My dad was in the Air Force right after college. He was out before I was born, so I do not fully understand what it means to be a military family. However, I have listened to the stories of my parents. My dad wanted to fly jets. Poor vision eventually prevented that from happening, but he has some great stories of the process before he was cut. He loves to fly, and if you ever get him talking about it he will light up like a Christmas tree. I have heard the story of him landing in a pasture to ask directions while on a solo training flight a million times. I love that story because I can picture my dad doing it. Lost in the air, trying to find the right direction, sees a gas station below, lands in a pasture, runs in and asks for directions, runs out and takes off again. Can you imagine the guy at the gas station? I laugh every time I think of it.
Another story was of how they were thrown in to intentional vertigo by their instructors…to see if they knew how to trust and rely on their instruments. It felt as if you were in a nose dive, only the instruments said you weren’t. You can hear the fear as he tells it in his suspenseful way. Dad says his hand was on the eject lever and he was seconds from pulling it when suddenly the vertigo cleared and he felt normal once again. You can still hear the relief when he gets to that part of the story. Then saying it was no problem when his buddies asked how his flight went. The funny stories are my favorite, and no one can make me cry tears with laughter like he can.
But not all the stories are funny. When they first married and were stationed in Texas, my mom tells of crying every day she was so homesick. I hear stories of the housing which was substandard in every way. The rude awakening that the condemned apartment units were actually military housing. The fold down bed, which blocked the oven door when it was down, because the place was that tiny. The story of the birth of my brother in a military hospital where the weekday shift left my mom in labor on Friday and came back on Monday to find not only was she still in labor, but nearly dead as well. It appears that no one on the weekend rotation noticed this. Another story about moving to Maine with a 3 month old in the dead of winter and believing for months they lived on a big hill, only to find once the snow melted the lot was as flat as a pancake.
All the stories of international friendships forged in daily hardship are told with smiles. Tears accompany the stories of career military friends lost in flight. It was a short part of my parent’s lives, but it was full. Now a long past memory, it can still bring a twinkle to the eyes when they rehash it. I was raised with a respect for those in the military because of those early years of my parents’ marriage. I may not have lived the stories myself, but I heard them enough to know it is not easy being military.
Veteran’s Day is a day set aside to thank those who once served our country. In recent years, it has morphed into a holiday of gratitude for anyone who did or is serving. I am okay with that change, because I think one day a year is not enough to show gratitude for my freedom. I believe it is always an appropriate response to the sacrifices military families make every day. I thank God for Veterans everyday. Today I tell them.
My dad is a Veteran.