthdays, holidays, and a child being born all in the name of serving and protecting.
Back home, family life will always continue. Spouses will become both parents as needed – learning how to throw a curve ball or snap a football, being team mom/dad and room mom/dad, and stepping up to coach the soccer team even though that was their partner’s area of expertise. They will learn how to fix the dish washer, change a tire, change the spark plugs in the lawn mower, clean gutters, and repair a wall. (Let’s face it, we know everything that can go wrong will go wrong while they are away.)
To make up for the missing person at dinner they’ll follow along with an Iron Chef for a gourmet meal, even though most nights it’s a frozen casserole or cereal because let’s face it, by that time in the day we are all just done. We will thank Google and YouTube for explaining math homework so we can help. The house will be rearranged multiple times and we will channel our inner Jo and Chip to paint or shiplap something. Then each night we will go to bed lonely and missing the comfort of our loved one laying next to us in bed. We will breathe in the scent still left on their pillow and know we are one more day closer to them being home, crossing the day off the calendar.
Our houses will end up messier than normal when we have a sick child at home. We will figure out how to pick up groceries, make dinner, and get kids to practice while allowing the one with the upset tummy rest. We’ll call that new friend we met last week to see if they can come over in the middle of night for an ER run since your nearest family is 12 hours away, and loading everyone up at 2 am is just not reasonable, although it is doable when necessary.
Then the day will come when our spouses come home from that deployment. The house will get cleaned, the fridge will get stocked, and we will call someone to come cut the grass. Of course, it’ll be some ungodly hour that the plane will arrive, but its not the first time you’re holding a newborn at the welcome home ceremony waiting for your baby to meet with Daddy for the first time. But when that moment comes, and we get that first kiss, and we feel their arms around us, then the tears will come. Then we will know they are truly home. We will know we truly did it. We survived, and that breath we were holding in will finally be released.
But the fun does not end there. Give us a month or two and you will see a giant moving truck parked outside our home packing up everything we own to head on our next adventure. It is off to a place we have never been to before, again with no family near us, finding a new job, finding a new school for the kids, and a new house to make a home.
So, this November, as we get distracted by everything happening, take a moment. Take a moment and meet that military family down the road from you, be a friendly face, offer a hand, and know that their lives are nothing like what you see in a movie. It’s much, much messier, but it’s all tied together with a bow.