If you ask my husband about his time in Iraq, he’ll be extremely modest about it. He’ll say “I’ve only been deployed once,” or “I was lucky enough to be on the base most of the time,” or “Well, I’m not even in the military anymore.”
These statements are true to him, and probably to others who have served in the military as well. But most of us are likely thinking to ourselves “ONLY once?” or “LUCKY enough?” or “not ANYMORE?”
What my husband won’t mention, when asked about his time in the United States Marine Corps, is that during his “only” deployment I gave birth to our first child, a baby boy. He won’t tell you that our son’s birth was on page 10 of the New York Daily News the following day because ten years ago, people couldn’t easily FaceTime major life events, especially to deployed service members overseas, and so it was kind of a big deal. Thanks to the organization Freedom Calls, we were lucky enough to be part of a rare broadcast which enabled my husband to witness the live birth of our first child, via cesarean section, from a U.S. military base in a foreign, war-torn country.
He won’t tell you that he missed almost my entire pregnancy, along with the first three months of our son’s life, to serve his country. He won’t tell you he wasn’t there to hold my hand through the scariest and most excruciating moments of childbirth; or that he missed the iconic trip home from the hospital, or baby’s first checkup, first onesie, first feeding, first diaper change, first nap. Nor will he reveal that he missed my baby shower, my doctors’ appointments, decorating the nursery, putting together baby furniture, and so many ups and downs associated with a first pregnancy – because he was fighting for his country.
His modesty isn’t because he lacks pride. He’s enormously proud of himself. And of course, he should be. His modesty is due to the fact that there of thousands of families out there just like ours, with mothers who gave birth alone while a spouse was deployed. There are children out there who haven’t seen their parent in months, sometimes years. Missed holidays and birthdays and graduations and milestone after milestone – this is simply a part of life for military families.
So this Veteran’s Day, lets support the men and women who are sacrificing these precious moments with their families to keep us safe every day. Let’s go above and beyond to express how much we appreciate those sacrifices, and show they aren’t taken for granted here at home. As a family, you can write letters to service members to brighten their day; attend a Veteran’s Day parade or event nearby; send a care package to someone serving overseas; or simply thank a veteran in person.
Let’s support the military spouses and families. Being the wife or husband of a service member can be incredibly difficult. They play the role of both parents for very long periods of time, with little to no help, all while unsure where their spouse is and if he or she is okay. And for children who don’t fully understand why Daddy or Mommy is gone for so long, well, it might just be the hardest on them of all. If you know of anyone in this situation, offer to help with babysitting or housework, or just be there during rough times. Having a deployed family member can be one of the loneliest feelings in the world, so do your part as a friend or family member to show they aren’t alone.
Let’s support the less fortunate. With the help of a VA loan, my husband and I were able to purchase our first home not long ago. But there are many veterans who are not as blessed. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there were an estimated 40,000 veterans experiencing homelessness nationwide last year. If you know of a homeless veteran or wish to help end veteran homelessness, go to va.gov/homeless for ways to get involved.
Let’s honor the fallen. For families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, every day is Veteran’s Day. Every day is Memorial Day. Every day is a constant reminder their loved one is no longer with them. Let’s honor and remember those courageous men and women, not just on designated holidays, but all the time and every day. They will never be forgotten.
And when we gather around the table later this month for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, let’s remember to give thanks to our country’s heroic military men and women, many of whom won’t be enjoying that day with their families.
This Veterans Day, thank as many vets as you can. They might be a little modest about it, but show your gratitude anyway. They deserve it.
By Jeannine Cintron, a Staten Island mom of two who is beyond grateful to the brave military men and women who serve their country.
Do your part to thank a Vet! Here are some good ways to show your support.
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