Almost 29 years ago, I brought two beautiful mirror image identical twin boys into this world. They were 32 weeks premature and only weighted five pounds each. At the time, my husband was an Active Duty Marine, and we were stationed in Albany, GA. A long way from home for this little CA girl.
I sat there in GA and wondered how much further from home the Marine Corps could send us and still keep us in the United States. Then my husband got orders. We were going to Twentynine Palms, CA, a mere 3 hour drive from Momma and Daddy. Daddy was terminally ill,and I knew I wanted my 3 boys (I have a son 3 1/2 years older than my twins ) to have a chance to get to know their grandpa.
With the military, nothing is carved in stone until it happens. A month before our move my husband came home and told me we weren’t going to Twentynine Palms. We were going to Hawaii, still in the United States, but 3,000 miles the other side of home. I was heartbroken.
I cried when I had to tell my parents. It turned out okay. Hawaii was part of my brother’s business territory so my boys got to see their Uncle Bum (yes, Uncle Bum, and my niece calls me Aunt Brat) four times a years when he came to Hawaii on business. My parents managed to come visit us once a year. I also managed to get home each summer for a few weeks to see the family.
After a three year tour in Hawaii, we finally got orders to Twentynine Palms, AGAIN, and this time they stuck. The boys and I and my pregnant belly came home early so I could spend some time with my parents and give the boys time to spend with Grandpa.
When I told Daddy I was pregnant, he immediately began referring to the baby as “she” something he’d never done with any of the other 5 grandchildren (all boys). They were always “it”. Daddy knew I was finally having the little girl we’d all wanted. He lived long enough to meet her, and passed away when she was 5 weeks old.
My own son, Tommie, one of my twins, is in the United States Air Force. This is July 2012 and he is preparing for deployment #7. He was home for Thanksgiving last year. It was the first Thanksgiving in 9 years that all 4 of my children were home together. It was also my precious grandson’s first Thanksgiving. It was the first time in 19 very long months that I saw my son, as he is now stationed in England.
This will be his second deployment from England. He’ll be gone 6 months. Even though he’ll be back in February, expenses will prohibit him from attending his own twin brother’s wedding in April. Being deployed he’s missed countless birthdays, family gatherings, celebrations and funerals.
He was unable to attend his grandmother’s wedding because he was in Iraq. The Rabbi was great. He allowed me to keep my cell phone on “in case Tommie called” during the ceremony.
He missed his baby sister’s wedding. Leave was denied because he was within the deployment window where he couldn’t leave the country. With my beloved Daddy dying when Tommie was only 5 1/2, my uncle became a surrogate grandfather to my children. Tommie missed his funeral because he was deployed. When Tommie’s Godmother died, he couldn’t get leave to come say his last farewell to his beloved Aunt Lanie.
When your child joins the military, so do you. You make sacrifices along with your child. It’s part of the life they choose to lead. I’ve been a military wife for 35 years now. I’ve been a military mom for almost 11 years. They are two entirely different ball games. I knew what I was doing when I married my Marine.
When I gave birth to a helpless 5 pound baby, I had no intention of sending him to war once, let alone 7 times. He has seen and done things that only happen in my nightmares. His dad is a Vietnam Vet, so the two of them can talk about what they’ve seen and done in a way that they can’t talk to anyone else including my daughter in law and me. Do I like the decisions my adult son has made? Not always, but I accept and respect them.
I have four young adult children, and I am equally proud of all of them, but I must admit there is a piece of my heart reserved for Tommie that the other three can’t touch. I know each time Tommie goes to work, he’s laying his life on the line for our freedom. When he enlisted, he signed a check, made out to the United States of America in the amount of and up to and including his life if need be.
Serving our country runs in my son’s blood. His dad is a retired Marine, who is a Vietnam Vet. His uncle, my brother in law, was also a Marine, a veteran of both Vietnam and Korea in whose memory my son is named. My aunt and uncle both proudly served our country in World War II. My Grandfather (Tommie has his middle name ) served in World War I. It was inevitable that at least one of my children would serve our nation. I fully expect to one day be the grandmother of a United States Service Member.