As I was waiting to board my flight today, I was witness to a moment that so many of us in the military community are accustomed to seeing. A female soldier was saying goodbye to her two small children. The kids were grabbing onto her uniformed pant legs, holding on tight. Mom kneeled down to hug them, kiss them, tell them she loved them…and to be good for Grandma. The goodbyes were over and they parted ways. I will not soon forget the look on that soldier’s face. It was one of longing, of sadness…but an understanding that this is just the way things have to be.
It was all I could do to remain seated, because what I wanted to do was to run to her, hug her tight, and thank her profusely for her service and sacrifice. But I refrained. I did not want to interrupt how she was managing to pull herself together. I could not be certain a gesture like that from a stranger would be welcome.
The entire scene only lasted mere moments but was a poignant reminder that almost 12 years after 9-11, we are still at war. It was a reminder that service members everywhere continue to sacrifice one of the most precious gifts we are given in life: time with the ones we love.
You have heard me say before that I don’t use the word “sacrifice” when describing what we, as military spouses, do. I realize that we also give up time with our loved ones. I understand that our lifestyle means that we sometimes have to adjust our dreams or give some up altogether. And I bet Webster’s definition would fit the military spouse to a tee. But some words just “feel” different to me. Sacrifice is one of those words.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been interviewed by several reporters about being a member of the American Military Spouses Choir. This entire experience has been so surreal and even I find myself at a loss for words when trying to describe why we sing, who we are singing for, and what we want America to know. Formulating my thoughts before that first interview, I really thought about the word “sacrifice”, and why I felt the way I did about it.
What I realized is that, as a military spouse, I believe I see and experience what true sacrifice looks like first hand…and for me, that’s why it means something different. My husband is not currently deployable, but I will never forget the look in his eyes when my daughter screamed hysterically at one departure. He wanted to run and comfort her, but instead forced himself to stand strong and walk away. As a parent, it is hard enough to leave my girls for a week. I can’t imagine leaving for a year, knowing there is a possibility you may never come home. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, that’s true. But when a service member deploys they are knowingly walking away from the people they love with less of a guarantee than the rest of us.
To me, that is the ultimate sacrifice. Not only making the commitment to sign on the dotted line and be willing to give up your own life for this country…but to give up large chunks of the most meaningful parts of the life you are living with those you love.
Nothing I have ever done, or will ever do as a military spouse…will even come close to that.