The Secrets and Sacrifice of Service
My Dad died in October 1996; he was a United States Army veteran. He served his country by fighting in the Korean War and shared very little of what happened to him while there.
The shreds that I do have of his military service are very limited. I know some of his friends called him “Monte” (based on “Mondesire”). He once literally wiped a smile off of his face after being yelled at by a Drill Sergeant while in formation - causing his superior officer to crack a smile for an instant - much to the officer’s chagrin. And, I also know that he was forced to kill an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. That is pretty much all he told us.
Dad’s experiences certainly were life changing. I suspect that he suffered from some form of PTSD, though such things simply were not discussed in the 1950s when he served, nor during the 60’s and 70’s when I was growing up. Much of that has changed in today’s world, at least in terms of people being more open about the challenges of being a military family.
What has not changed is the very real, multi-faceted burden being carried every single day by those service members and their (extended) families. It didn’t take long to find a variety of takes on the subject online. In fact, I found one family’s account particularly moving. The following quote is from a blog entry with a harsh title: How Military Life Has Hurt My Family.
“Being a military family during over a decade of war hurts us too. Hearing a trumpet play “Taps” does not just bring a tear to my eye. It hurts. I think of the things my husband has sacrificed. I think of our friends who are wounded or injured in some way. I think of those families who will never be complete again. I see that look in my husband’s eye when he hears that song or sees something patriotic. I know it hurts him… way down deep in places he probably will never share.” – Erin Whitehead, Military Spouse
All of the feelings described are profound, but when you continue reading the piece, it really is about how pain and sacrifice can help inspire us to grow into stronger and better people. It can serve as a catalyst for personal evolution, arguably the real purpose of our lives. With that in mind, here are links to some helpful tips as well as some resources for those who serve along with their families:
The common threads through all of what has been shared have been communication and empathy.
Solid communication is critical in all of our relationships, all the more so when time for family and friends is limited by one’s commitment to serve our country. Empathy is important because we must be able to take our understanding to a more profound level if we are to help keep the bonds of our relationships from fraying under the stresses of this chosen life. “Walk a mile in my shoes” takes on new meanings when those wearing them are carrying 60 lbs. of gear, or is flying into a war zone, or is on an aircraft carrier deployed to help keep the peace around the world.
When talking with your peeps, be they friends, family, or other connections about the things are important, make sure that your eyes, ears, and especially your hearts are all open. Practice your listening skills to learn a bit more about the wants and needs of others, and how those ideas and ideals fit into the world view you have constructed for yourself. You might be surprised by what you find.