Military Ties

Today one of my children is moving to Korea as part of a military assignment. This means that I have children in Colorado, Alaska, the Netherlands, DC, and Korea. For most people it is hard to understand being flung to every end of the earth. While we do not have phone calls every day and it is sometimes easy to let a few weeks go by, it in no way negates the closeness we share. It is in knowing that our time together is limited that we are united. Growing up, my children only had each other and Phil and I. Since I stayed at home so many years and we moved so often, my children grew up as friends. I love that they still lean on each other and that I have to find out from a brother or sister what is going on sometimes, but I think that is one of the many positive outcomes from growing up as a military brat. While I wish I could plan a normal family vacation with all of us, the reality is that it may be 2016 before we are all together again. That is a long time away, yet when we do get together it is as if we never left.

I think that my grief journey was harder in some ways for me, and perhaps easier for them because we did not have one another to lean on. We all grieved individually and have found our way back together in a patched up version of what we once were. Something –or rather, someone is missing. He will always be missing, but the memories and ties are unbreakable. Perhaps it was better that we did not live close to one another because none of us could stay stuck and dependent. I think I might have because it took me awhile to find my footing and to recognize that all five of my children and I were grieving in unique ways and on a personal timeline. Indeed, adaptability and flexibility are some of the strongest coping strategies military children develop because of the life in which they have no say so in. My journey was and is simply my own. Not all of my children understood or even supported the public nature of my grief, but this isn’t a right versus wrong way to grieve. I own my journey. My journey has brought me to a much greater appreciation of my life and for the unique nature of my family. I have my children who love me without reservation and they have me that has loved them the same way since before birth. I also have my military brothers and sisters who are my family. Like my children who do not call or visit daily, my military family lives all over the world. Traumatic loss has brought us closer and we understand a journey that few understand. Traumatic grief brought us together even though we live all over the world and we are all different ages and ranks. Like my children, we have all grieved differently, but now the friendships are forged in fire tested iron. No matter where we are, or how much time has elapsed between seeing one another, our ties exceed the normal friendships or family connections.

The military family is perhaps the most adaptable, flexible, and resilient unit I know.  We can move with very little notice and we readily accept newcomers into our community recognizing that we all share the same loyalty, passion, and commitment to our country and to the nomadic lifestyle of our choice to serve.  In the military family, faces echo one another as people move in and out of our lives, and as we move in and out of others.  What the world fails to see is that the invisible goassamer ties forge us together for life.   As I yearn for a family get together and laughter, I am thankful for moments we have and the memories we share. I am the proud mom who recognizes that the strength of our parenting and that the grace of God has given my children wings to fly, success, and a strong commitment to God and country. Godspeed and stay safe. Be happy and call when you can. It is all I can ask of my children and of my military brothers and sisters.

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