Monday, May 25, 2015

Honoring the Military Family, a Memorial Day story

By Christina Chalmers

Pictured with Christina is husband Robert Chalmers.
Each May, we take time as a country to celebrate our veterans, lifting them up for all the sacrifices they have made for the freedoms we have. And doing so is the good and right thing. We wouldn't be the country we are without them.

But this weekend, as we mark Memorial Day by saying thank you to our veterans, there’s another group whose sacrifice, service and love of this country needs to be honored as well: the loved ones who are left behind to support them. Military family members—spouses, children, parents—serve their country, too, but in ways that are all too often overlooked.

Throughout a deployment, military families sacrifice every day to support their soldiers. This is particularly true for the spouses. I know. I am one.

Having your spouse on deployment feels like an endless journey, and you only want the basics that others often take for granted in day-to-day life—to see, hug and kiss your spouse and know that they are okay. Instead, we are alone. We must be brave and self-sufficient. We must be resilient, passionate and strong—even under extraordinary circumstances. We must rely on support from family members, friends, other military spouses and the community.

But, while we may look like we have it all together, the truth is often we’re just barely hanging on. It’s a difficult task to remain strong throughout the high stress of a deployment, laughing things off and trying to make the best of everything. It seems that we are always “at our limit” with no sleep and through tears worrying about our soldier’s well-being, taking care of our homes, children and ourselves.

For those military spouses with children, deployment immediately makes you a single parent, even though you’re technically not. And that’s difficult on everyone. Our soldiers miss a lot in their kid’s lives. They miss first steps, first words, school events, sports games and tucking them in each night. And military kids are strong, brave and adaptable, but their feelings of abandonment are real and cause anxiety and insecurities.

I read something that said that military children will say goodbye to more significant people by age 18 than the average person will know in their lifetimes. That’s true; it’s hard for them. These kids deal with a range of emotions through deployment and reunification: fear, regression, irritability, aggression, rebellion, and physical complaints all depending on their age. All while trying to maintain their daily routines and going to school.

Being a military mom or dad is just as difficult. Parents relish in the proud moments of their children’s lives—hitting that first baseball, riding their first bike, going to their first dance, learning to drive a car, graduating high school or college. When they hear the words, “Mom, Dad, I’m joining the military,” fear flashes through their minds, followed by intense worry. Loneliness and heartache are sure to follow.

But knowing their son or daughter has just chosen honor, code and country couldn’t make them more proud. Their child has said to America, “I’ve got your back. I’ll serve our country so that you may enjoy freedom.”

So this weekend, as we celebrate the tremendous pride our soldiers and veterans, take a moment to remember their families, who sacrificed as well. The military spouse is proud to stand by their soldier no matter how long, and would do it again and again, but their endless dedication and loyalty should be commended. If you know a military kid, give them a great big hug and thank them. Let them know it’s going to be okay and that you’re there for them through good times and bad. Their service deserves to be recognized.

Christina Chalmers is now the wife of a Veteran and a Board Member of the American Red Cross Northern Miami Valley Ohio who recently held a concert in celebration of the Military and their Families. This is an excerpt from her presentation about life as a Military Family member. If you would like the complete document, please contact us.

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