Veteran's Day is a day of mixed emotion around here. I come from a long line of military: my grandfather was a Marine and a DI and a Korean War POW escapee, my father was a Marine at Camp David, my husband served the Navy for 13 years, my brother served in the Air Force for a decade and did three tours in Iraq, my cousin is practically ready for retirement from the Army. Not to mention the uncles who served in Vietnam and the many, many friends who are currently deployed in the Med, Saudi, Afghanistan, etc. I am so fiercely proud of each you.
You have served in peace and in war. You know what it is to miss birthdays and holidays, first days of schools and graduations. Perhaps you've even missed the birth of a child. Many of you have seen Death in the ugliest form it can take. You carry memories with you about things of which you can never speak unless it is to a Fellow who has Been There.
I know my own grandfather carried horrific stories with him his whole life, speaking of them rarely. Toward the end of his life, maybe because he wanted his stories to live on, he began to speak to my husband, who carried the trusted title of Chaplain. My grandpa, Denny, to those who knew him well and Dennis to those who didn't (yes, I am named for him and have always been proud of it) starved as a late teenaged kid in a POW camp. He and his buddy Ed lied about their ages so they could enlist; Grandpa was only sixteen. When he saw his chance for escape, he took it, living off whatever morsels he could scavenge from the rifled pockets of dead soldiers, until he spotted a US helicopter taking off toward freedom and made a run through a hail of bullets.
Thank you, Grandpa - I am here today because you barely made that Chopper. He gave up the Marines after 17 years of decorated service because my grandmother could no longer take the difficult life of a military life. When Grandma laid down the ultimatum, Grandpa chose Her and his three Sons, one of whom would follow his footsteps and become a decorated Marine in his own right. That Marine was my father, who passed away earlier this spring of brain cancer and was accorded full military burial with a moving twenty one gun salute. I have a shell from his service next to a photo of his enlistment.
When my husband announced his intention to become an officer after only four years of marriage and not one previous mention of military dreams, I didn't even blink. The role of military wife seemed tailor made for me and Donald's years of service are some of the hardest but most rewarding years of my life. I have written much about his medical retirement and about it being taken away a year ago; I won't dredge it up again. Despite our seeming mistreatment at the hands of the government, I miss our military life keenly. Barely a day goes by that I don't recall some aspect of being a Navy wife.
The bottom line is this: no matter what we think of our government these days (and most of it is one Snafu after another - sorry, couldn't resist a military acronym!), the Men and Women of the Armed Forces wake up every day, put on a uniform, and fight for something bigger than all of us, whether they go to a desk job at the Pentagon or to a tank in Afghanistan. I believe in them and in a month dedicated to thankfulness, I am incredibly thankful for the job they do.
Last but not least, I am thankful for the Wives, who often go unthanked. You take family vacations encompassing thousands of miles, just you at the wheel and your kids bickering in the back seat over which movie to watch, because your husband is deployed. Again. You are left to explain to the kids that Daddy can't come home yet, even though there are plane tickets to meet him in Hawaii to celebrate the end of his deployment, because a country far away called Syria is committing atrocities of the worst kind. You celebrate Christmas and Valentine's Day and the 4th of July and Labor Day and Halloween with other families who have a deployed spouse. You shoulder behavior problems at school alone, teacher conferences alone, meal prep-house cleaning-soccer games-shopping-band camp-Alone. Skype and Facebook become your Friend. Five minutes alone becomes a Godsend. Tears in the shower go unnoticed.
But not really. We know. Those of us who have Been There, Know. We know what those moments feel like. Those moments of, "Oh My God, the next Six Months. The Next Twenty-Eight Days. The next twelve hours CanNOT go by quickly enough." We know. And, We HAVE YOUR BACK!
Thank you, Wives. Thank you Selena, and Karen, and Jen, and Amy, and Emily, and Donna, and Tomo, and Carine, and Michelle, and Gina, and Kjersten, and Kristen, and my grandmother, and my own mom, and to the many others who have gone before me and continue after me. I can't even begin to name you all but I am and will always be grateful for the job you do. As they say, it may very well be the Toughest Job in the military.
From the Twist Family to Your Family, if you are serving or if you have served, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, on this Veteran's Day and every other day of the year.