My husband was in the Army for 22 years. I like to tell people that I was “in” for 18 years of his 22. Many people look at me with confused eyes, wondering if I too donned BDUs (battle dress uniforms) and ate MREs (meals ready to eat). I was never an official soldier in the military, but I claim my service and my children’s service to our country.
My initiation into the U.S. Army began with our wedding, which had to be rescheduled due to Saddam Hussein’s threat to Saudi Arabia. We planned the entire wedding in two weeks, yet despite the lack of formal invitation (there was no time for such frivolities), we celebrated with 200 friends. As our pastor so aptly worded our invitation from the Sunday pulpit, “Mike Lee is sitting on a duffle bag waiting to deploy to the Middle East. You are all invited to the wedding Friday night at 8:00.”
Despite the hour and date, they came. Cheerleaders from the middle school where I taught, soldiers from Mike’s batallion, church friends, and family. They all came to cheer us on! The night was beautiful—a true celebration with a lot of laughter and applause. It was actually six months later before he deployed, but that is another story (and another explanation of how the military works.)
Looking back 22 years later, I do wonder, “What was I thinking?”
Why did I so desperately want to marry a man before he flew off to fight a war? What had changed my heart from being determined never to date a soldier - much less marry one—to marrying one despite the scary situation?
Love had changed my heart and mind and perhaps had blinded me against all rationale. And it would be love that would carry us through those difficult years of training, deployment, and raising small children with Daddy so often away.
I think one of the hardest things about being married to a soldier was trying to understand (or at least surrender to the fact) that he wanted to go to war rather than stay home with his new bride. But I had to realize that this was something soldiers trained for—this was why they joined the military—to protect our country. Our freedom.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a PWOC International conference. PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) is an international ministry for military spouses of all branches of service. About 1,400 women came together in Nashville from all corners of the world to worship together, strengthen one another, and renew bonds with friends from former duty stations.
I sat with many women who were battle-weary. Years of service to their country had taken a toll on their families. Yet the weary weren’t alone. They had friends who shared their faith and prayed with them, encouraged them, and renewed their spirits to carry on.
As you reflect this week on our veterans and what they sacrificed for our country, please remember the families who are giving their last measures of devotion too. Pray for them.
And if you know any military families or single soldiers, please tell them thank you—maybe even invite them for Thanksgiving. Your support means so much.