*I have interviewed multiple people including veterans, current enlisted members, and their families. Due to privacy I will not name any of them, but I will use their quotes.*
We are lucky enough to live in a country that so many dream of. We don't live in a war zone. We have pretty much every freedom you could ask for. We continue to be blessed with this life because of the military. As Independence Day comes up, celebrate our freedoms and be sure to thank a soldier.
I was raised in a very military supportive family. Along with multiple cousins and uncles, my own father was in the military. Just a few days ago he told me "I'll always be thankful for the navy showing me the way." The military is what led him to his career as a police officer. He has openly said that at 18 he was not thinking of how enlisting would affect his future children, he just wanted to get out of town. Fast-forward about 30 years and here I am reaping the benefits by having financial aid while in college.
There's more to the military than just wars and bombs. The military has some of the best research facilities and projects in our country. USUHS produces some of the best surgeons. SAMMC has been ranked among the top hospitals for surgical care. Besides excelling in the fields of medicine and research, the military consistently produces top-notch lawyers, pilots, engineers and many other highly respected professionals.
I have friends and family that live all over due to being in the military. The idea of being able to move across the world seems so fun, right? Not when you don't have a choice. Military families can be uprooted at any time. It is difficult to have a career as a civilian when your spouse's career requires you to move frequently. The frequent relocations can be hard on children as well. Being the new kid at school every few years and saying goodbye to good friends is difficult as a child.
"Having to adjust to him being gone and having to grow up so fast at such a young age to help our mother with things. There was no time for tears, sadness or worries, you had to keep going no matter what."
Moms and dads spend months away from their children. Husbands and wives don't see their spouses. Thirty years ago, facetime didn't exist. My dad said he would call home maybe once a month because it was so expensive. Anytime I want to contact my friends overseas now I just shoot a text. With technology, it makes the distance a little easier, but it's still not the same. When you go home today, think about how blessed you are to see your family and hug them extra tight.
Being away from home in general is hard. Not only do you miss your family, but there really is no place like home (especially Texas.) There are other difficulties the men and women in the military face, which civilians often do not see. The men and women are held to similar standards. You are not given special treatment based on gender or size. Many enlisted members claim that there is a clear division between officers and enlisted members which makes daily life challenging. There is an obvious social barrier between the two.
Though being in the military is hard, there are also many rewarding benefits to being in the military. Many people love the opportunity to travel. The military can give you so many career opportunities and allows you to make lifelong connections. Almost everyone I spoke with mentioned that the stability and benefits (insurance, financial aid, etc.) are very rewarding. Being a military family allows you to meet other families and people that are experiencing the same things you are. As an adult looking back, most are thankful of their experience in the military and how it impacted their life.
An interesting thing I noticed when conducting interviews was that not one veteran or enlisted member boasted about their service, but every child, parent and spouse said that they were honored to be a military family.
"The pride of being a military spouse is not like anything else."
Everyone enlists for different reasons. The most common ones I've been told were to leave home, to have better opportunities, it's a family tradition and just to serve our country. Whatever the reasoning is, it is a very honorable thing to do. While not everyone is on the front line, everyone that enlists is giving up part of their life to serve our country. I will always respect that.
The last question I asked people was, "Would you encourage your child to enlist (not force them)?" and everyone said yes.
I have friends that were military brats, some that are current military spouses and even some that are currently enlisted. And I'm sure you know at least one person that falls somewhere in there. No matter their role in the military system, military life gets hard. They all need our support.
Please do not ever say things like "we don't need the military" or derogatory comments like "he's just a jarhead" to me. The military is the reason you have the freedom to sit during the national anthem and be disrespectful. To those that snidely say "well they didn't have to go into the military," no they didn't. But they chose to. I would love to not have to think of the possibility of my best friend never coming home again, but him being in the military makes me respect him even more. Just because you didn't choose to join the military, doesn't mean you should disrespect those who do.
Appreciate the safety and freedoms you have. They can be taken away in an instant. Appreciate the people who protect those freedoms. Care for those that come back wounded. Remember those who have fallen. Support the troops.