Let Freedom Ring – Reflections on Freedom this Independence Day

Let Freedom Ring
One of my favorite views in my neighborhood.

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom. – Bob Dylan

I look forward to walking my puppy in the evenings. It’s a nice way to decompress after a long day and enjoy the beauty of the seasons. Especially in the summer.

One of my favorite views is of an older church in our neighborhood. The well-kept building and its grounds are beautiful and peaceful. It reminds me of the iconic, Americana view of a sunset, steeple and lush trees.

Continue reading “Let Freedom Ring – Reflections on Freedom this Independence Day”

A Day in the Life of a Military Wife

wpid-IMG_20130703_162453_780.jpg

“Behind every strong soldier, there is an even stronger woman who stands behind him, supports him, and loves him with all her heart.” – Unknown

Last night, two days out from Independence Day, I was cursing the firecrackers that some ignorant individual was setting off just moments before midnight.

I stayed up too late, and I was getting tired, and also becoming a little cranky. As the firecrackers echoed with an incredibly loud bang, I consoled my poor dog, who, most days, is the essence of male bravado. Since his adoption into our family while my husband served in Iraq, our  rescued mutt has taken the role of protecting his family very seriously. But he is not a fan of firecrackers.

Of course, the lighting of mortars and explosion of lights across the night sky on the Fourth of July is an All-American tradition, along with the parades, barbeques and retail sales. I love this holiday, and I love seeing the showing of the red, white and blue from what people wear, to decorations in homes and in their businesses. I love seeing the flag on display and the feeling of unity among neighbors and strangers.

It always makes me more proud of our service members and first-responders – many who will not have the opportunity to celebrate this day of independence, because they are keeping our nation and neighborhoods safe.

I woke up groggy, and typical of my morning routine, I sipped some super-strong coffee as I read my email, and then jumped over to Facebook. Of course, most moderators in the social media world were asking the same question: What are you doing for the Fourth? And most responses were typical: Having a cookout with family; seeing the fireworks; traveling to the beach.

One comment from a military spouse felt like a punch to my gut. In essence, she said, “Nothing. Fireworks remind my husband of the mortars when he was in Iraq, so we don’t do them any more.”

Looking at the clock, I logged off Facebook and got ready for the day. But her words hit me, and with each loud sound I have heard today, I was reminded by what she said. The sheer irony has laid on my heart all day. This soldier, who bravely fought for freedom and independence, suffers from the noise of the celebration of independence. This military spouse will spend her evening caring for her soldier, because she knows he needs her.

It is true that the service members have tough jobs and many times are in imminent danger. But military spouses have a very tough job, too.

We manage the home and the family on our own. Most of us have experienced more than one “deployment disaster,” such as a pipe bursting or all appliances conking out at once, or, in my case, a skunk spraying the entire exterior of the house. We deal with payday screw-ups and sketchy information. Most of us are blessed when our service member returns healthy and whole. But there are many spouses who become a care-giver for a host of injuries, health, or mental health issues.

Military spouses don’t wear a uniform. We don’t stand out in a crowd, unless we are next to our uniformed service member. We celebrate holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries alone, trying to keep the days normal for the family. We attend weddings and funerals and dance recitals and school plays solo, but when appropriate, we are taking video and photos to share across the miles. We Google videos on how to tie our son’s ties for senior pictures. We pay the bills and handle the work of two. We stop what we are doing to look at our phones, and will answer any text or call from our spouse at any time – day or night. We worry – though we know we shouldn’t. We pray and send care packages and create countdown calendars. This is what it’s like – a day in the life of a military wife.

Last week, I attended a conference in Chicago, and afterward enjoyed an afternoon at Navy Pier. I was surprised to see a USO there, and I took the opportunity to share this great service with my 15-year-old daughter. Inside the USO, I explained to her that this respite service is manned by volunteers. Anywhere there is a USO, her dad and brother can stop in for a rest, a cup of coffee, or to check email. Most of the time, you’ll find a USO in an airport. And, as a military dependent, she can use a USO as well.

As we left, I thanked the volunteers, and threw a donation into the jar. One of the volunteers said, “Thank you for your service.” I replied, “No, I am not a service member. Just a military spouse.”

“Like I said, thank you for your service. You serve, because he serves.”

I will admit that I teared up. I thanked him, and was truly appreciative. Yes, I do serve. All  military spouses serve.

So, to the military spouses out there who are holding their service member’s hand a little tighter during the noise of the Fourth, thank you. For all the spouses out there, who won’t be celebrating together as a family, thank you. For those of you who are together between deployments – thank you. Enjoy that precious time together.

Thank you for serving.

How will you celebrate the Fourth of July holiday?

© 2013 – Lynne Cobb

Reflections on July 4th

I skipped our neighboring town’s Fourth of July parade this morning. It isn’t quite the same since my children are older and aren’t real concerned about collecting the candy loot along the parade route. Instead, I enjoyed the quiet of the morning along with a cup of coffee.

The air was already humid and hot as I placed the our flag in the holder. Of course, like every minute of every day, I thought of my dad while I adjusted the flag. He was such a patriot – he put the flag out everyday. When we surprised him with an awesome flag pole one year, complete with a light so he could leave the flag up at night, you wouldn’t believe the smile. His entire face lit up, and he tended to that flag faithfully. The landscaping and lighting were always perfect. He’d have it no other way.

We used to have a blast – pun intended – on the Fourth of July. When we were young kids, we would go to my dad’s brother’s house for the day. It was great: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, awesome food, sparklers. In the evening, we’d sit at the foot of my uncle’s driveway and watch the fireworks. The smell of barbecued burgers, fireworks and cigar smoked enveloped us.

If there was a ball game on, you can bet it was being listened to, with an adjustment to an antenna to reduce the static. And you can safely bet my dad, uncle and grandfather would gripe about what the Detroit Tigers were doing – or not doing – that particular season. Words were peppered with expletives, making us kids laugh and our mothers blush.

As time went on, the trees in the park grew, and we lost our vantage point view at my uncle’s house. We moved the event to the park, and as us kids grew older, we went our own separate ways with our own friends. Eventually, there were weddings, moves across town and across the country. The passing of time and relatives changed the face of the Fourth of July.

When my little (at the time!) family moved back “home” after our military moves, we started our own tradition of attending parades and fireworks. Our town sponsored both, and so our house became like my uncle’s: filled with relatives, kids running, barbecue and water balloons. All day long, our house had continuous movement, anticipating the fireworks at night.

With each flag I see today, I’ll think of my dad the patriot. He loved the military, for which he was not called to serve.  I often imagine that if he could have gone to basic training, he would be the guy who was super buff because he’d have done thousands of push-ups due to smart-aleck remarks made to his drill sergeant. As fiercely protective he was of his family, I bet he would have been an outstanding non-commissioned officer. His guys would come first – I know that in my heart.

Of course, he’ll be missed this evening when we toss the burgers on the grill. We’ll laugh about the year my dad ran off like a bat out of hell to correct an ignorant punk who  stupidly threw a firecracker towards my young children as we walked home from the fireworks. Boy, did that guy mess with the wrong family 🙂

Dad, enjoy viewing the fireworks tonight from your new vantage point. I bet it will be awesome.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb