I dated a farm boy turned military man once who later became my fiancé stationed overseas. While planning a life with my two little girls after a divorce, falling for a military man never crossed my mind. Long-distance dating became the hardest thing I had ever done; separation tearing at my heart because the man I loved was outside my reach. With no modern technology, I rushed daily to the mailbox for little envelopes postmarked ‘Philippines.’ Conversations were limited to Sunday and time crawled until that phone rang.
I, too, was a military wife, only for a year and a half due to troop reductions in the early 90’s. I followed my USAF husband from Kansas to New Mexico with a sense of adventure and a fresh start with the man I loved. I hit the ground running! Maneuvering the lifestyle without fear and armed with a strange sense of pride every time I drove through the base gates because I was part of something important, I was the wife of a man who defended our nation’s freedom.
My support was in the simple things; ironing BDU’s (he secretly re-ironed them), making sure he had lunch every night, behaving in a manner that reflected respect for the service my husband had committed his life to and not speeding while on base. Most importantly, being supportive of the decisions made to defend our nation because that was what he was doing and being negative could compromise more than just a day at the office, or in my husband’s case, munitions.
Fast-forward 17 years, the military a part of our pasts, our oldest daughter announced she had met a young man online who was in the Army. A knot filled my stomach; this would be a challenge for our daughter who was too young to remember military life and its sacrifices. Having been to Iraq once and another trip fast approaching, there was a whirlwind wedding in December and a move to Texas. Now, I am a Mom to a military wife 15 hours away, driving to be by her side when he left, not just once but twice. This new role required counseling her in her role as his cheerleader and biggest supporter. A short time later, I began a new chapter as Grandma to a little angel born into the unique military world as her Daddy packed for his third deployment. Thank God he was placed on Rear Detachment and was able to meet his little girl before going to Afghanistan! With this deployment, my role changed and my encouragement would be critical; I would have to support her only by phone while he was gone and she was left with a new baby.
For military wives, support comes from strangers who all share a common bond, the US Military. As part of the unique military community, I encouraged our daughter to seek out groups that cater to military wives and to seek out Christian military wives for moral support. She heeded my advice and began to adjust and make friends who understood exactly what she was going through.
Fast forward three more years. Our son came in and said, “I have enlisted in the Air Force, I go to basic in July.” Trepidation filled me; I found myself saying, “Have you thought this through?” How did this hypocrisy enter into my brain? Memories of a cuddly little boy filled my mind; I had not envisioned this for his life! When sharing my fears with a good friend, she replied, “Well you named him after Caleb in the bible and he was a fearless warrior! What did you expect?” Shamefully, I did not want my only son, the baby of the family to serve his nation. I just could not bear to send him off to the uncertainty of military life and possible death. It was different with a daughter married to a military man but giving my son over to the military brought up emotions I had never thought I would face.
Before judgment falls, I have cried tears for mothers whom I do not know that have lost sons I have never met. My heart aches for brave warriors who come home from war different people, yet most would do it all over again. Because of those nameless faces, I am reminded that I am not the only one sending a beloved child into harms way. More importantly, this is what “he believes in!” He wants to serve God and our country and he wants to protect our freedom. Seeing my son off to basic training was like putting him on the bus for kindergarten for the first time. I admire his determination to go through Basic to overseas bases and deployments into war zones to protect you and me and our Sovereignty as a Nation under God.
As I send my son off to embark on this new chapter in his life, I see his girlfriend standing where I used to be and realize that life has come full circle. I shared a bond with my daughter as she transitioned into becoming a military wife. I now play the role of military mom where I support my son and help his future wife navigate the unique world of military life, just as I did 20 years ago. It’s funny how that ‘paradigm shift’ occurs without notice. Truly, “nothing is new under the sun.”