Welcome to the first of many military life columns. Whether it is among civilian friends or military colleagues, military life presents its own unique challenges and opportunities. Your neighbors, children’s friends and strangers in the grocery store all have been affected in different ways by the military. In our community especially, we live, work and play next to military families without realizing it.
November is the month of the military family, which is much more than the spouses and children of service members; it is the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and all the friends who support and stand up for military members throughout and beyond their time in the service.
As he does every year, President Barack Obama at the beginning of this month proclaimed November the month of the military family. You likely saw plenty of free meals and discounted services on Veterans Day, and many of those offers will continue throughout the month. However, it isn’t about free food or 20-percent-off coupons; it is about something much bigger.
These families — ours included — spend countless hours apart from their loved ones. This month — much like the other special months, such as the Month of Military Child — is about showing appreciation, saying thanks and supporting this unique element of our community as the holiday season draws near.
Military family members aren’t always as noticeable as the service member in uniform at the grocery store or on the playground. There isn’t a special uniform or badge we wear, but that doesn’t mean we don’t carry the burden of emotion. The stress of worrying about, praying for and thinking of a loved one who is deployed may not be apparent, but it’s there.
It takes the form of a harried mom shuttling little ones to after-school activities and later enjoying a sweet treat along with a few moments of silence at the end of the day. It takes the form of a couple of empty-nesters whose ears perk up anytime Afghanistan is mentioned.
It has been a tough year for us military families, and we don’t see much of an end in sight. From budget concerns to international issues, we never know what’s around the corner. There are deployments scheduled and families recovering from both visible and invisible wounds.
It doesn’t take much to show these families some appreciation. It’s as simple as saying, “thank you,” or dropping off a plate of cookies. Take a military mom’s kids for an afternoon at the park while she catches a break or spring for a babysitter and get together for lunch. Just giving a military family member hug or a handshake does wonders.
If you are part of a military family, accept messages of thanks. Accept this show of support and participate in the events and specials held in your honor. Our communities want to step up and be supportive, but without accepting and acknowledging that support, it will slowly fade away.
Hewlett, a military spouse and mom of one, lives with her family in Richmond Hill. She works with entrepreneurs and organizations to build businesses through strategy and communications. Find her on Twitter @paigehewlett.