Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Military Week::Tuesday - Can You Handle The Truth?

Today is the second installment of my military week posts (no pun intended), an attempt to bring those of you who don't have members of the military in your family the chance to glimpse into the lives of those who do. 

During the middle of my husband's deployment to Iraq last year, we had hit a rough patch.  We were talking on the computer via Skype in the middle of my night (his day, 8 hour time difference).  The computer had gone down for about the tenth time.  Keith had a horrible day at work and wanted to tell me about it.  My day had gone equally bad.  The kids were having issues.  The shower drain was acting up again.  You all know the kind of day - where you just want it to be over so you can start the next one?  Yeah, one of those days.  Except in the middle of my bad day turning into the next day, and a massive migraine coming on, all I could feel was this enormous ache.  My heart was literally aching for my husband to be next to me, with his arms around me, telling me it would all be better tomorrow.  Reality gave me stupid Skype, continually hanging up after 15 seconds of connection time.  Trust me, body pillows are about the lamest substitutes for husbands I've ever had.  Not to mention, the last t-shirt I had that he'd worn before he left home was losing its scent of Keith+Axe body spray.  At that moment, I would have sold a kidney for a plane ticket to Iraq.  I didn't even care what kind of danger was involved if it meant I could have my husband's arms around me.  We finally ended up getting about 8 minutes of talk time in a row that night.  Keith made me promise him something.  He made me promise him that I would never, ever let people forget how hard this was.  I don't think I've ever meant a promise more in my whole life.

My intention during this week is to raise your consciousness about the country in which you live, the place you take your freedoms for granted every day.  Don't get defensive folks, we all do it.  I'm guilty of it myself.  We all are.  We're supposed to be.  These are the luxuries that living in a free country provides us.  These freedoms we enjoy every day, and never think twice about are what our men and women have fought for since the dawn of time.  Freedoms that people don't think twice about taking advantage of, but the minute one of them is compromised, people tend to go a little berserk. 

Take yourself to your happy place.  Imagine your favorite things in life.  The stuff your dreams are made of, things that charge your battery, make you jump for joy, light up your day, give you a reason to get up in the morning, make life worth living. 

Going for long walks in the woods, taking your kids out for ice cream on hot summer nights, watching a high school football game underneath the lights on a Friday night, sharing a recipe with a neighbor over your back fence, sitting in the garden just to enjoy the color of blooming flowers.  Sitting around a campfire with your friends, sharing stories about the "good old days", enjoying the peace and solitude that comes from standing on the end of a dock with just a fishing pole and a tackle box, waking up early and smiling with the realization that it's Saturday and you get to sleep a little longer.  Walking into the house and knowing that Mom is cooking your favorite meal for supper, enjoying that meal surrounded by your entire family chatting away about their busy days, seeing the smile in your mother's heart that comes from having the whole family around the supper table together.
Ask yourself this my friends...
What if it was gone?

No more free speech.
Walking down the street alone is suicidal.
Women are traded for animals.
Little girls are sold to the highest bidder.
Football games don't exist.
Education is a luxury.
Worshipping God is a crime.

Only 2 defining forces have ever offered to die for you…

Jesus Christ and the American Soldier.

One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.

American soldiers go to work every day to ensure that this country remains free.  They want to make sure that you have the fine things in life.  They choose to be soldiers and go to war so your kids don't have to.  May God bless these men and women every single day.
Do you know a soldier?

Perhaps you have a neighbor whose son went to basic training after high school but you never asked too much about him after that.  Maybe there's a family at your church who had a daughter deploy to Afghanistan last year.  You didn't know the family too well, and surely didn't want to bring up any reminders of loneliness they may be feeling. So you just didn't ask.  Or maybe there are several folks in your town who are soldiers.  You see them in their uniforms every now and then.  You don't really follow politics, or maybe you have very opinionated viewpoints on the U.S. stance in the war.  So, you figure you just don't have anything in common with that individual.  Again, you just don't make conversation.  It's easier that way, right?

Of course, it's easier.  It requires nothing of you.

My husband and I participated in a marriage retreat weekend shortly after he returned from Iraq that the military requires married couples to attend.  The chaplain was amazing, as he always is.  He gave me a statistic that stuck with me to this day:

1% of Americans wear uniforms.  Of that 1%, 90% are married.

He proceeded to tell us that during the countless conferences, meetings, seminars he attends, he relays to military officials that the medals are being given to the wrong people.  It is his belief that the medals of courage, strength, valor and bravery given to the soldiers during wartime should instead (actually he said also) be given to the spouses of those soldiers who stay at home and take care of everything that remains.

Quite simply, I concur.

Keep the faith my friends, your nation's soldiers and their families depend on you for support.

Today's tips and terms:

Tip #1:  If you happen to see a Soldier while you're in a store, restaurant, public building or elsewhere in your daily life, there is something you can do for them.  If the timing is appropriate, make eye contact, approach them and offer a handshake and a genuine "thank you."  Every Soldier that I know did not join the ranks of military service for the glamorous lifestyle it provides (yes, this is a joke!) or public attention.  They would, however, like to know that they have your support and prayers.

Tip #2:  Please respect the American flag and raise your children to do the same.  The American flag symbolizes our country and the things our soldiers work so hard to fight for: strength, valor, vigilance, perseverance, justice and freedom.  During the National Anthem or the Star Spangled Banner - stand up.  If you don't want to recite or sing along, please be quiet while others are doing so.  I repeat, teach your children to do the same.  Talking during one of these national recitations is incredibly disrespectful.   Thank you.

Tip #3:  This tip is actually to dispel a myth.  There seems to be a misconception that military folks make lots of money.  The first time I heard this, I had food in my mouth and literally almost choked.  The second time I heard it through a military friend, I was still stunned.  The third time, I overheard a conversation between two women discussing how much money deployed soldiers make in a year.  My soldier was deployed at the time.  Their figure (even for a lifetime soldier) was about 400% inflated.  Trust me folks, no one is getting rich serving their country.  Due to the economy, my hubby was actually laid off from his civilian job for six months before he deployed.  He returned from Iraq with a shoulder injury.  That was one year ago and he hasn't been able to work since.  He's now a full-time student.  No job = no income.  We learn daily how God provides.  Thank you, dear Lord.

Don't forget to come back tomorrow for the release of the NEW PRODUCTS!  There will also be a fantastic giveaway you won't want to miss.


A Southwest Airlines Captain writes: My lead flight attendant came to me and said, "We have an H.R. on this flight."  (H.R. stands for human remains.)

"Are they military?" I asked.

“Yes”, she said.

“Is there an escort?” I asked.

“Yes, I already assigned him a seat”.

“Would you please tell him to come to the flight deck?  You can board him early," I said.

A short while later, a young army sergeant entered the flight deck. 

He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier.  

He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier. 

The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.

“My soldier is on his way back to Virginia,” he said.  He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words.

I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no. 

I told him that he had the toughest job in the military and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers.

The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand. 

He left the flight deck to find his seat. 

We completed our preflight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure. 

About 30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin.

“I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying is on board” she said. 

She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year-old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home.   

The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left. 

We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia.

The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear. 

He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival.

The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane.

I could hear the desperation in the flight attendant’s voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do.

“I'm on it” I said.  I told her that I would get back to her.

Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages. 

I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio.

There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher.

I was in direct contact with the dispatcher. 

I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted. 

He said he understood and that he would get back to me.

Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher. 

We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family. 

I sent a text message asking for an update. 

I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text: 

“Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you.
There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things.
Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft.
The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side.
A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family. 
The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp.
It is a private area for the family only. 
When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home. 
Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans.  Please pass our condolences on to the family.  Thanks.” 

I sent a message back telling flight control thanks for a good job. 

I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father. 

The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, “You have no idea how much this will mean to them.”

Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing. 

After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area. 

The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway. 

It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit. 

When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.

“There is a team in place to meet the aircraft”, we were told.

It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at  once and delay the family from  getting off the airplane.

As we approached our gate, I asked the copilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers. 

He did that and the ramp controller said, “Take your time.”

I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake.  I pushed the public address button and said, “Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking. I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement. 

We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect. 

His name is Private Mitchell Casey, a soldier who recently lost his life. 

Private Casey is under your feet in the cargo hold. 

Escorting him today is Army Sergeant Michaels. 

Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter. 

Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first.  Thank you.”

We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures. 

A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door.

I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see. 

I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.   

When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands. 

Moments later more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping. 

Words of “God Bless You”, “I'm Sorry”, “Thank You”, “Be Proud” and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane.

They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.

Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made. 

They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.

I respectfully ask that all of you reflect on this event and the sacrifices that millions of our men and women have made to ensure our freedom and safety in these 
United States of America.

All Gave Some.  Some Gave All.


  1. Thank you so much for Military Week! I was not with my husband during his Army time, and for years after I would have given anything to be a part of the group called Army wives. He talked about going into the Guard, but I believe he has missed his chance. So I have a snippet into the world through your blog though I can never truly know what your family goes through during deployment.

    My home is not perfect, grand, or even well insulated, but I am thankful for the cold walls, squeaky floors, and roof that needs re-shingled; for the single pane windows and the oil heating that costs an arm and a leg; and especially for the hot water tank. Though not perfect, they are precious luxuries in other countries. We lived without water for a time at a rental house while our landlord decided whether to hook us up to the city line or replace the well pump (I believe it was close to 6 weeks). Long story short, I appreciate running water more than you could ever know!

    Please tell your husband 'thank you' for his service. I'm often too shy or nervous to approach a soldier in public to pay my thanks. And thank you for the sacrifice you go through at home to be without your soldier while he protects our freedoms and those who so badly want a taste of freedom in their country.

    Nothing cuter than a man in uniform! What is it about camo?!?! :)

  2. Thank you Michelle - I truly appreciate your interest.
    I will certainly tell my hubby thanks from you, PLEASE tell your husband thank you from my family also. Remember, the next time you see a soldier in public, it's just a person like your hubby or mine underneath that camo. Think of me and I'll bet you have the strength to do it! (I'll be right there with you in spirit)

    My favorite thing to tell people (usually people I know well) about my husband's uniform is this: The only thing that looks better is when he's OUT of it!! =0

    If you like Army wivery, stay tuned, Thursday promises to bring you some entertainment of the Army wife kind.

    Blessings to you and your family Michelle,
    ~ Jenn