Thank You For Your Service

For the past 18 months, I’ve had the incredible honor of working in a role that supports members of the military and their families. Like many of you, I know that when you serve in the military, you might be stationed overseas, your spouse might be deployed not once or twice but multiple times and that while challenging, the benefits in serving are great. In spite of having family members who have served in the military as well as a number of friends and even a neighbor or two (thank you for your service, Uncle Denny, Uncle Al, Tim, Mark, Mary, Dave “Superstar!”, Stephanie, Bob and many others) and having a great uncle who was MIA in WWII and never came home, I never really appreciated what that meant before this job.

These people – the active duty members of the military and their families – sacrifice more than any of us can imagine. They miss birthdays, holidays, first steps, first communions, last days of school and last days of life. If stationed stateside and working in support roles, they might be fortunate enough to see their families every day, and are home for dinner. If they’re stationed what is referred to as OCONUS (Outside of the CONtinental US) then consider that the family packed up what they had and moved, perhaps for the umpteenth time, to a country where they may not speak the language and settle into a house that is probably not new, with appliances, fixtures and carpeting that have perhaps seen better days and no option to replace them because they’re living in military housing. They have to find an English language school for their kids, doctors, places to shop and then just about the time they get it all figured out, they have to pack up and do it again. For those that are deployed, family stays behind while the soldier is serving somewhere around the world, perhaps in a place that the family can’t even know about. When they can call home, they might be limited on the number of minutes allowed for the call and have to call at odd times of the day depending on where they are at, just to make up the time difference to call at normal times for their families. They do this without complaining and with amazing grace and dignity.

They are in service to our country. Think about what that means for a moment. They do what they do, so we can walk freely, speak freely, love freely. They keep us and our democracy safe. It’s selfless, the stress is unbelievable, and when they are serving in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or Kandahar, they don’t know if they’ll come home and hug their spouse or kids, their kids, in a coffin, or at all. I heard retired Major General Paul Eaton speak on TV two nights ago, and he said “our solders are taught to trust their commanders, to go where they are told and to fight for their country without question, because they trust that no matter what, their country will bring them home.” His voice was so full of passion and emotion, it was almost overwhelming to hear. Click here and watch his message on Twitter, and to see his interview with Rachel Maddow, click here. (The link goes to YouTube, the first part is an equally powerful interview with a Gold Star mother, and well worth watching. Eaton’s interview begins around the 12:50 mark.)

We are lucky here in the US. When we have an emergency, we can call 9-1-1 from any phone and help will come. If you call from a landline, they’ll even know your location without being told (unfortunately, that technology doesn’t exist with cell phones, so make sure to provide a location when calling from a cell phone.) When the military and their families are overseas, and an emergency arises, if they need an ambulance they may not be able to simply call 9-1-1 because not all countries have that. Some countries have other emergency codes, some have none at all. Imagine being in a country where you don’t speak the language, and have no way to pick up the phone and call to get an ambulance when you need one. How would you handle it?

I have no frame of reference what it would be like in combat, but would imagine it’s terrifying, regardless of how much training you’ve received, never knowing if the next step results in stepping on a hidden trigger device, or if you’re in the crosshairs of a gun and all the while having the sound of constant bombardment everywhere, day and night. How long would you last? Are you willing to put on battle fatigues, learn to follow orders without question, pick up a gun, and do what you’re told in cold, ice, snow, rain, sand, and desert heat, combined with unrelenting noise all the time, constant shelling and bombs everywhere?

My respect for the military  and their families is beyond what I can put into words, and it is my greatest honor to be in a role where I can continue working with nurses who support and help them every day. We try to make life just a little less difficult for them and from the comments I see and hear I know we are successful in doing that. This week, hearing Donald Trump call those in our military who were wounded, or didn’t come home “suckers” and “losers” makes me sick to my stomach and angry. Our military and their families do NOT deserve to be disrespected and invalidated like that.  A commander-in-chief who, according to a report in Vanity Fair

In one account, the president told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

His disdain for our military is such that he and first wife Ivana said if their kids joined the military they would be “disowned in a second.” Let that sink in for a moment. Their message wasn’t “we don’t want you to do this because we’re afraid something will happen to you”, it was “we think so little of the military that we will kick you out of this family and it’s money if you become a part of it”. This is who you want leading your troops?

My grandmother watched every day at her kitchen window for years, hoping that would be the day she would see her baby brother come home from WWII. It wasn’t until many years later that she learned he had died in France, and how. We’ve never recovered his remains, and in the last year my mom started working with an agency that matches DNA to unidentified remains still there, in hopes we may still be able to bring him home. Mr. Trump, my Uncle Ches was NOT a sucker or a loser. He was a young man who unlike you, believed in serving his country and defending her against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic. He did so with honor, and yes, he, along with all the others who remain missing, deserve to come home and be buried on US soil.

One of our greatest gifts as a democracy is belonging to any political party we want to and then exercising our right to vote for our candidate of choice and to do so in private. That means you never need tell anyone who you voted for. (This is HUGE!)  However part of being a responsible voter is to evaluate what a candidate stands for, regardless of their party and vote for them based on their platform. What is their record? What have they done, not just what do they say? It’s not only OK to belong to one party and vote another, it’s acceptable, even responsible. You’ve already heard the phrase “Country over party” many times these last 4 years, and it means more now than ever. Please, regardless of the party you are affiliated with as a registered voter, vote for someone who respects and supports our military troops. If you aren’t a registered voter, please get registered. If you’re worried about voting with COVID, go to Vote.org and find out how you can vote absentee in your state. (Whatever you do, don’t try to vote absentee and then in person. It’s probably a felony in your state. )

It’s that important.