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I have heard the statistic that less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has served on active duty. Coming from a family dominated by military service, I have to laugh to myself as I work to grasp what that statistic actually means. While less than 1 percent of the population has raised their right hand to defend our Constitution, I would argue that their loved ones also serve. I do not know a life without the military in it. I proudly call myself an Army "brat," and for the last eight years, I also include Army spouse in that description.
I have seen patriotism all my life, but really without any kind of frame of reference. A lack of appreciation for what patriotism really is existed on my part until recently. In marrying an infantryman and working with soldiers on a regular basis, his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have really put love of one's country into perspective for me.
Growing up, I remember dad always wearing his BDUs, putting that uniform on each day to go to work. I remember looking in awe at pictures of grandpa from his days in the Navy and getting to learn to surf from Duke Kahanamoku while stationed in Hawaii. After my brother finished at the Naval Academy, he took us on a tour of the amphibious assault ship he was assigned to, where I obliviously sat in the captain's chair at the chow table (apparently these are things we all should "just know" not to do). These are good memories, but are memories through the rosy-tinted perspective of a young girl.
Before my husband deployed in support of OIF and OEF, the reality of a loss of a friend or comrade did not exist for me. The challenges of balancing work, school, raising a child and home repair by myself did not exist for me before then. Despite those new challenges, I believe my military upbringing prepared me for them. My dedication to overcome and persevere far outweighed any inkling to quit because of my love for country, love for family and love for my soldier. Only that love and devotion to duty can help you view those challenges as opportunities. "Give me the understanding that I may know when duty calls him, he must go. … And Lord, when deployment is so long, please stay with me and keep me strong." A prayer with those motivational words is hung in multiple places of my home and office.
Three deployments later, I have repeatedly seen how military families pull together for support like no other. The love and devotion for their own soldier become the individual links of a chain which bind us all together for a lifetime. Home is where the military sends you; by virtue of this fact, these newly built relationships provide future opportunity for travel, work and new life in general.