Last fall was one of the hardest times in my life…my husband was sent to Iraq. He teaches for the Air Force and was sent overseas to teach the Iraqi military. He was only gone for one month, but those 30 days felt like an absolute eternity. Let me paint you a quick picture…
I was 8 months pregnant with my son.
Our rambunctious daughter was giving new meaning to the term “terrible twos”.
I was working full time.
Our basement was in the middle of a major re-model, making my house filled with a never ending flow of dust, chaos and construction workers.
Perfect storm? It certainly felt that way.
Add to it that I was worried everyday about my husband…and cried myself to sleep most nights. That I hated having to explain to my daughter why her dad wasn’t there to tuck her in at night, why he wasn’t there when she woke up in the morning.
But here’s the thing, while my life was extremely stressful and at times lonely, I know that it was nothing compared to what many of our military families deal with every. single. day. I experienced only a very small taste of the incredible sacrifice that they make…and I became forever grateful.
Today I wanted to try and say thank you…to thank the people who sacrifice time away from their families, memories with their own children…so that my family is protected.
My husband found out about an event that was going to be hosted on base…a lunch for “unaccompanied persons”. What does this really mean? It was a lunch for 2 groups of people…1. those who are stationed here away from their families and 2. those who have a spouse or parent deployed that won’t be home for Christmas. It was for the people whose Christmas was likely going to be filled with some sadness…for the ones who had to spend Christmas away from the ones they love most.
I signed up to be on the committee for set-up and decorations. There was about a dozen of us there…we got the tables and chairs organized, hung bows and other Christmas decorations around the hall. But my favorite part was putting all the presents under the tree. After the lunch, each child is able to come under the tree and pick out several toys that they’d like. As I piled toys under the tree, I got a knot in my throat…these toys are for the kids who won’t get to be with their mom or dad for Christmas. What would that feel like?
How can you begin to thank someone for making that sacrifice?
I spent a couple of hours there. I got the chance to talk with the other volunteers, like Lauren…a young woman who just returned from Afghanistan. I was the only “non-military” person who was there to help and several of them were surprised to find out that I took vacation time to help put out table clothes and fill coolers with ice. The truth is, I loved being there. It was vacation very well spent. It was so small, but I wanted to do something…even if it was just putting napkins and glasses out on tables, to show these people how incredibly grateful I am.
But this was only part one of the act…
I loved being able to support the families, but I wanted to do something to help a solider as well. My husband was on board with this plan and had someone in mind. He met a solider when he was in Iraq…that man is now deployed in Afghanistan. He’s married. He has two little kids. He’s been gone for over a year. We were happy to get on Amazon and pick out a few things to send to him…mainly snacks, but also a comedy CD that my husband thought he would enjoy. A few simple things to remind him of home. Something to let him know that people back home are thinking about him…appreciate him…and care about him.
To every person who is or has served in our military…and to their families…thank you. Two simple words, but I say them with the deepest, heart-felt sincerity. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice that you make. From my family to yours…Merry Christmas.