Recently, I had the honor of attending two events that were also attended by a recent icon in the military spouse community. Thrust into the spotlight by circumstance beyond her control, in a unique but unfortunately not unique position. Military spouses as a collective group are smart, compassionate, resilient, caring, understanding and some of the strongest women I know. The ‘Millies’ in my life, as I affectionately refer to them, are the backbone of my life, second only to my civilian church family. There is no one else in the world that I could go to and not have to explain my feelings or what I’m going through. There is however, a group of spouses that I couldn’t even classify myself as being on the same level with. They are the caregivers and widows of the military spouse community.
On February 2, 2013, Taya Kyle became a part of that group. Chris Kyle, known as ‘The Devil of Ramadi’, was killed, along with his friend Chad Littlefield, on a gun range in Texas. We all know the story of American Sniper and of his murder. We heard interviews and watched the news reports of the trial. We saw his wife, wearing his dog tags, tearfully testifying. But here I sat, in the room with her. She had a movie star quality about her. Not only is she beautiful, but the celebrity that has created this image in your head by the shear fact of her being on television and a movie being made is right there in the forefront of your mind. Then she gets up and starts to speak.
When Honor Comes Unexpectedly…
Kyle isn’t reading from a script, it isn’t canned and she wasn’t disconnected. Instead, I could see myself in the woman up on the stage. There aren’t many days that pass where the thought of losing my husband doesn’t cross my mind. I remember when my husband’s fellow Guardsmen were gunned down in an Ihop in our town. Gunned down just for being there, in uniform, eating their breakfast. That was a turning point for me; and as I sat in the room, during my second opportunity to hear her speak, I paused to take note of her words and demeanor. That is what a military spouse should be, at least in my head, when faced with such utter despair and loss.
What shouldn’t surprise anyone is that she isn’t some anomaly. I have had the great honor of spending time with other widows, and caregivers of our wounded. What they all have in common is this undying devotion to their service members and the well-being of other services. Their hearts are gold. Kyle just happens to have this national platform. Fear not, she uses it well. She ended both of her moments on stage with the same story – “When most people reach up to accept help, they reach up with both hands. But when a Veteran reaches up he reaches up with one hand, and turns around to pull up another veteran with the other hand.” Wow, what a phrase to live up to?
It encouraged me, it lit a fire in me and encouraged to me move forward and live the life I want to live. As a military spouse, as a person, I want to always be looking at how I can make a difference for someone else. This isn’t about me, and life is too short to live like it is. We aren’t perfect and the majority of us, including Taya, will admit it. All we can do is our best with the cards that we are dealt, as cliché as it may sound.