The Military Family and the 4th of July
My children and I have lived the hard life of the military family.
I spent eleven years active duty military, four years in the reserves and five years as a military contractor overseas.
For all of you who don’t know, TDYs (temporary duty assignments), deployments for training purposes and real world emergency deployments are a way of life for every single military family.
These deployments and assignments require time away from home, family and friends.
Another assignment that can take the military member away from home is the short term assignment, which is usually one to two years in a remote location where military families aren’t authorized to be. In some cases, the families are allowed but are not funded by the military, so it can be a very difficult lifestyle to maintain financially. When I was in the Air Force, short term assignments were a mandatory and expected part of military life.
Fortunately for today’s military family, our world’s technology has advanced, and they do have a few communication advantages with cellphones and the internet to help them keep in contact with their loved ones back home. Back in the day, it was difficult and expensive to make phone calls to the U.S. The world wide web wasn’t in place yet and, let’s face it, writing letters was nice, but not the same as hearing your child’s voice or seeing her face. Although modern technology helps, make no mistake about it, there is no replacement for personal contact, your home or the time missed from watching your kids grow up.
Being away from home also causes hardships for marriages and relationships with your children. Depression is a major problem in the military, and the problem is compounded during assignments away from home. The problem isn’t just for the military members themselves, but also for their family members.
Children miss out on important bonding time and life lessons. Things as “little” as throwing a football or riding a bike sometimes have to wait for the military parent to return from assignment. Some military children develop abandonment, depression and self-esteem issues which continue throughout their lives. Please understand these issues aren’t limited to nor do they necessarily affect 100% of all military children, but I have watched those people close to me struggle with them.
Military spouses are also affected by time away. Rumors of infidelity, loneliness and guilt cause relationship strains that weaken the marital bond. As a result, the divorce rates in the military are extremely high.
When there is a war or the military member is deployed and placed in harm’s way, the threat of never seeing the family again is very real. The member knows this and the military family knows this, too. The stress they all feel is also very real. It forces kids to grow up faster and the grown-ups to develop stress related illnesses. On top of that, the barrage of media coverage rarely shows the bright side of anything happening overseas. When a mistake is made or a dangerous situation gets worse, you can bet the media will compound it, declare it as truth and force it on the world to see in HD.
These brave military families face uphill battles hand-in-hand with other military families. They pull together from all walks of life to form tight-knit communities with each other. These communities, in my opinion, serve as a shining example of how a real community should act.
I’ve only touched the surface of what a military family has to endure. There are so many more facets to the military lifestyle that a person can’t explain, but can only feel. This Fourth of July while you’re enjoying friends and your family time, take a minute to consider the sacrifices military families are making EVERYDAY for us to enjoy our freedom — EVERYDAY.
I would love to hear your thoughts on how we can thank the entire military family for their service. Let’s let them know we support them and look up to them.