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Military heroes

By Jim Killebrew

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[March 08, 2014]  Without a doubt, our men and women in the military are owed our deep gratitude for their service to our country. They have voluntarily taken on the responsibility of service and sacrifice to our country that has sustained the freedoms all of us have come to love. They are all heroes and should be counted as such. In addition to those who are serving or have served in active duty in all branches of service, there is another group that deserves the title "hero." That group is the family of those who have served throughout the world, ensuring the continued presence of the American way of life.

Spouses: Mostly women, but many men have been and are married to a person in the military service. Home fires have been kept burning; life continues to move on, even when the military spouse is 10,000 miles away. Bills have to be paid, oftentimes with less than adequate funding available; all the challenges of running a household must continue without the help of the absent spouse; children must continue to be cared for, questions answered, nurtured almost as by a single parent, juggling the daily life of school attendance and all social activities. In many cases the spouse is also working to help "make ends meet" and has to manage without the immediate advice of the absent spouse, and certainly without the actual working alongside with the spouse when that person is stationed away from home. Perhaps the heaviest burden of all is living on a minute-by-minute basis each day with the constant realization that at any moment actual harm can befall their loving spouse in the pursuit of defending freedoms for all of us. That is a heavy burden that most people whose spouse is not in "harm's way" simply may not understand.

Children: A child whose parent is serving in the military, and particularly those who are away from home, have a very difficult time coping with the absence of the parent. The child is constantly reminded that the parent is away doing a job that is meant to provide safety for citizens of our country. The children, depending upon their age, share the dreaded "harm's way" burden, knowing there may be notification on any day at any time of an event that will change their lives forever. On a daily basis, many activities are completed without the presence of the absent parent: school activities, sports activities, church attendance, movies, meals, bedtime, vacations, homework, meeting friends, chores, eating out and just plain conversation.

Parents: Parents of any age have a profound sense of apprehension when their child serves in the military, especially during wartime and when the child is serving in a war zone. Of course there is a great sense of pride from those who know the immense responsibility and honor the child has in being part of a network of a "band of brothers" protecting the freedoms of American citizens. Even in the presence of that pride, however, there is a sense of loneliness that comes from knowing their in-law child and their grandchildren are suffering through their child's absence due to the job.

Siblings: Brothers and sisters of the person serving in the military are both proud and concerned at the same time. Sibling relationships can sometimes be shaky or solid, depending on the individual siblings. With most siblings, as adulthood arrives, as happens when they begin to reach the age of eligibility to join a military service, a bonding begins to form that sets aside childhood or adolescent rivalries and is replaced by acceptance of decisions, support for choices and respect of person. As with the other relations in the family, the sibling has that gnawing sense of anxiety of the unknown, especially if the sibling is in a war zone that creates an environment of harm's way.

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Grandparents: Grandparents have all the feelings expressed and felt by other family members, but generally they have one feeling and awareness that others may not have. With grandparents the likelihood exists that they have experienced both sides of the military in their lifetime. Likely the grandpa has been in the military, perhaps in a war zone that has put him in harm's way. The grandma remembers the hardships she faced during the World War II or Korea period with rationing, restrictions, limited resources in the family budget and the constant waiting for the war's end. Perhaps the grandparents were involved in the Vietnam War, which changed not only the political landscape of America but the civil discourse as well. They may well understand the turning tide of American sentiments toward the military when they grow war-weary. They have an empathy that feels the pain of a grandchild who makes sacrifices, only to return to a hostile neighborhood.

Ultimate sacrifice: Finally, those spouses, children, parents, siblings and grandparents who have answered that door with uniformed men standing on the porch, knowing what the message they carried contained, are counted as heroes of the heroes. As they stand at the door listening to the message of brothers in uniform delivering the untimely news from a "grateful nation" that regrets to inform the family of the loss, their minds soar to the darkness of grief while their hearts sink to the depths of loss.

When we get lost in our daily activities and live our lives without even a scintilla of notice of the freedoms we sometimes take for granted, we need to occasionally stop and remember those who have given their all so we can get lost in our thoughts and daily activities. We should also remember those who provided the ultimate sacrifice of defending those freedoms. But not only that: We should remember all those families who supported and surrounded their military person with love and a bit of anxiety, fear and trepidation by suffering all the "what-ifs" during the time they waited for the homecoming. We should remember their standing tall as they learned of the supreme sacrifice their loved one made to secure and maintain the peace and freedom of our wonderful country. In all respects, they have earned the right to be called heroes as well.

One more thing to remember, given the world climate, regarding the situations in the Middle East with Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with the issues in Ukraine and Russia, coupled with the tensions in North Korea, nations with organized political government structures: Is it a wise consideration for Chuck Hagel and President Obama to make plans to reduce the military down to pre-WWII levels of between 440,000 to 450,000? This does not even consider a worldwide effort on the part of terrorist organizations that have the Western world in their sniper sites, ready for destruction any way they can. In addition to the reduction, the plans also include reducing the salary of those who remain on active duty. Not only that, the plans also call for the closing of commissaries and exchanges where military personnel and dependents can buy groceries and other needs at a cost more affordable.

Do we really want to stand by and allow our military and their families to be gutted to levels sometimes below the poverty level, when they are on the front lines of protection and constantly give their service to protect our freedoms? Is it really necessary for the social welfare programs to continue unabated while the protectors of those very programs continue to provide the service of protection with perhaps one hand tied behind their backs? I think not!


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