Monday, November 11, 2013

A Heartfelt Thank You to All US Soldiers

It never fails. Whenever I see a one of our soldiers in uniform, whether in passing, at funerals to salute the fallen, on television (even if they're actors swooping in to save the day), or (especially) passing through in airports, tears always fill my eyes. Even a single picture of one can reduce me to a blubbering mess. A sense of pride deep down swells to the point it overwhelms me, and make my heart skip a beat. I'm so touched by their dedication to this country, I feel as if I will burst at the seams.

Sometimes I feel like the black sheep, having come from a family with a heavy military background. My father served in Vietnam (Army), my brother in Iraq during the Persian Gulf war (Marines), and my sister (Army) in Iraq the second time around. The list of family members goes on to include my father-in-law, my sister's husband (plus his two siblings, and even one of their spouses whom I'm also close to), and a son-in-law. Both my husband and I regret not having served, and I think it makes me even more grateful for those who were brave enough to step up and do it—to sacrifice everything to keep the rest of us safe.

My brother with Bravo Co. 1st Plt. 1st Recon Bn.
on flight deck of USS Tripoli
enroute to Pursian Gulf.
When I was a senior in high school, my big brother was deployed to Iraq. Anyone who knows me will tell you I have a terrible memory in general, but I'll never forget the dread that lingered in my gut the entire time he was gone. Not a day passed when I didn't worry about him. I faithfully wore a his picture on a necklace. Each morning at school when the world-wide news updated us on the war, I felt the onset of an anxiety attack. A part of me was always waiting for that call to my parents, telling them my brother was killed. Thankfully, he made it home without any injuries.

More recently when my big sister went overseas as a doctor for the Army in 2005, I purposely tried to keep my mind elsewhere, and have blocked out most of the experience. Having to go through it another time was heartbreaking, even though she wasn't actively fighting in the field the way my brother was. But ever since I was a little girl I've looked up to my sister, and strived to be the good person she's always been. Seeing pictures of her dressed in a helmet and flak jacket, standing next to a broken bust of Saddam Hussein outside of once of his palaces where she was stationed was just too much. Still, the sense of pride I carry around for both my siblings and for all my family members who were in the service is untouchable.

After I became a wife and then a mother, I started to understand where this deep appreciation for our troops that makes me cry stems from. I know that feeling of dread parents and spouses of soldiers must carry with them every single day. I know what it's like to have to pretend everything's okay while someone you love is dodging bombs and bullets on the other side of the world. Every single person in my life who served our country is a good person, the kind you would trust in every day life to have your back. And to give up everything in your life to defend millions of strangers you've never even met quite honestly should launch you directly into sainthood. Now that my eleven-year-old has proclaimed he wants to one day serve our country, I'm faced with the conundrum of knowing how hard it will be for us, yet knowing there's nothing else he could do that would make me and my husband more proud.
When I recently asked my brother if there's anything I can say to the soldiers I come across in the airport without seeming like I'm crazy or disrespectful, he told me, "Tell them thanks, and to be careful." So I say that now, to anyone who is actively enlisted and may be reading this—thank you, and please be careful. People like you, and those who served in the past make me insanely proud to be an American. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service!


Sheena-kay Graham said...

Everyone has there part to play Jen. It's amazing those willing to be soldiers and put their life on the line. *Salutes*

Crystal Collier said...

Seconded. What a beautiful tribute! Both my father and grandfather served in the air force, and I am awed by the selflessness and sacrifice of those who serve this country.

Jen Naumann said...

You're right, Sheena-kay! :)

Jen Naumann said...

Thank you, Crystal! Thank you to your father and grandfather for their service. It takes a special person!

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