Today is July 4. Independence Day. And I gave much thought to writing about freedom - freedom to make your own opportunity. Freedom to live life on your terms. But somehow everything I wrote sounded phony and contrived.
I turned on the television to watch some of the 4th of July festivities, hoping for a little inspiration. And I did find one that stirred me. It was a tribute to our service men and women. Throughout the day, that was a theme I heard repeated. That freedom isn't really free and that we need to express our appreciation to these heroes. But as I kept hearing that message, I started to remember my own service days. And I realized that I had not served so I could receive thanks and adulation. I served because I believed in my country and what it stood for. And I'm fairly certain that most of my fellow service men and women feel the same way. Sure, it's nice to be appreciated. But we all knew what we signed on for, All we wanted was the acknowledgement of a job well done, respect for ourselves and the country we served, and the ability to pick up our lives when we returned to civilian life.
As I sat thinking about this, a commentator on the program I was watching stated almost my same thoughts. And, he said, if anyone deserved praise and commendation, it wasn't necessarily the service member but instead the military spouse. I was surprised to hear that comment and I gave it some thought. After all, not only was once an active member of the Armed Forces, but I had also been a military spouse. I kept the household running when my husband was deployed. I wrote and called to encourage him while he was gone. And I welcomed him back when he returned. But he did much the same for me when it was the other way around. We both knew what we had signed on for when we married. We made the choice anyway. We didn't feel like we needed praise. Just some understanding and support when we needed it. And respect - for us, for our spouse, and for our country.
But then it came to me. There was a group of people who deserved all the admiration, appreciation, and praise we could give them. They had not signed up for the military life willingly. And yet they served every day. I am talking about the children of military families.
And so, to my daughters, I want to pay a long overdue tribute. Your mom was not always able to make it to field trips and concerts. But you made sure Dad recorded them so I would not miss seeing you perform or hearing you sing. Thank you.
For all of the holidays you celebrated with babysitters, nannies, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and neighbors because mom had duty that day - thank you.
For the many times you were uprooted from a school, a neighborhood, a city, a country where you had just settled in and made friends and a life - thank you.
For the many nights you lay awake missing your parents, wondering when they would come home, if they would come home - thank you.
For the hugs, kisses, cards, poems, pictures, stories and the many other countless ways you tried to cheer me up when I was lonely, or tired, or worried - thank you.
For all of the best friends, confidants, first loves, and companions you made, only to leave them behind with the next transfer - thank you.
When you were born, you signed on to a lifestyle that can often be challenging and sometimes even heartrending. You weren't asked if you were ready. You were not given the chance to say no. And yet you went. From base to base, duty station to duty station, from one town to another, country after country. You learned to speak a smattering of many languages. You learned new customs and tried new foods. You made countless new friends around the world. You became part of whatever community you were in. And although there were moments when you were frustrated and even angry, most of the time you went with a smile, willing to face whatever new adventure was coming your way.
The television shows were right. Freedom isn't free. My daughters paid a price. They served - right beside their father and mother. And they did it with pride, enthusiasm and grace. Thank you girls. We couldn't have done it without you.