Always Apart but Never Alone

Posted: November 28, 2013 in General
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Tomorrow I celebrate my 20th anniversary with my mistress, that evil bitch called Army.  When I woke this fine Thanksgiving morning 2013, I decided to add up how many of the turkey days I have missed with my family.  I barely missed it for my Basic Training, I shipped off the Monday after Thanksgiving with the bag full of stuff the recruiters said I needed to bring with me but the Drill Sergeants would not let us have when we got there.  Up until 2001, I was able to spend every Thanksgiving and the majority of every other holiday back home with the folks or once I was married with my wife and then my kids.  Since 2001, however, I have spent 9 Thanksgivings away to include this one (admittedly, this is the 1st of those 9 that I have spent in a Western country not concerned if some industrious shithead was going to get lucky with a mortar where we were gathering up to get our grub).  Since the birth of my daughter in 2005 (that is 8 years ago), I have missed 6 of them including this one.  Here is a list of the exotic locales that I have experienced the joy of Turkey over the last 12 years:

2001 – Serti, Nigeria

2002 – Asadabad, Afghanistan

2004 – Baghdad, Iraq

2005 – Al Anbar Province, Iraq

2006 – Kirkuk, Iraq

2007 – Balad/Baghdad, Iraq

2008 – Balad, Iraq

2011 – Konduz, Afghanistan

2013 – To be released at a later date

While I am probably in the upper level of days away from home since 2001, I am not even close to those at the top.  There are many more than I who have sacrificed more time away then I have.  Given all this time away and all that I have missed, it would be very easy for me to be bitter, disgruntled and to hold it against the Army.  It would also be understandable if my family to feel the same towards both the Army and towards me.  While I am sure that has been the case at times for them, they have never let it be shown to me while I have been gone.  I reconciled my feelings a long time ago; I chose my career as much as it has chosen me, it is simply what I was meant to do.  My family understands this and have supported me unwaveringly from the time they gained that understanding.

So what am I thankful for?

1.  I have been graced with a marriage to a phenomenal Army wife.  She should write a how-to book for any new or potentially new spouse to a military member.  Ups and down, good times, bad times, and a few times in which we questioned what we had gotten ourselves into, she has been there.  My wife has made me a better man and opened my eyes to things I would have never given a second glance to; as much time as we have spent away from each other I have never felt alone, even when our personal circumstances were not the best.

2. My children.  As they grow older and our boy gets towards the age at which he will leave the nest (or we will push him out :-)), they are always full of amazement for me.  They may fray our nerves, but they make me proud of the time I have sacrificed away from them.  It has not been done in vain; they are proud, independent and willing to stand up for those who cannot do so for themselves.  They understand sacrifice at a small level, a level I hope they will never have to experience more grievously.

3.  My son.  Despite his ability to try my patience and skills at securing emerging technology, he makes me proud.  In spite of all the things that all teens test their parents with his foundation is solid.  He understands that right is not always “right” and that you cannot always win a fight without taking a few licks as well.

4. My little Princess who calls me Daddy.  She will not always do so.  I have a feeling at some point she will not even like me, especially when she starts dating!  In the interim, despite all the time away, she calls me Daddy and I am her hero.  She has a spirit in her that is unstoppable and clings to me like Velcro when we are together.  I look forward to being with her after I retire, to see her grow into the fine young woman I know she will be.

5.  My parents.  They helped me get where I am and have what I have today, in spite of my best efforts to foil their good parenting.

6.  All those who have paid the ultimate price.  This is not just the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who have given the last full measure of their being, it is those they have left behind as well.  The survivors are owed our thanks, our thanks for allowing us to know those whom they loved.  We are family, bonded in loss and grief and our gratitude.

7.  Those who care enough for my brothers and sisters to help them overcome their scars.  The scars we can see and those we cannot.  Those who help us exercise the demons in us and provide comfort unconditionally.  You are heroes.

Happy Thanksgiving wherever you may be.

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