I think it would be unseemly of me not to acknowledge this Veterans Day since I share my life with a 25-year retiree from Army service. I often hear the word “sacrifice” attached for what military men and women do, and in some ways it fits.
I expect the greatest sacrifice for this particular veteran and for many others are the absences from family at crucial times. In South Korea, Al missed the birth of a daughter and was even out in the field for the day, making him late getting the Red Cross message announcing her arrival. He missed family weddings, several firsts from his children, piano recitals, athletic events, holiday celebrations, and simple daily routines. He also missed three cases of chicken pox back to back, but I don’t think he was terribly cut up about that one.
His most notable sacrifice may have been the extra eleven days he and his fellow soldiers remained, just waiting in Vietnam, as they served to guarantee that the third and last group of POWs would be flown out of North Vietnam. At home, seven-year-old Murray and I stayed tuned to the newscasts, waiting to hear that the POWS were in the air. We knew when they were airlifted, Al and the remaining soldiers in South Vietnam would follow soon.
Along with the sacrifice came opportunities for him and for us as his family. Both he and the Army have a penchant for organization so they worked well together. The Army put that square peg in a square hole and gave him a meaningful career.
Many moves showed us our nation and the world. They taught us to adapt and make friends quickly. Within three years, either we or our neighbors would be moving. There was no time to lose. With almost everybody far from their families of origin, we became like family and were fast friends in more ways than one.
Our children, like other military brats, have trouble answering the question, “Where are you from?” Only one remembers living in the place where he was born. The flip side is that leaving for college or moving to a job in a different place was just one more in a long line of adjustments and caused them little or no trauma.
Truthfully, most of the service men and women and their families that I’ve know seldom think in terms of sacrifice. They cope with new orders, move where they are assigned and make it home, and look to balance strong families with adventures in new places. They live by the motto, “Home is where the Army (or other branch of service) sends us.” Maybe that attitude gives cause for even greater appreciation.
I think I’ll celebrate this Veterans Day in Thanksgiving month with gratitude for being part of one of those families and for the veteran who made it possible. I’ll give extra thanks for the many children populating my classrooms who belonged to that special tribe called “Military Brats” especially because they normally fit only the first half of that description.