"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Missed Joy

A package arrived yesterday, covered in footprints and a rainbow of hands, and for just a moment my heart sank thinking that one of his packages had not made it to him. But then I realized that he had sent us a package and I called Logan over to help open it. And there it was, Logan took it and we sat down and opened the cover.

"Twas the Night before Christmas, and all through the house..." C's voice came through the book as Logan turned the pages, pointing to the pictures and talking more and more.

"Santa!" he said, pointing to the rosy cheeks and snow-white beard. "Presents!" he screeched as he pointed to the over-filled sack.

C would have loved to have seen that. I couldn't stop thinking of how much he would have loved to hear him say, "Santa!"

This is the first year that Logan has any understanding of Christmas. He gets so very excited about the lights on the tree and on the houses and even on people's cars. He smiled as he sat in Santa's lap and told him how much he wanted a Buzz Lightyear for Christmas. He showed Santa his little brother and high-fived him as we left. He enjoys the Christmas Train in the mall and the music and the excitement. It is so wonderful to see.

And C is missing it.

This may be one of the hardest times for Military Families to be separated from their loved ones. During a time when it is so very important to be around family, we do not get to hold onto the one person closest to us, dearest to us. It is so very difficult.

I love that Logan is understanding Christmas in a way that he never has before. He wouldn't even open presents last year - he just watched everyone else. I love that he is excited and loving everything that is happening around him. I love how much he is loving this holiday. But I hate that C is not here to share in that with me. I want to take these moments and preserve each one so that he can experience it, so that he can know this time, so that he can feel the same happiness that it brings me. And it is so very frustrating that I cannot do that. It is so very frustrating that the first Christmas that his first son really recognizes, he will not know.

So this week is hard. Seeing the joy in my son's face always brings with it a tinge of sadness because C does not get to see it. I wish more than anything that I could bottle it all up for him, save it, hold onto it, so that he can see it. But we do not get to.

So I will smile for our boys, I will video whatever I can, I will hold them and laugh with them and treasure them with everything that exists within me.

I will laugh when Eli chews on a santa hat and smile my biggest smile when Logan jumps up and down when Santa brings him that massive Buzz Lightyear that I know he will love. I will continue through another day, giving the most of me to our children, because at the end of it, another day has past. At the end of this day, we will be one less day away from when he comes home to share in the joy. That day, will be an amazing day.

Merry Christmas to those so very near and to the many so very far away.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Sacrifice

"The gifts arrived today," his voice was excited but he was trying to make it not seem so. "We put them all under the tree - I'm not letting them open them until Christmas."

"That's mean," I told him, laughing because of how cute I thought that actually was. "How 'bout Christmas Eve?"

"No. Christmas." he said firmly. "Well, maybe. We'll see."

The high school where my sister teaches donated amazing gifts to C and his soldiers. I am so incredibly excited and amazed at how these kids pulled together for these guys. Anytime a person, an organization, a school comes forward asking to help our soldiers it gives the greatest joy. Not just because of what they give - anything would be appreciated - but simply because they are giving. It is the act of kindness - the recognition of the sacrifice - that brings with it such re-affirming hope that people do understand what is taking place.

I promised one of my dearest friends that I would take a small break from this blog. Our lives are fairly busy at the moment and she has fallen behind on reading. People approach her asking about it and she would not have read what they had yet. But right now I am breaking that promise, because something (and I won't say exactly what) has gotten me fired up. People need to get their heads screwed on a lil' bit tighter for a moment - and I think I need to help.

I watched a video on the internet where Brit's were interviewing Americans and they asked a few simple questions. I am not going to go into all of them because I could talk for hours but the main question that people couldn't seem to get was "When was 9/11?" And so many people couldn't get the year, but MANY people couldn't get the MONTH. Are you kidding me?! 9/11. What has happened to this country?

I have said repeatedly that this is not like the wars of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers. This is not the same world. The threat is different, the enemy is different, the strategy is different. But the understanding of our military is also different. The very idea of patriotism seems almost non-existent. The thought of sacrifice seems to be more shunned than honored by the majority of Americans. When did this happen? When did we become a nation that can't remember the most horrific day in most of our lives?

Our soldiers sacrifice - their families sacrifice. And to say that is not a shameful thing. It is a very true statement, it is an honorable living, it is a proud life. I have also said repeatedly that it seems to me that the media and many political figures speak of this war like it was forced on them. I recognize that they did not choose to enter into this war but they did choose to fight in it. They chose the sacrifice. By choosing to love a soldier, we also choose the sacrifice.

I do not think that anyone would disagree that we live in an incredibly selfish society. This must be why this whole concept of serving one's country must seem so "forced-on-them" by some people. This self-indulgent culture must be why so many people view this career as "unfortunate." The "Why would anyone choose this?" way of thinking.

Someone has to choose this. Someone has to be willing. Someone must see the same thing that those that came before him or her have seen. That this nation has been built on the blood. That every roadway, and building, and home has been built on the backs of those protected by the men and women who join arms and shield this nation from everything outside of it. And maybe that is the problem - we are too sheltered, too safe. We have known a "good life" for so long that we cannot understand what would happen without these soldiers.

What would happen if they all suddenly didn't "go into work"? If they all suddenly decided not to do their job? If they all suddenly decided that "someone else can do it"? What would happen to this nation?

We would lose it.

Not in a year, not in a month, not in a week. That day. This nation would crumble to its feet, this nation would lose it safety, this nation would lie in ruin that day.

Why is this sacrifice shameful? Why is this sacrifice unfortunate? Why is being selfless so difficult to respect?

These men and women will secure your today, your tonight, your tomorrow. And when I say secure, I mean literally protect your life - your natural obliviousness to the possibility of terror - because they will choose the sacrifice.

Not just because someone "has to" - but because "someone" should.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beyond the Vows

Oh where to begin with this. Questions and non-questions have been hitting me left and right about this and I have gone back and forth on whether or not to address it. There are many things that I have been asked that I haven't addressed for multiple reasons - I don't want to get political, I don't want to be divisive, I don't want to offend. That isn't what my purpose is with this blog. I want to bring people together. I want to strengthen fellow military wives, I want to allow seasoned wives to reminisce and offer their experiences, I want those who are not in this life to understand it. But when it comes to questions on commitment and fidelity I hesitate to address it because it seems like a no-brainer to me. But I have been asked it by soon-to-be wives, by good friends, and by not-so-close people so I know it is on so many people's minds. So again, this post will be very much my opinion. It will be the way I see it, the way my marriage works and the way my husband and I live our life. While I would like to hope that what I feel is what every military spouse feels, what every married couple feels, I know that that is simply not the case.

Divorce is a big issue in the military. Infidelity - by soldier and spouse - is a huge factor in that. That is the reality. Those are the facts. My husband and I have seen some horrendous, awful, nasty divorces over the last few years. He has had to work directly in the middle of them, attending court, dealing with finances, child custody, property battles - all while a soldier is deployed. And while it may be so easy for some to understand why this happens, to understand why a marriage becomes so irreparably broken, it stills breaks my heart to see this happen. And it may be because I am still very fresh in this but I know spouses who are nearing retirement with seven, eight, nine deployments under their belts who are still devoted to their soldiers and whose soldiers are still devoted to them. And I am not saying that they have not had times (and I know they have had times) when they have wanted to walk away, when it took everything in their heart to not throw their hands up and say "I am done." I know that they have had days, when they were packing up a house for the ninth time, or decorating the Christmas tree for the seventh year alone, or potty-training the third child without their spouse, or shoveling the two feet of snow in the driveway when they had to question why we do this.

It starts at the vows.

I take you to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

The words are simple, easy to say, quick from start to finish. But there is so much in those words - such incredible promise, commitment, finality. And I don't think people recognize the finality of it anymore. I believe in the vows. I believe in the words. I believe in the promise.

"I promise to be true to you." To my complete astonishment, this is what I think people find to be the most fascinating and unbelievable about what we do. I took my husband as my husband. I chose him - only him - to be with me in this life. When I took his hand in mine and placed a ring upon his finger, I did so knowing that he would be gone for years of our life together. That for half of the beginning of our marriage I would be without him. That does not give me a pass. That does not give me a pause on this promise. "In good times and bad." I am pretty sure you all can figure out what the "bad times" would be considered. Yes, those 365 days that he is not here every other year. Those would be the bad. And I will always be true - he is my heart, he is my life, he is my husband. I won't be with anyone else. Now narrow your eyes and pick your jaw up off the ground when you ask an Army Wife why she stays faithful. She stays faithful because she made a promise like any other spouse. The promise is the same - the sacrifice is great.

"In Sickness and in health." Lord, I pray that we only know health. For those who understand what is involved when we choose to love a soldier - the idea of "sickness" is different for us. My husband has said that one of his greatest fears is the loss of a limb. He has seen friends return without their legs, with parts of their bodies missing, with parts of them unrecognizable. I know that this, as a family, would be our greatest struggle, greatest challenge, greatest trial. My prayers are always with the families that endure this obstacle, this tragedy. There is little more inspiring than to hear a wounded warrior talk about his/her journey back - the recovery, the willingness to continue. I cannot imagine if that day were to ever come. I pray with everything in me that it never does and if that is not the plan - that our family will endure with strength and grace.

"I will love and honor you." I hope that in everything I do, everyday, I honor my husband. I hope to honor him as a soldier, as a father, as a friend, and as my partner. I am incredibly proud of who he is, what he chooses to do, how he chooses to live. That never ceases.

"All the days of my life." There it is - the finality. ALL the days. The days that he is home but isn't really home because he is training in the field, or working late at the office, or on TDY. The days that he is home beside me, holding our children, fixing the sink, grilling steaks, being present. The days when he is over six thousand miles away, without electricity (off and on), in below freezing temperatures, in the desert, missing his family. All the days.

I do not say any of this to say that this commitment is easy. There is nothing easy about choosing to love a soldier. The simplest tasks become harder, the most basic routine becomes twice as involved. I have to reaffirm my vows daily in this life because I did not just make them on that day years ago. I make them everyday as I re-choose him, as I re-choose this life.

Ofcourse there are so many parts of it I could do without. I could have not moved four times in a year (one move in my first trimester, one in my last). I could have not pushed up a wedding by four months to adhere to a rumored deployment date that didn't happen. I could have not had my son's second birthday with his daddy absent. Of course those things are difficult. Of course it is a battle to keep going. Of course I want my husband beside me.

But I chose him - in good times and bad.

Its in the vows.

I choose to love my soldier - for all the days of my life.

A Beautiful Poem written by a Hero

I did NOT write this. I just recently heard this and thought it was beautiful. If you have already heard it, it will most definitely not hurt to hear it again. I am attaching the words with the web address for an incredible recording by Father Ted Berndt and his daughter Ellen Stout.
Originally titled "Merry Christmas, My Friend" and written by Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt in 1987.

Remember our Soldiers during this most difficult time of separation.

A Soldier's Silent Night

Twas the night before christmas he lived all alone
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone
I had come down the chimney with presents to give
And to see just who in this home did live

I looked all about a strange sight I did see
No tinsel no presents not even a tree
No stocking by the mantle just boots filled with sand
On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands
With medals and badges awards of all kinds
A sober thought came through my mind

For this house was different it was dark and dreary
I found the home of a soldier once I could see clearly
The soldier lay sleeping silent alone
Curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home

The face was so gentle the room in such disorder
Not how I pictured a lone british soldier
Was this the hero of whom I'd just read
Curled up on a poncho the floor for a bed

I realized the families that I saw this night
Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight
Soon round the world the children would play
And grownups would celebrate a bright christmas day

They all enjoy freedom each month of the year
Because of the soldiers like the one lying here
I couldn't help wonder how many alone
On a cold christmas eve in a land far from home

The very thought brought a tear to my eye
I dropped to my knees and started to cry
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice
'Santa don't cry this life is my choice
I fight for freedom I don't ask for more
My life is my God, my country. my corps'

The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep
I couldn't control it I continued to weep

I kept watch for hours so silent and still
And we both sat and shivered from the cold nights chill
I didn't want to leave on that cold dark night
This guardian of honor so willing to fight

Then the soldier rolled over with a voice soft and pure
Whispered 'carry on santa its christmas day all is secure'
One look at my watch and I knew he was right
'Merry christmas my friend and to all a good night'


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Daddy's Song

My son - Logan - has been having a difficult time at night. He hates going to bed. Not because he doesn't want to go to bed but because he wants me to lay down next to him until he falls asleep. I was not understanding why he was suddenly doing this until last night and I couldn't help but cry for the smallest moment.

He pointed to the other pillow on his full-size bed. "Please, daddy," he said. He's been calling me daddy lately. C knows and he thinks it is funny. Mainly because Logan knows I am "Mommy" but I really think he just finds it to be funny how much it drives me nuts. He usually laughs when he is corrected, smiles, and says, "Momma."

"Sit, Daddy, Sit," he continued. He wanted me to lay beside him until he fell asleep again and I didn't want to fall into that habit.

"No, Boogah (my name for him), its time to go Night-Night," I said, brushing his hair with my hand.

"No, Daddy, No, No, No." The tears started flowing down his face.

"Mommy, baby. I'm Mommy," I reminded him.

"No Mommy ... Daddy!" A dagger ripped through the center of my chest. He wasn't calling me "Daddy." He was ASKING for Daddy.

Why hadn't I realized that. C laid down with Logan every night until he fell asleep for the last few weeks before he deployed. Something had happened to make Logan want that again and he was so horribly upset that he couldn't have it.

I breathed deeply and held his hand. "You want Daddy, don't you, baby?"

"Ye-e-e-a-ah," he stuttered as his chest heaved up and down. "Daddy, please?"

I laid down beside him and handed him his pillow with C's image on it and held him.

"Do you miss Daddy?" I asked while lying beside him.

"Yes," he answered as he kissed the pillow and held it close to him.

"He misses you very much too."

"Yeah," he said now touching my face. "Sing," he demanded softly - still with a broken voice.

"Daddy's song?" I asked knowing what his answer would be. He nodded, still with his tiny hand stroking my cheek. "I wish you freedom / I wish you peace / I wish you nights of stars / That beckon you to sleep ... " I began. And I laid there and waited until that little hand fell from my face and his breathing slowed and steadied.

Last night was a battle. So much of what we have to do involves being both mommy and daddy. We break ourselves into two trying to keep daddy present while still very much being mommy. And we cannot take their places. My son quite simply didn't want me last night. He wanted his best buddy and he became so frustrated that I was not understanding that.

Last night was a night to not be strict - to not worry that this would develop a habit. To not care that he might want this every night if I gave in this one night. And I will say for now that I will not do this again, because he is growing and this is such an important time to develop good habits and learn good lessons. But last night, for both of us, I needed to hold onto him while he was needing his daddy so very much. I needed to be there in that moment - as much for him as I did for me.

But the next night will be different. The next night I will sing him his song, kiss his forehead, and walk away. Even if he asks me not to, even if he asks for his daddy, even though the ache will rip through my heart again, because life will not stop. His time to learn will not wait until Daddy comes home. His time to grow and to develop cannot be paused. We will not get to go back and redo these moments just because we have to handle them without the other parent here to help. Life doesn't stop. It does not stop.

Tonight Logan is cuddled up to his pillow, hugging it tightly against his chest. He misses his daddy so very much. Every day I try to picture the first time he sees him again. I picture his face, his words, every move he will make. And the image I have created in my head brings the tears to the edge of my eyes every single time.

That day cannot come soon enough.

"I wish we were together / I wish I was home / I wish there were nights / Where I was never alone / I know I've said it / But I'll say it once again / I wish I could be there / But I can't"

The Daddy pillow I talked about is a "Daddy Doll" which I HIGHLY recommend to families with young children for a deployment. The website is https://www.hugahero.com/
My boys really do love theirs.

And the song I quoted is "Gavin's Song" by Marc Broussard. Logan calls it "Daddy's song."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


When a dear friend called me earlier in the morning, I answered immediately. It didn't matter that I had two jars of baby food in my hand and two recently awoken children ready to eat. She wouldn't call at that time to just talk - she would call because she needed to talk. In the shortest second my mind processed everything that could prompt the call and all of them circled around the death or injury of a soldier. Was it her soldier? A chill ran down my spine. Was it one of his men? Was it another commander? They had already lost one Company Commander. A day that hit so close to home for all of us.

It was not her soldier. It was not one soldier. It was six soldiers. They all belonged to her Battalion. They all were connected to her and her husband in some way. They all gave their lives protecting ours. My heart ached for her. This was not their first loss, not their second, not their third. This loss placed them in the double digits - just over three months into the deployment. This unit is worn to its bare emotions. They should be broken. They should be horribly weary. They should be so very tired.

And they are tired. They are broken right now. They are worn from the whirlwind of emotions involved in the unrelenting losses of these brave soldiers. They are fearful that there will be another loss. They are fearful that their soldiers will not return. They are fearful that this nightmare will not end.

And I am not going to talk about honor. Yes, there is the greatest honor for each of these soldiers. Their sacrifice will not go unremembered. There deaths will not be in vain. I have said so many times how much honor should be given to the fallen. And I still strongly believe that - but today the horrendous battle that exists within the minds of these families needs to be talked about.

On a day like today - when the pain from this loss has reignited the pain that had not yet healed from the last deaths - it is so hard to not just wallow in the despair. There is so much agony suffered by the Army community when a loss like this occurs - so much hurt burning in those closest to the fallen.

But I know one of these family leaders. I know her well and I know her spirit. I know her incredible tenacity and ability to comfort and support and empower those around her. The determination and strength within this unit will overcome the despair they currently feel. They will band together, as they have so many times already, and be strengthened by each other. They will mourn the fallen. They will comfort the families that have been left behind. They will hold onto each other and pray with and for each other and get through this day.

It is hard to see the end at a time such as now. It is hard to focus on anything but the next day and then the next. And as they focus on one day to the next to the next, the end will come. They will hug their soldiers with deepest gratitude that they get to hold them and feel them breathe and touch their faces. Not all days will be as this day. That day will come.

It will come.


Please keep the soldiers and families of the 1-61 Cav of the 4th Brigade - 101st Airborne Division in your daily prayers. I always ask for prayers for our troops - the prayers should never cease. But as you pray for our military men and women, please, in the next several days pray for comfort to blanket this unit, for strength to flow from their leaders, and for healing to enter into the hearts of those who mourn the fallen.

My prayers are with them.