I’m an Air Force brat. A Navy wife. An Army mom. I know that May is Military Appreciation Month. It is supposed to be a time for our country to appreciate the military. Which is a good thing.
So why do I find myself making lists of things I appreciate about my own military life?
My husband is deployed right now. Surely, the military means that I spend every weekend alone. That I can’t figure out what is wrong with my hard drive or what the roofer is telling me. That I was awake last night until 2 a.m. totally, completely, and irrationally worried about eight new military deaths in the news.
I am well aware of what April Lakata Cao means when she writes,
”Being in the military and being a military family requires paying a price for a job that puts food on the table. It means signing your name on a dotted line for something bigger than yourself knowing that at the end of the day you may not come home the same person emotionally or physically. You may not come home at all.”I know all that and I would not trade this for a safer, easier life in Ohio surrounded by my own family. Why is that? What’s the attraction?
Maybe it just starts with the safety of my military childhood—which is ironic considering that my dad deployed twice to Vietnam.
I don’t think of that when I think of my childhood. Growing up on Air Force bases all over the country, my memories are of running barefoot across the lawn to kiss my Daddy when he came home from work. Of that same dad sternly making me put shoes on to ride my bike because the base commander had a rule about that. Of Flag Day and crispy hot fries at the base bowling alley and the constant stream of cute airmen on motorcycles.
Maybe I appreciate the constant demand the military presents to my husband. When has the guy ever been allowed to stay in his comfort zone at work? The Navy is all push, push, push all the time. So instead of the career tedium I’ve seen in my brothers in their midlife cubicles, I’ve got a guy completely engaged at work and eager to come home and talk about it. That's sexy to me.
Maybe I appreciate the ownership I feel over military folks. When I hear of someone in the military, I think of them as ‘one of ours.’ I want to help them and coach them and spoil them and scold them. I don’t feel that way about other people, but I can’t help feeling like that over everyone in uniform at the airport. Can I buy you a cup of coffee, fella?
Maybe—and you are going to think this is dumb—maybe I appreciate the way the military has made me so aware of how privileged I am to be an American. How can I live or work overseas without knowing how lucky I am to be born in a place where you get more than one shot at getting an education? Where being a woman is not really a problem? Where clean water and new roads and bountiful electricity are expected?
No wonder I used to cry every time the Hario Elementary School kids in Japan would sing “Proud To Be An American” in the 1990s. I appreciate that.
I appreciate all the servicemembers I have known over the years who have seen combat. I appreciate those who are broken by war and those who cope with their war and those who have war graze over them. I appreciate that those are the men and women who are training my son. I trust you people.
Maybe I appreciate it all because there is nothing on that list that the military will let me take for granted. Everything on that list can be easily taken away. Everything is temporary, fragile, precious.
And that’s the way I want my life to be lived—with an ongoing awareness and deep appreciation of all that was. And all that is. And all will be.