When I met my husband over 20 years ago he was already a veteran of the United States Army, having served on active duty as well as in the reserves and National Guard. At the time, I couldn’t understand his desire to train on these weekends after having worked a full week as a police officer, often with rotating shifts and mandatory overtime. It was my first experience truly knowing someone who served our country.
During this period, his weekend drills and weeks of training were more of a bother and nuisance than a source of pride to me as they constantly required me to cancel plans, attend functions alone or make an alternate plan.
I just didn’t understand.
Fast forward 20 years later and I am now the proud wife of a retired Master Sargent who has over 25 years of serving his country. These years include stints in Kosovo and Iraq, leaving both myself and our young children behind. To say I learned a lot about myself, our country and the pride our military families and those serving have is an understatement.
In those early years, I can remember when we would be traveling or doing something outdoors and he would want to use an extra rucksack he had purchased; I would cringe a little inside. I would sometimes say, “Can’t we take something a little less ‘Army’ like?” He would look at me like I had two heads and say, "But this bag carries everything!”
To me it was just a bag that screamed camo and I just wanted to use a plain old bag that would blend in with the rest of the world. Yet over the years I quickly learned we don’t blend in with the rest of the world. We serve. And by serving we stand out among the few who proudly have been willing to leave their families and loved ones behind not knowing if they would ever see them again. All for the love of their country and those they love enough to risk losing their lives.
Today, those retired bags stand nearby at the ready. Ready to be used for whatever purpose they can accommodate proudly exclaiming we are a military family. While he retired this summer, his service will forever be a part of who we are, the way we look at the world and teach our children about what it means to truly love your country. For the pride in that camo is indescribable.
About the author: Allison Leonard holds a BA in Communications and a MS in Organizational Management but most days happily specializes in unpaid work. She is the wife of a retired Master Sergeant of the Pennsylvania National Guard and the mother of two very active kids. She works as a travel agent and devotes much of her time to issues close to her heart - her children's sports teams, school, church, and working with local charities including supporting our Police and Veterans. She is a trained vocalist and proudly sings the National Anthem at many area events including charity races.