Unlike Memorial Day, which honors the sacrifice and the memory of all those who died in combat, Veterans Day is dedicated to the living – to all who have served or are now serving in the military.
Here’s a particularly moving tribute, published on the veteransunited.com website in its Veterans Day 2012 package:
“We are the silent ranks, the families of our active, reserve and guard members. It is our quiet privilege to stand alongside all those who serve, and knowing full well the risk, to raise our families to understand the calling that our loved ones have committed their lives to. We love you, we are grateful for your willing ransom, and we are proud to pay tribute to you on this day and every day.”
The quote is from “Navy spouse and military brat” Lori Volkman.
We can’t state it any better than Lori did, but we will offer this addendum: Great respect and tribute are also owed to the spouses and families of those who have served or who are now serving.
Some of it is obvious – those things resulting from the stress inherent to being part of a family with one or more members whose daily work often involves the highest degree of danger.
Other factors are more subtle and may not be so apparent to anyone who has not lived the military life – the long periods of separation, the disruption and loss of equilibrium that comes with a gypsy lifestyle governed by frequent reassignments and relocations, the difficulty of maintaining close relations with extended family.
For the spouse, there is the “single parent” status that is commonplace, especially in this era of ongoing, repeated deployments, plus the demands of training when the military member is not overseas.
For the children, there is the constant changing of schools, the leaving behind of one set of friends and the process of finding new ones, the absence of a home or a hometown in the sense that most civilian kids take for granted.
For the extended family, there is the challenge of “being there,” to provide support or to share in everyday events such as dance recitals, ball games or birthdays, by long distance.
And there is the hardship so familiar to so many in these times – economic struggle. Military families utilized nearly $100 million worth of food stamps in 2012.
It all takes a terrible toll. No segment of the American population is more affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, and the effects of that condition on relationships are apparent in rates of homicide, suicide, physical abuse, substance abuse, self-destruction behavior and other manifestations.
Those things make the headlines and tend to skew the reality.
The reality is that military families, like their service members, make tremendous sacrifices for the good of the nation. Just like most service members survive combat, most families successfully deal with the stress of their lives.
Those facts do not diminish the tragedy of the exceptions to those norms.
Here’s a recommendation that as we salute the members of our armed services, let’s also remember the ones who stand alongside those who now serve and those who served in years past.
Let’s keep all of them in our thoughts and prayers, not just on Nov. 11, but every day.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Lori Volkman writes the blog “Witty Little Secret – A Deployment Diary of Another Sort” on wordpress.com.