When I was scheduled for November 11th this month I immediately knew this wouldn’t be a typical post for me. This day has far too much significance to just write about my experiences as a mom. This day is day that needs to be celebrated and respected because if it weren’t for the people we are honoring today….our lives as we know them would be very very different.
November 11….Veteran’s Day. Veteran’s day evolved from Armistice Day in 1954 to honor not only those veterans of World War I but ALL veterans that have served our country. On this day we recognize the men and women who have sacrificed more than anyone should be expected to protect our freedoms and our lives.
I am sure you all have seen the black and white images from many years ago when the troops would come home to ticker tape parades and life stood still as they were celebrated and appreciated for their service. As years have gone by I often feel we have lost that enthusiasm to welcome and support our troops. It has always made me kind of sad that we as a country are so busy going selfishly about our lives or have gotten so wrapped up in partisan politics that we forget freedom isn’t free. Our freedom, our legacy, and the greatness that is The UNITED States of America wouldn’t be possible without the sacrifices of all the generations of veterans throughout the years.
I had been brainstorming ideas on what to post on this special day for several days. As with all things in life everything happens for a reason. A dear friend had flown in last week and while we were in route to an appointment she received a call from her son back home in Oklahoma. It went something like this:
“Hi Drake what’s new?”
“Mom are you sure you want to know what’s new?”
Immediately the tone in her voice had changed and I knew what was coming next. Her son had just received his orders. They had been waiting for this information months and it just so happened that when the news came in she was sitting right next to me. I didn’t know what to say or where to look. My heart breaking for her. I can’t imagine the feeling a mother has in this moment….and for Kendra it was doubled. She wasn’t facing it with just one son, as if that isn’t hard enough….Drake and his twin brother Dylan were both enrolling into the Air Force…reporting to boot camp November 25th…TWO days before Thanksgiving
My heart literally sank for her. She had been preparing for this day. As all mothers she was supportive and encouraging to them. But here was the day they had been waiting for and now they would be missing two of the most celebrated holidays of the year and her reality was sinking in.
But you see….these are the exact sacrifices our incredible service men and women and their families make every single day. How often do we sit back and really reflect on that? In my opinion….not nearly enough.
I am in awe of the strength of not only those who serve, but also their families. Their spouses, their children, their parents. So today in honor of Veteran’s Day I want to share in their words the stories of three amazing mothers who are experiencing first-hand the sacrifices that come with military service, but also the intense, instinctual pride a mother feels for her child.
I’m in tears as I write this just thinking about how much I’m going to miss my sweet boys. Just the unknown of where they will be in the future. Their safety. Not being able to just pick up the phone and call them.
I always assumed my kids would graduate high school and go to college. We don’t come from a military family so when my son, Dylan started considering the military I experienced a little denial. I kept thinking it was a phase that would pass but the more serious he got the more I saw how he was passionate about serving his country and what a perfect fit it was for him. The boy that liked adventure, loved to fish, hunt, hike, be outdoors and loved to live life on the edge.
As I started to accept the fact he was going, Dylan’s twin brother, Drake threw a wrench in my new world. He didn’t know what he wanted to major in so, why not follow in his brothers footsteps! “WHAT!?!!” Okay Lord, this twist isn’t funny! One of my sons leaving was hard enough.
Drake was college bound…my little business man. He had been in DECA in high school and had taken business classes at the technology center during his junior and senior year. I did what any mom would do. I tried to talk him out of it. I didn’t understand why he had chosen this route too. I told him if he was concerned about paying for college and that was the only reason he was going then we would find another way to pay for college.
I remember the fear I had before they signed on the dotted line. “I can’t get you out of this if you change your mind. You are committed for six years and there is nothing I can do to change that if you don’t like it!!” I told them. Just like all moms I wanted to protect my babies. But my babies were now 19 and this was their decision. So here they are preparing to leave for boot camp in just a couple short weeks. I finally realized Drake had that same passion to serve his country as well. He wanted to go. So I let go the best I could. I have learned to trust God in every area of my life and NOW it was time to completely release my twins back to Him and under his protection. I am trusting the Lord with all my heart and leaning not on my own weak understanding. I am proud beyond what words can express of my sons and I am now one proud AIR FORCE MOM!
When my son Cory graduated from high school he had a scholarship to play college football. We were so proud of him and so excited to watch him fulfill his dream! When we dropped him off at college and let him there, I cried like a baby. He stayed in college for a year but soon realized it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. He seemed to be lost. Then one day he called and asked me where the recruiters office was and since my husband and I were both in the Air Force, I assumed he meant that one. So I looked up the address and gave it to him. That night he came home and said he needed to talk to us. We all sat down and he informed us that he joined the United States Marine Corp! I was shocked. I said “I sent you to the Air Force recruiter?” And he said “I know but they were right next to each other so I chose the one on the right!”
Fast forward five months and on April 1st (Easter Sunday), 2013 we drove down to Des Moines with him as he was leaving for boot camp on April 2nd. I was so nervous on that Monday. My stomach was in knots. When he swore in, I can’t even put into words the amount of pride I had for him. Then it was time to leave him again. I got to the car and cried like I’ve never cried before. But I was crying not just sad tears but also happy tears because I felt like he finally had found his calling. Over the next twelve weeks we got letters from him that described the things he was doing and going through. When we finally got a phone call in June that was the first time I heard his voice in over two months! We went to his boot camp graduation at he end of June and what an awesome experience! It was then we found out that Cory was meritoriously promoted while in boot camp for leadership. We were so proud!
We have seen him three times over the last year and a half and while I miss him like crazy, I have never been so proud. Cory is currently stationed in Hawaii and he is truly loving it. He works on the electronic parts of helicopters everyday and he really enjoys it. There are days where I get very nervous thinking about him being deployed (especially in the crazy world we live in) but I know he is doing what he loves and he’s happy.
This spring Brady came to us about his desire to enlist in the Army National Guard for six years. This was unexpected and I had mixed emotions. He had never indicated that he was even the slightest bit interested in joining the military. I nearly cried at the thought – fearing the worst. He seemed so excited and determined to make it happen. I had not seen that kind of passion and self-motivation in Brady since his senior football season. It was obvious that it was much more than a means to pay for college. He wanted to become part of the military to serve his country. I was overcome with pride for him having this amount of courage.
I have a brother and two nephews that are currently in the military, so I am well aware of the sacrifices soldiers and their families make. Was I really willing to allow MY son to put ME through that to serve our country? My mothering radar kicked into overdrive and I immediately questioned how well he had thought this life-changing commitment through, though deep down I knew that this was God’s plan for Brady. He thrives with structure and he is in need of developing more self-discipline. I could not allow my selfishness to hinder his decision to enlist and I needed to support him 100%! I cannot speak for Brady, but I am hopeful that he was unaware of my initial reservations and he felt supported in his decision.
I said I was well aware of the sacrifices soldiers and their family’s experience, but I soon realized that I really wasn’t. It is completely different when the soldier is your own son and you are dropping him off to leave for Army Basic Training, not knowing when will be the next time you will hear from him. My heart was overwhelmed with pride and anxiety. Probably shock too because it became real at that moment, but I was determined to be strong to send Brady off.
Our next “conversation” with Brady was the next morning when we received the 30 second phone call at 4:30 a.m., letting us know he had arrived and would no longer have access to his phone or be able to communicate with us for at least the next seven days. The confident young man we dropped off at the Army National Guard headquarters less than twenty-four hours ago and the nervous voice of the young man on the phone could not be the same person, could it? I wished I could erase the phone call from my memory. All my positive parental support was depleted in that 30 second phone call and I just wanted my baby back!
Two upbeat letters and two additional phone calls later, I am back to being a proud supportive mamma! I intend to stay positive throughout this journey with my son’s transformation into a United States Soldier. His transformation will surely be a blessing to many and though it seems to be an emotional roller-coaster for us thus far, it has truly been a blessing to me as I have been forced to relinquish control, putting my trust in God – where it should be, treasuring each opportunity to connect with Brady so much more than ever before. I realize now just how much I took our freedom to communicate for granted.
As a mom I can’t help but get goosebumps and tears when I read the words of these strong, incredible women. I don’t know how they did it….the mere thought of being in their shoes takes my breath away. I can’t begin to imagine the pit in their stomach when they said good-bye, or the emptiness in their heart when they can’t reach out to communicate with their child. THESE are the sacrifices our service heroes and their families make EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Without a doubt their sons are heroes…but these ladies, these moms, are also heroes in my book. Kendra, Kelly, and Traci….THANK YOU.
I think it’s time we all step up and appreciate, honor, and thank those who make the life we live possible. I hope each of you reading this are inspired to do something for a veteran, active military, or their families not just today, but regularly. They have already done so much for us.
Want to do something but don’t know where to begin? Here are some ideas to get you started….
Simple Random Acts of Kindness…
-Pay for the meal of service people in uniform
-Take home cooked meals to the family of someone with a spouse/parent deployed
-Offer to baby-sit for a family with a parent deployed
-Send thank you cards or care packages to those serving…get your kids involved and make it a family activity
-Make posters and take your kids to welcome home a future honor flight arrival.
-Send a donation to one of the worthy organizations listed below:
Wounded Warrior Project
The wounded Warrior project was founded in 2002. According to their site, their mission is “to honor and empower Wounded Warriors.” Their purpose is to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members.
Jason’s Box was founded in 2009 here in the Quad Cities by Teri Johnson in honor of her son who gave his life in service. They provide made-to-order care packages for deployed troops.
Honor Flight of the Quad Cities
This local chapter of the Honor Flight Network ( www.honorflight.org/ ) was formed in the Quad Cities in 2008. The purpose of HFQC is to fly America’s veterans to Washington D.C so they can visit and experience the memorials that are dedicate to their sacrifices and built to honor them. This program operates on donations from organizations and individuals.
There are countless ways to show your appreciation to our active and retired military and I encourage you to choose a couple from the list and do them on a regular basis. But I am sure if you ask any one of our nation’s incredible heroes they would tell you a genuine and gracious “Thank YOU for your service” would go a long, long way.
So THANK YOU…Brady, Cory, Drake, and Dylan. Your brave, self-less decision is making this country a safer place for the special boys in my life. We are forever indebted to you for your commitment to serve our country, protect our families, and allow us to live with all the freedoms we enjoy daily. With the most sincere appreciation, THANK YOU. We are so grateful to you and the rest of our active military and veterans for all you do.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them”
– John F. Kennedy