Last week hubby and I headed to Home Depot to buy some packing boxes. As we swished through the self checkout, I handed my military ID to the checker that was babysitting all of us.
"Oh," she said. "I'm sorry, but we're no longer offering a military discount."
I felt a sudden profound sadness, and it wasn't because I was going to get 50 cents off my purchase, either.
Hubby and I have always made it a point to shop at Home Depot first if we needed home supplies. The military discount was wonderful in that it saved us quite a bit of money as I tried to fix up the several thousand dollars worth of damage to my Mother-in-Law's home while my husband was last deployed. But the military discount was meaningful to me in yet another, and more important way.
It made me feel like someone was thinking of us and what we were going through as military families.
I did not make frequent use of the Home Depot military discount. Most of the time I just got my purchases and went on my way. If, however, I had to show some form of ID the checker never failed to remind me that the discount was available for me.
One checker in Porterville, CA actually voided the transaction and started it over to make sure I got the discount - all without any prompting or asking for special treatment from me.
She told me, "Honey - we've got to take CARE of you."
I have struggled, in the last five years, with occasional bouts of irritation, or anger, or despair over seeing our military family putting out such a tremendous effort in deployments, fear, and stress while so many civilian families go about their regular daily life seemingly unaffected by what is happening in the Middle East or Afghanistan. I have descended into a funk more than once when a comment I made referred to a place like Anbar or Kandahar, and the response from someone more removed from the situation was, "Where's that?"
Just a simple little thing like the Home Depot checkers telling me that they had to "take care of me" made that all better - because someone knew. Someone CARED.
It really isn't just about the money. No Wal Mart I've ever been in has offered a military discount. However, while hubby was in Iraq my local Wal Mart planned a Veteran's Day display. I didn't pay much attention to it - I was more interested in getting what I needed and getting out before I was crushed in the roiling pack of pay day shoppers.
But as I picked up my photos from the One Hour counter, my funk was once again broken by a sharp eyed woman behind the counter. She pointed to the Veteran's Day poster and told me that she had noticed our disposable camera had come from Iraq and asked if the pictures were of my husband. Then she told me this:
"I would really appreciate it if you would pick one of those photos and let us make copies to add to our display. We are trying to show our appreciation to all the veterans we can, and your husband certainly deserves the thanks."
I very nearly couldn't speak - I just selected the one I thought was most representative (it happened to be my hubby in full battle rattle under Saddam's crossed swords) and she made short work of it. She even gave me a free 5 x7 and 4 free wallets.
It was as though God had reached down Himself and patted my shoulder that day. It felt like everything would be all right.
As a military wife I don't really ask for any special treatment. And honestly, I don't necessarily want it. I take great satisfaction in my ability to do what needs to be done, whether I am alone or my hubby is home. I am fiercely proud of the fact that I can pack up and clean a house in under a week (all by myself), or unpack and decorate in 48 hours when called upon. I don't like the fact that I have to be self-sufficient so often, but I am very proud that I can be. And, like many military spouses, I have a great deal of trouble asking for any help, even when I truly need it.
So that little bit of unasked for recognition of the things that set military families apart from Home Depot and the diligence of the Home depot checkers in making sure military families were "taken care of" made me feel like someone understood, and cared. I really did depend on it.
And so now that it's gone, I'm very sad.