As the holiday season approaches, I find myself thinking more and more about the families pulled apart by military service. It goes without saying that those who serve our country are giving years of their life that cannot ever be reclaimed.
What we so often don’t think about is that this becomes a generational sacrifice for the family of those who serve. One day recently I had the chance to talk with a man on this very subject.
Veterans Day was being observed, and I made the comment to him that veterans and those presently serving far too often do not get the commendation they deserve. It was his response that made me realize that it goes way beyond my simple-headed ramblings.
Bob was a little boy when his father, a physician, was called to serve his country in World War II. At age 6, Bob really had no concept of where his father had gone, nor did he realize that leaving at that time meant “for the duration” which had to have been a dreadful realization for Bob’s young mother.
As the years rolled by, one of the greatest things that happened for Bob is a neighbor man became his father-figure, inviting Bob to help with various chores on his farm. The kind man took Bob under his wing, teaching him all sorts of practical skills along the way.
The little boy was always eager to help, and chores meant everything from field work to wood chopping to fixing implements. Because their farm land adjoined, Bob was able to walk to help the neighbor and walk back home when the chores were done.
“You know, I have no idea if he paid me. It didn’t matter. Today, we would be so concerned about all sorts of things, like how much is this kid going to get paid, and what if he gets hurt, and are we sure he’s not working too hard?” Bob commented with a sigh. “The world was so different then, and by that I mean different for the better.”
Bob had grown from a little boy to an adolescent by the time his father returned from the war. I can only imagine what a positive reaction Bob’s father must have had as he became reacquainted with his son who had grown in all sorts of ways while his father was away.
I met a little girl not long ago who is living with her grandparents, as both her mother and her father are serving in the U.S. military. It offers a glimpse of a world so different from the one in which I grew up, sheltered by two parents, innocent and unassuming.
And, far different from Bob’s experience, little Brittany told me that she speaks to her parents quite often via Skype, so they are fully aware of what is going on in her life, and they remain active in decision-making regarding her daily activities.
The wonder of modern technology, though, makes me wistful for what will never be; there will be no boxes of letters to be discovered someday, a medium which has chronicled long separation during a war for some families. But, regardless, families are still pulled apart and many sacrifices are made.
Grandparents are often pulled in to the role that Bob’s kind neighbor man played, and we can only pray that they are up to the task. The daily worry and strain is unfathomable. Sadly, some things never change.
Too often the biggest sacrifice of all is made, as proven by the American Widow Project which reaches out to unite families of the nearly 5,000 fallen soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a group that nobody wants to be part of, yet many have found solace there.
Veterans, as well as their families, deserve our respect and gratitude. (For more information, go to www.AmericanWidowProject.org.)