Sunday, August 25, 2013

Freedom Day USA 2013


I know, the picture is breaking the border, and usually that would bother me, but I've scaled it down more than I'd like. 

Think of the word "deploy"; what does it mean to you?  If you're a programmer, as many of my clients are or have been, it means something very different than what a soldier, military spouse, or military brat associates with the term.  I'm an Army brat.  My brother and I can identify with the child in the center picture, crying in his father's arms; and our father knows how the soldier on the far right feels as she's reunited with her child after a 12-month deployment.

We all know that our Troops make extreme sacrifices while in foreign lands, but what about the family members who are left at home?  They sacrifice more than we realize to ensure that everything is taken care of while their loved one is away, all while carrying the heavy burden of wondering and worrying about the safety of their soldier.  Here are their stories... (follow hyperlink to

This my experience:

The most deployments occurred when we were stationed in Baumholder, Germany.  I say "we" because, when one parent is in the military, the entire family is, as well.  Until we moved back state-side, half-way through my junior year (my family always PCSed on the downbeat!), I didn't appreciate how nice it was to have this in common with other brats.  It certainly wasn't nice that our parents were gone, but it was nice that we all understood how much it flat-out sucked.  It can also make one a little intolerant.  I once abruptly ended a conversation with a state-side friend as she was sniveling over her father leaving for a three-day business meeting.  Try three months, which is nice when you consider it isn't seven months, or a solid year.  Three months is nice when it's such a novelty to have both parents home.

When my classmates and I would discuss where we're from, I'd always say "Wisconsin".  I remember one of my classmates was very proud of being from Chicago, and I've often wonder if he's settled there.  It's more likely that he joined the military straight out of high school, as I also contemplated before being denied for a weak knee.  Many military brats join the military, for at least one enlistment, because it's all we really know.  Sure, college is on the horizon, but one step at a time.  We grow up under the motto, "Home is where the [branch of service] sends you!" and it feels weird to leave.  If we have the luxury of grandparents, I think many of us used their locations as "home".

As an adult, I feel a bit conflicted at times.  I had to re-evaluate this response my freshman year at UW-Green Bay.  I can still remember introducing myself to my orientation group and stuttering through where I was "from".  It took me a full semester to comfortably reply, "I grew up in the Army," and the implications slowly sunk in.  The place I had always considered "home" was finally a short 1.5 hour drive away, and I was in Wisconsin!  That should feel pretty good, and so it did, most of the time.

One morning, during my first semester, I woke up very disoriented.  No, this disorientation had nothing to do with my "new-found freedom".  I reached over to turn my alarm clock off, but my hand only hit empty air.  Groggily, I remembered that I was no longer in Baumholder, and turned the other way, only to stare at a wall.  Frustration helped me wake up, and I remembered that I wasn't in Olympia, either.  I was on the top bunk in my dorm room, and my roommate had already been up for a half hour.  We exchanged greetings as I scrambled to the foot of my bed, where my alarm clock rested on the top shelf of my massive university-issued desk.  As per her morning routine, my roommate then called her parents, who lived a couple hours south of us.  I felt miserable, but I couldn't call my parents; it was only 5am Pac Time.

I see a few uniformed personnel on a weekly basis, going hither and thither.
(Yes, I talk like that.)
I don't assume all of them are married, or that all of them have children, but I've seen PROUD ARMY WIFE and MY DAUGHTER IS IN THE U.S. AIR FORCE on local vehicles.  I know that these soldiers have families who care about them.  I know that some of these parents, spouses, and children are enduring the absence of their soldier, and some of them are very thankful to have them home.  This is a source of stress that I take for granted, but we don't need to endure it alone.  I invite any military card-holder to schedule an appoint with me for a free one-hour massage on September 12th.  There's very little I can do to affect the global state of affairs, but I can offer this much for our soldiers and loved ones who are giving their all to set things right.

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