As many of you head out to observe Veterans Day festivities, I’m taking some time to reflect.
I was born and raised on a military base. My hometown holds a special candlelight memorial for military loved ones every year. To this day, I find comfort living so close to the Air Force base where I was born.
I even find the flybys soothing. You can practically tell what time it is when you hear the thunderous roar overhead.
My entire family served one to two retirements in the military. I’ve seen firsthand what service and war can do to a person, to a family.
But sometimes when we celebrate, we forget the silent heroes our uniformed men and women leave at home to defend this country.
To the spouses: You’re not forgotten
We see you holding down the fort at home; tirelessly, constructively and alone.
The fact that your spouse doesn’t come home every day to enjoy a family meal or sleep in the same bed does not go unnoticed.
I know how deployments are bitter and will test even the strongest bonds. I know that with each deployment, our loved one comes home changed.
Be strong and courageous, because they will come home to us and we will remind them just how loved they are. And how we never forgot them when they were gone.
To the children: I see you too
I was you. I remember straining to see if I could see his face in the crowd during a concert or track meet. Keep looking. One day your mom or dad will be there again.
You are the bravest little people I’ve ever met. You keep it together so your non-military parent can. You stay strong because you fear the worst but don’t want to let your mom or dad see.
It’s OK to be sad, to be afraid, to miss them and wish they were home. My dad once reminded me that he would fight a thousand wars if it meant my siblings and I were safely tucked in our beds every night.
I know your deepest hurt is wondering if your deployed parent will know you, see how you’ve grown. They see us. Write them a letter in a journal, every day. At their homecoming, give it to them to read.
To the parents: Be proud
You’ve watched them grow up right before your eyes and make a hard decision to serve. Service isn’t part of every family’s legacy, but it is for you guys.
They will come back home, but they will be different. You didn’t lose them. One thing I’ve learned is the military holds family very near and dear.
I watched my grandparents mourn for the son they thought they lost, only to rejoice over the strength and bravery he showed upon arriving home.
Your child (or children) made the sacrifice for you too. They gave up Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas days so you could celebrate without fear. You raised them well.
To the military men and women: Thank you
Thank you for all your sacrifices. It’s hard missing birthdays, holidays and school events. We get that. But your sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed.
Thank you for defending our country so we can feel safer. We won’t forget that.
Thank you for loving us enough to remain at your posts, even when we are unlovable or ungrateful. We will try to remember your sacrifices better.
Thank you for your bravery to do what is necessary to keep the American dream alive for those of us at home. We can never truly repay you for that.
We will remember you and the legacy you leave. Thank you isn’t enough, but it’s a start.
We can honor military men and women at these 10 great places while we learn what Veterans Day is all about.
In remembrance of my grandfather, The Rev. Irvin S. Hamilton, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy LT-04, and my mother, Thelma D. Guttery, and father, William D. McClellan, U.S. Air Force. And the countless other family members and friends who have served and still serve.
Happy birthday, Marines. Semper Fi.