family on field with dad veteran holding hands

“Mom I don’t remember what Daddy looks like.” Those were the words from a 3-year-old at the three-month mark into a six-month deployment.

A school calls home asking for a parent to come to school to pick up a middle schooler who is inconsolable. The other parent left on a deployment last night.

A service member comes home on Friday afternoon with the news their unit will be flying out on Monday morning at 2 AM and not sure when they will be coming home.

“The deployment is moved up by three months, I have two-weeks to get everything ready. I need help moving out of my apartment, putting everything in storage. We are working around the clock at the unit getting ready to embark on the ship and I have no time to deal with all this stuff.”

The above are glimpses into the lives of military families. “Thank you for your service” is an appreciated and welcomed gesture of appreciation for service members. However, just as in the above scenarios, the families left behind, bear incredible sacrifices.

On Veterans Day thank the family members for their service. Try an interesting experiment and ask the spouses, children, and parents of service members about their “time in service.” You may be amazed at the stories.

How would you handle moving yourself and two children under 5 from your current residence to a new one 1500 miles away to a new duty station? By the way you have two cars and do not know anyone.

The typical military family will move every 3 years with occasional moves after just one year because of orders to school or training. That makes for creating a new group of friends, children going to new schools, and spouses disrupting a career.

To create stability, some families choose to allow the service members to go to the 1-year school unaccompanied. Making the service member a “geographic bachelor.” That may allow a high schooler to graduate from high school or spouse to stay on their career path. Staying put in the current environment or moving for only one year both have sacrifices.

Here is an interesting exercise I use with folks to help them understand the challenges of being a military family member. Put yourself in the shoes of a spouse at any point of your life when your spouse could have served, typically ages 19-42. Think of your career status and age of your children and assess the following:

Your spouse leaves for a scheduled six-month deployment leaving on 15 Oct and coming home 15 April. Prior to deployment there is an approximately three-month training cycle with small deployments, long hours, and specialized training to get the unit ready for deployment. That makes 15 July the date for seeing an increased operational tempo.

On 15 October the unit departs. Think of the buildup of emotions and activity leading to the day the unit departs. Now think of and write a list of all the events; family, school, sports related, and professional that happened during the period you chose from 15 October to 15 April.

  • Holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Family celebrations: birthdays, weddings, showers, engagements, or religious events
  • Children’s events: theater, sports seasons, music concerts, parent-teacher conferences
  • Add any special events specific to your family such as grandparents’ birthdays

Those are the big events. Now consider the daily interactions that are missed. In a week what are all things you do as a family. What would it feel like if you did all of those by yourself.

Families of veterans are true heroes.

This Veterans Day, thank a family member for their service.