Monday, February 14, 2011

Military Week::Monday - Rise & Shine!

Today marks the first day in a series of posts this week regarding a subject that is very dear to my heart. As many of you know, my husband Keith is a National Guard soldier. He joined the Army when he was 17. He actually turned 18 during basic training in Fort Dix, New Jersey, while doing push-ups in a mud puddle with a drill Sergeant screaming things that are not fit to print here. Needless to say, this was a far cry from his normal family birthday celebration on the farm with birthday cake. You're in the Army now, son.

Well, Keith survived the mud puddle, and the drill Sergeant (and many who came after him) to graduate from basic training, advanced training and move into being a paratrooper. That's right, my husband was one of those crazy people who jumped out of planes ON PURPOSE! His favorite thing to tell people when anyone asks if our age difference matters (7 years and no, it doesn't) is that he was jumping out of airplanes when I was still jumping off of school buses. Ha ha babe, you're a riot!

Keith served 6 years in the regular Army and saw some interesting parts of the country and really enjoyed Panama. He served as rear support for Grenada, honorably discharged, joined the ranks of civil service and got a regular job just like everyone else.

Fast forward to about 5 years ago. When my husband joined the National Guard in 2006, he wasn't even my husband yet. We were just friends and he didn't need to ask my opinion on whether he was making a good decision or not.  Regardless, there is no way I would ever ask him to consider my personal wants before the needs of our nation  Truth be told, being a soldier and doing "what's right" is who Keith is. Truth, justice and the American way are his mantra - no wonder superhero movies are his favorite. (He got me to go see Ironman by telling me it was a love story. He was right...)

In September 2008, Keith and I got married. The hardest part of getting married was knowing that in a few short months, my husband would be deploying to Iraq. One of my first roles as a new wife was to learn as much as I could about the Army - FAST! I think I did a pretty good job of that, attending FRG (Family Readiness Group) meetings and going to pre-deployment academies with thousands of other family members.  More on my support system during Keith's deployment later.  Keith was deployed to Iraq from February 2009 through February 2010.  Last week marked the one-year anniversary of his homecoming.  In some ways, that year sped right by like a freight train.  In other ways, there were days I thought would never end.  Being deployed to a combat zone in a foreign country during a war can change a person in ways I'm not sure I can explain, but I certainly will try to help you understand in order that you may truly appreciate what military families endure before, during, and after the deployment of a soldier. 

This week, I would like to share a little bit of what having a military life has been like for me over the last few years, in hopes that you will gain a greater appreciation for what military families go through during the deployment cycle.  If you are a military family, the experiences my family had may not mirror your experiences, but the intention of this week is education and information. I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have.

Today's tips and terms:

ACU's - Acronym: Army Combat Uniform, current combat uniform of today's Army (think desert or digital camo).

FRG - Acronym: Family Readiness Group. The FRG is a command sponsored organization of all assigned Soldiers (married and single), DA civilians, volunteers and their families (immediate and extended) that together provide mutual support and assistance and a network of communications among the family members, the chain of command, and community resources. While all of these individuals are automatically considered to be members of the FRG, participation is voluntary.

Skype - Skype is a method of making phone calls to anyone, anywhere in the world, using a microphone and an Internet connection.  Positive aspects include free or extremely low costs involved.  Negative aspects include spotty reception and often poor connections.  (More on this later...) 

For those of you who like STUFF, there will be a NEW PRODUCT released this week, as well as a giveaway. Trust me, this is good stuff! This is a totally new, totally original line, created in conjunction with Shirley of Wild Blueberry InkShirley is amazing.  I could seriously write an entire blog post about how wonderful I think Shirley is.  As my kids would say, she is "the bomb dot com."  When I approached Shirley to help me with the digital artwork for this new line, she rocked my socks off!  You will NOT be disappointed!  This week's blog posts are linked hand-in-hand to the new products that will be released.  The new items will be released Wednesday, as well as a giveaway - STAY TUNED!

The following poem was written by a gentleman named Michael Marks, as a way to express his thankfulness to soldiers.  It really hit home when I read it, so please honor soldiers everywhere by reading it also.  Thank you.

A Soldier's Christmas

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
my daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree, I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep
in perfect contentment, or so it would seem.
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eye when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
and I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
to the window that danced with a warm fire's light
then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night"

"Its my duty to stand at the front of the line,
that separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red white and blue... an American flag.

"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home,
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat,
I can carry the weight of killing another
or lay down my life with my sisters and brothers
who stand at the front against any and all,
to insure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone.
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
to know you remember we fought and we bled
is payment enough, and with that we will trust.
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.

See you tomorrow, everyone. 

No comments:

Post a Comment