Don’t Forget Those Who Serve & Their Families

For 25+ years I’ve been married to a man who has been attached to the Silent Service in some manner or another. No it’s not alphabet soup agency it’s the submarine service. When we started our marriage it was the Cold War and he was an Ensign now it’s the War on Terror and he’s a Captain. I’ve always been the same rank – a Navy wife.

Lafayette class submarine SSBN 629 underway on surface photographed from air.

USS Daniel Boone, SSBN 629 Mike’s boat as an Ensign. Photo from the US Navy used under US Government Work copyright exemption

I get what this service man is saying, “Flavin says for those who are on active duty, it can be tough to turn around and see people across the United States simply living their regular lives.”

Yeah it’s always been hard. It’s been hard to watch the big reception for ships but never being able to tell anyone when my husband was coming home from being submerged for about 3 months with no communication.

Yeah it was hard to endure Hurricane Hugo and the clean up without even a phone call or email from Mike of encouragement. Insurance for home repair, waiting for permission to return home to see if I had a home left, getting the debris from my yard and returning mementos found to their owners all without my husband. My husband somewhere under the Atlantic having last heard “Charleston destroyed” wondering if I survived.

Our engagement announcement photo

Ensign Michael Eklund and Mary Louise Bright Eklund photo by my parents used with permission.

Yeah it was hard every time I have to do something that involved joint ownership to be hassled about the power of attorney and be looked at suspiciously when I explained no he wasn’t ill no there wasn’t a phone number where he could be contacted. I always wanted to say “NO I didn’t kill him so it would only take my signature to renew the tags.”

Yeah it was hard to watch life flow on normal around you. Crowds with no idea there were people putting their lives on the line so it could happen. I wanted nothing more than a thanks. Really, not talking to my husband for 6 months a year while he protected the nation would have been so much easier if a few people not tied to the Navy or our family had simply said “thank-you.”

When I would lament the lack of people appreciating the sacrifices of those on active duty Mike would shake his head and say it’s his job then he’d quote Churchill “Men sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” He’d remind me that no where in that commitment does it say a thanks is required or the people should even notice those men (and today women) standing ready. He’s right but dammit I wanted a thanks for him, for me.

I’ve been the wife cooking dinner while a haggard man came home from working his civilian job and spent the evening calling men in his unit to war zones. Both of us sat down to dinners with no appetites knowing the homes that had just been turned upside down from those calls. We knew too well we’d gotten the call and would get it again. Still we choked down dinner for our son. As the posters said in WWII London we had to “carry on.”

Group of singing school children some crying.  Aaron in center in blue shirt with American Flag prominently displayed on it

Glenwood Elementary in Oak Ridge Tennessee’s 1st 9-11 remembrance ceremony. Aaron is in the center there with blue shirt with American flag on it.

I’m the Mom who stoically told her son after 9/11 that his father had a duty that took him away from us. I also told my 3rd grader that day that his father’s generation wouldn’t see the end of this war while on active duty that he and his generation would fight it too. In the past year I’ve been among those that said good-bye to my son’s friends as they went to that war. If fate hadn’t blinded Aaron in one eye – he’d be going with them. Thank goodness that black dress for funerals has stayed in the closet.

Yeah it was hard when Mike got the call back to active duty, again. Thankfully for us wars aren’t fought by old men like Mike. They are fought by young men like our son Aaron and his friends. I always regretted being right all those year ago. Mike spent most of his active duty in Tampa in the war room doing what salty old Cold War sailors do, advise. He did go into the war zone a few times. Now I was angry not for us, honestly that time had passed, but for all the young men and women whose lives changed or were lost while back home the biggest news was a pop star shaved her head and went crazy or the lines for the latest video game.

My men today

Mike and Aaron

Yeah I get what the young serviceman is saying. I’ve lived it for 25 years. So what do we want from those of you untouched by war be it the Cold War or the War on Terror. Think, stop and think about why you sleep peacefully in your bed, why your major concern can be standing in line for the next big video game, how it is you can live your life untouched while we’ve been in a war for years? Then chill out, so the foam on your coffee isn’t perfect there are rough men and women who’d just like a hot brewed cup of coffee right now.

I know times are financially tough and if you can’t donate to help the USO or Wounded Warrior project or some other worthy charity that supports our service men and women. There are ways that only take your time – support a family who has a member over seas. Maybe shovel the snow or mow the lawn so a harried single parent due to the other being in service doesn’t have to worry about that. Maybe find a book drive to send those books you’ve already read over to those serving. If nothing at all at least tell a spouse of a service member thanks – while you’re doing that tell ’em thanks for me too. Then maybe just maybe give them a hug when the tears come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s