A Military Members Perspective: Am I Thankful for my Service?

This past week we ‘celebrated’ Veterans Day. You were probably bombarded with Veterans Day ads and your social media accounts exploded thanking veterans near and far for their service to their country. It’s fitting that we thank Veterans the same month as Thanksgiving, the ultimate day of thanks and the one-day a year where we focus on the all the things we are thankful for.

When we thank our veterans, we are thankful for all the things they have done for our country. We are thankful for their sacrifices. We are thankful for their commitment to protecting us. We are thankful that the work they have done has offered us the freedoms that we have—freedoms to be a Christian; to get married by choice; for women to go to school or drive. All of these freedoms and so much more that we often take for granted.

In my 5 years of service, I have been thanked countless times, and each time I respond with a “thank you for your support”. This last time I was thanked, something different happened... I started to wonder if I, myself, was actually thankful for my service.  Over the last few years, I have started to dream of the day I would leave the military behind and all of the sacrifices that it has required of me.

If I was so excited to leave everything behind, did that mean I was not thankful for my service? That was the question that haunted me.

Looking back over my years of service, I can clearly point out all of the sacrifices I have made...From entering active duty and not being able to comfort my husband as he unexpectedly lost his grandmother to missing my brother's college graduation, or significant funerals and births...There is so much I have missed.

family separation deployments military

The hardest part for me has probably been the sacrifice of not being able to truly manage my life or schedule. Mission needs dictate where we live. For the last 3 years, “the mission” took us 3,700 miles away from our family and friends. In those 3 years, it has separated me, my husband, and my daughter  for 5 TDY’s and 2 deployments in a span of 2.5 years. And while this may seem insane, it is the norm. That is the sacrifice that we have taken willingly and mostly without complaint.

My situation is not unique. Talk to any military member, veteran or their family, and they can easily tell you all the important moments they have missed. I, thankfully, can’t miss the birth of my child, but many of my male counterparts have. I recognize that these sacrifices aren’t comparable to the ultimate sacrifice of the many who have never made it home, but these sacrifices are still sacrifices. Things, moments, times you can never get back.

So I look back at my service to my country, and I see all of these little sacrifices. I see all of the ways I’ve missed out on something, and I wonder, am I thankful for all of those sacrifices? Am I thankful that this is the calling the Lord has chosen for me?

Upon reflection, I have to be thankful for the opportunity to make those sacrifices. I have to be thankful for all of those moments because each and every sacrifice has made me into the wife, mother, and friend that I am today. It is through those moments that I have seen myself grow. It is through those moments that I have seen myself capable of handling whatever it is that life has thrown my way.

I am thankful for my service because it led me to live in England. Being so far from my family has made me appreciate the little bit of time I do have with them. It has made me appreciate the three weeks that my mom and dad came to visit to meet their first newborn granddaughter. It reminds me how precious our time is and to make it worthwhile.

Even with my most recent deployment, I find myself thankful for the opportunity I was given. God called me to be strong and courageous and leave my little family behind. I missed so much during that half year and it was a constant reminder when we would video chat during the week. From a distance, I saw her grow stronger and stronger, running all over the house.  I saw her consistently reach for the phone screen, thinking she could touch me and being disappointed that there was something blocking her way. And upon my return, I saw as she was hesitant to come to me, not knowing if I was really there. The child I returned to was not the baby I left and again, it was a reminder that I had just missed so much. Yet, I am thankful for what has come from the opportunity.

As much as it hurt, I am grateful for that time because I now know that my daughter is resilient.  I know that she will survive regardless if I am there or not. And I know God used those moments to strengthen me and mold me and use them as testimonies so that the next momma who has to leave her child behind can be encouraged as well.

I am incredibly thankful for my sacrifices. I believe God chose me for this journey and He has used each and every opportunity to grow me and my family and our walk with Him. The spiritual fruit of those sacrifices have made it worthwhile and it's a great reminder, especially this week as we celebrated Veterans Day.

Lastly, I am thankful because there are brothers and sisters in arms who cannot be thankful.