I’ve been a military spouse for over a decade, my husband has served for two. He’s given twenty years to this nation – meaning he joined during a time of peace. His time has deployed him to three regions, taken years from his family, made him a strong leader, a hard-worker, and a deeply-devoted soldier.
I could not be more proud of the man he is, of what he chooses to do, and of how he chooses to serve. He is humble. He is diligent. He is dedicated and purposeful and worthy of so much gratitude – although he’d never think so. There are thousands and thousands like him, who stand shoulder to shoulder with him. They give and give and give without acknowledgment, without understanding, without celebration or fanfare or parades. They give their worn bodies, their tortured memories, their different reality for a purpose that extends so far beyond any of those things.
They don’t do any of it for a parade.
Over the past several months, my husband has been gone as often as he has been home. It’s the tempo of the position he currently holds. He missed our youngest son’s birthday this year – and in that, I realized he has missed every single one of his birthdays except for the day he was born. He will miss our oldest’s this year as well. He will miss Easter and spring break. He will miss all of those again next year as we stare down his next deployment. He’ll kiss our (soon to be) newborn son’s head goodbye and walk away. I’ll hold that miracle baby close, take the hands of my other two, and take the first steps of that new reality, knowing how torn his heart remains as he boards that plane.
I adore my husband. For every week, month, a year he’s been away from us, I have never felt second. For every milestone or hard night, a big victory he didn’t get to be present for, I have always felt him with me. We work hard for that connection. It takes everything we have some days. It’s exhausting. It’s emotionally draining but it’s our “real” and we hold firm to it.
I could tell you dozens of reasons why a “Military Parade” is a less than ideal idea for this nation. I could talk about how we are currently engaged on multiple continents, in dozens of countries, with multiple, major, ongoing operations while also keeping our eyes towards the much farther East. I could talk about how our aircraft, our equipment, or vehicles are failing from years of budget cuts (or mismanaged money) and lack of maintenance – costing lives. I could talk about how our healthcare for military families is so screwed up with the current transition that providers for my special needs kids haven’t been paid in months. I could talk about all of the things that need our focus rather than a parade. The things that truly, fully show our troops they are supported, they are appreciated, they are heard.
I could focus on any of those things, but instead, I must focus on the simplest – time.
I am a fierce, capable, dedicated, military spouse. I will raise our children, advocate for EFMP families, push-through a high-risk pregnancy, work a charity, go up against a school district, and firmly plant myself in this community all with my partner fully-dedicated to his work on the other side of the country or the world. I will do those things and love him through it – without resentment or hold-over or “woe is me”. I know when he is away there is a purpose and a meaning and a reason outside of selfishness. I know what he is doing matters for this nation, for myself, and for my children.
I’ve come home to this man who did everything in his power to get home to his kids and his wife after too much time away. I’ve held him tight as I’ve said, “Come back to me” more than I care to say. I’ve crumbled under that weight and built myself back up. He gives me the strength to love enough, to hold on enough, to push through enough because we both see a purpose in giving up our time.
But to take him or any other soldier like him away from their families, on a four-day-holiday that belongs solely to them, and make them march …
You’ve lost me on purpose.
Time is the most precious things to my family – to thousands of families like mine. Time is given freely for a higher purpose. Time is sacrificed for a far more sacred reason. I gave this nation my heart when I sat alone – without my most-loved-person-in-the-world beside me – while I listened to a doctor deliver a child’s diagnosis. I gave this nation my strength when I watched my husband cling to his son before having to leave him in a hospital bed for duty and love for country. I will give you my patience and my service and my awe for those who live this life, daily. Entirely. Whole-heartedly. I will again give this nation a year of my sons not having their daddy. I will give you that time. I will give you every moment while I fight dearly for our family to thrive through it.
He will give you his life and so many moments of it for your safety, for your very different reality, for your comfort. I will give you my time, our children’s precious, cannot-get-back time. I will give you the inches they grow while he is on the other side of the globe. The small victories they crush while their daddy isn’t here to see them. I will give you our newborn’s first steps. You can have our time when this nation requires it.
Willingly. Entirely. Selflessly.
You can have what is most precious whenever it is vital to our nation without taking more to “show appreciation” with a “parade”.