Be grateful, always.
Today's guest post is written by my wife, Lori.
Be grateful - always.
This is a post I had in my drafts folder for awhile. I sort of dreaded pushing the "button." And you will see why. The day has come.
It was about two years ago when I took the photo to the right. I took part in the "Thank A Soldier" project.
It was a nationwide online military support project. At that time you could send a photo and a song to be placed on their website. It was heartwarming, to say the least, to see all of the gratitude from every corner of our country. There was an incredible outpouring of love for our American soldiers, who serve so selflessly.
It was the beginning of a journey to be supportive and to accept my son's enlistment into the Army. He was just graduating from basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia and transferring to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
This was the birth of allowing my mind go to the place I dreaded, his deployment to a war zone.
Since then he has married his sweetheart and they are happily stationed at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, WA. That's a gift, I thought, as we could see them more being only two hours away. I wanted to be able to see them as much as possible before the "inevitable."
The "inevitable" has come, as our soldier, now a Specialist, deploys.
Motherhood is often a shared journey. It is one where we share from infancy the developmental growth. It is one where, as they reach puberty, you hold on as they step aside from innocence; where you try to loosen your grasp as they move away to college. As they marry, you step aside because you are now a mother-in-law. And he now has a wife.
But so many in the past months times I have questioned myself, "How do you let go of your son to go to war?"
But as much as we all support one another throughout motherhood, this now is a bit of an alone feeling. "Mama said there'll be days like this."
There are so very many people who don't know how to react. As much as I hate to say this, instead of attempting to say something supportive, they say something very stupid to a Mom of a soldier. I won't go into any detail.
But, you know, you're a Mom. You get up again. You stand tall. You stand proud. You stand strong -- and with all of the love your heart has to hold. This is another time when it may overflow, you think to yourself.
On the other hand, there are many support groups for Mom's of soldiers. Those women have reached from all corners of the country to lend immediate support.
You have many conversations with yourself (many in the middle of the night). How will I navigate the year he is gone? How will my daughter-in-law survive this? Will he always have his buddies by his side? How will I be able to be the best support for his wife? How often will I see him on Skype? When will I get his address? Let me figure out how many packages I can send.......
I remember when we sat at the kitchen table and he announced to me that he was enlisting. I was visibly shaken. He stood up, came over to me, hugged me, comforted me and said, "Mom, you have been supportive of everything the three of us kids have done. I know this is a hard one, but I want you to try to accept this because this is what I want."
I want to call my Mom, I thought. I know she is a good person to listen. No, she's gone. I want to tell my Dad. I know he would be so proud. No, he's gone.
So I gather myself and think.....our soldier is a very smart young man, with a very sensible head on his shoulders. He has been awaiting deployment so that he can put his job skills to use - finally. He is very excited about going.
I am a personal trainer. I liken it to training to be on a team but always warming the bench.
I love my job. It might be like training for a job for two years but never being able to use what you have learned.
Frustrating with a capital "F."
I have run mentally through that enlisting scenario so many times over the past two and a half years.
I have comfort, I think to myself.
I have thought of my brother's (a Vietnam vet) words, "Be grateful that you had him home for two years."
My good friend, whose father served in three wars, told me, "Keep making memories." And I do that every time I see him.
I have friends who have served recently who have said how well-trained the soldiers are now and what a smart war it is now. That really helps.
My chest swells when many people react with, "You must be so proud of him."
By all appearances, my son is taking all of this preparedness for deployment in stride.
I suppose I have come a long way since that moment at the kitchen table.
I am getting pretty good about explaining what he will be doing. I try my best to put a positive spin on all of it.
Above my computer sits the simple "Serenity Prayer." And, boy, is it the truth. It's something I have learned over and over throughout my 50's decade - "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change."
Now it's late Fall, my favorite season of the year. The holidays are on their way. And it sure does shed some new light on all of them.
Be grateful - always. Sometimes it is hard in the face of adversity.
Above a photo of our sweet son and his wife (taken when he graduated from Basic Training) sits another quote, "Look at hardship as opportunity, rather than obstacle."
I need those reminders.
The star atop the tree this year is for you, my shining star.
A note from George: Your comments are welcome here or at Lori's blog: