My 11-year-old asked, “Mama, can I go to Sam’s change of command?”
There were two problems with this. For one, Sam was not in command of anything. Sam’s father, our neighbor, was having a change of command. For two, attending the ceremony would mean I would have to take my children out of school.
Yet my son really wanted to go. I understood this would be his last chance to share one more moment with his best friend and allow him to participate in their family event. And I understood that my son had started to develop his own military family.
That made the decision easy. We went. At the end of the ceremony Sam’s father, the outgoing commander, escorted his family out of the building and off to their new assignment. It is traditional and expected for the family to leave “just like that.”
As the audience began to disperse I looked down at my son. He was literally sobbing. I knew immediately he was finally letting out the emotion he had contained all week as he watched his friend, part of his military family, leave.
All I could do was wrap my arms around him in an attempt to shield him from the pain -- and the eyes of other audience members. All I could do was bury my head in his curls to control the emotions I felt for him, from him, and with him.
When I looked up we were in the middle of a mass of people socializing. Instead of escaping with him, we stood there. As my own friends walked by I was given looks of empathy and understanding. My son was given gentle pats on his head.
I realized we were safe. These people understood me. They understood my son. These friends were OUR military family and they would take care of us. And sure enough they did, one friend had water, another Kleenex, and a third words of encouragement for both of us.
At the reception for the new commander, I got the kids their food and sat them with a new friend, a new member of our military family. While I went through the receiving line, she replenished their drinks. Another new friend and family member heard about my son’s meltdown and she was happy to go show him her puppy pictures knowing it would cheer him up.
I kept an eye on the children realizing they were well attended to as more friends (family) had sat at their table. When I finally got back to them I sat down and looked around the table, and I saw it. In the faces of four beautiful women I saw My military family.
I had never thought too much about the friends I was making through the military as my family. In fact within months of being married to my husband and moving to our first base together, I was invited to a baby shower. I did not know the mom-to-be and didn’t understand why I was being invited to a shower for someone I barely knew.
Now, 14 years and one very special moment later, I understand. In that moment I could see how my military family has evolved over time, and how important they are to me.
Becky is Co-founder of H & H Family Education and Advocacy Center. She is an educational consultant and Family Manager Coach™. Becky’s passion and mission in life, is to educate parents and school professionals about the impact military life has on children’s development and their education. She has been a military spouse for over 13 years; her husband is active duty Air Force. When not researching and writing, she spends time with her 2 children and their Labrador Retriever, Chief. Becky and her family are currently stationed at an AFB in west Texas where she is experiencing life on a military instillation for the first time.