“Each of the patriots who we remember on this day was first a beloved son or daughter, brother or sister, spouse, friend and neighbor.” (George W. Bush)
President Bush made that remark at a Memorial Day tribute so it seems fitting that I am finishing this article about being a military parent on Memorial Day weekend. I hope that you read Part One in the June issue in which I shared how I reached out to a community of Navy moms and asked 100s of them “What are some things YOU think people without any ties to the military could learn from us? What do YOU want readers to know?” The responses were numerous and sincere.
Susan, from the Facebook group Navy Mom Strong, said “I want the world to know that behind every military person is a family who is missing them and also making sacrifices. Holidays, birthdays, weddings, family vacations, funerals, sporting events, and family get-togethers… everything they take for granted, we have someone missing. All our family pictures show that huge hole where someone is supposed to be. When they make that precious commitment to serve and protect it involves more than just them. It involves everyone that loves and misses them.”
Susan’s comment is a great segue to another popular theme among military parents: pride. Even as we acknowledge the heartaches and challenges of having a child in the service, often very far away with very little contact, not one single mom said they wished their son or daughter hadn’t joined! I found that we all respect that this is the choice our child made – whether after college or right out of high school – it was their choice to make and it’s a hard one to make knowing the sacrifice that comes with it.
Jackie shared that she would like people to know that “Freedom comes at a cost, yes it’s voluntary and we are proud but for others to know their freedom is paid for by those who have served and continue to serve. Not asking for pity but realization that freedom has a cost involved and the sacrifice for those who are serving and their families is real. And secondly that my child isn’t serving because he couldn’t find another career but he’s serving because he chose to serve his country and that less than 1% of the population serve.”
That’s right, there are currently only about 1.3 million active-duty personnel, or less than one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. population.
I can tell you that Sarah took the following words right out of my mouth! “I don’t know about the rest of you… but I never cried listening to the national anthem until I became a Navy mom… the pride, fear and patriotism is incredible.”
And yet another mom named Susan sent me to the tissue box when she shared something I, too, have felt so keenly. “I want people to understand that while I am super proud of his decision to join the military, I grieve at the same time. I watched my boy walk out the door and never saw him again. He became a man and an adult while away from me. In other circumstances, your relationship with your adult children develops day to day. This is nothing like that. It is hard on a mama. I miss my boy and I hardly know this man. We are working on it though. Giving one another grace. My husband and I high five each other all the time for what a great job we did. He is a wonderful man. But he just appeared there one day where my boy was before.”
This is truly just a small sample of the feelings, comments and suggestions that were shared with me by women that I have never met and yet I feel a connection with. I could probably write another page or two about deployment worries, no news is good news, hurry up and wait, and the kind of support your military parent friends and family would be grateful for! Instead I’ll finish up with a comment that Navy mom Cindy made that really did make me laugh out loud. “We are a mixed bag of emotions. Also any negative talk about our military might get you a pop in the nose, sorry not sorry……. Well, maybe don’t use that! ”