Focus on the Family military appreciation day

September 22, 2008

Last week we were invited to attendĀ  military appreciation days at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. What a wonderful day! We met so many really great people, and since it was kids day, saw lots of cute kids!

Here is a photo of our set up. We were there early, so it looks like we are alone, but trust me, there were plenty of people there. Paula and I barely got a bite of the pizza they so graciously brought us at lunchtime!

We hope that the books that were purchased for the little ones facing deployment of a parent at Ft. Carson, help to comfort , and stimulate conversation between them and their parents.

A big thank you to the folks at Focus on the Family for their support of our military ! A huge thank you to all those who will be deploying to defend our nation. God bless you.

To the lady from Ft. Carson who we met with two children ,who’s husband is on R&R, please contact us in regard to the homeland security blanket. You were disappointed to not be able to purchase one, but someone wants to donate them to you. :)

Phone calls from War… instead of Letters

September 21, 2008

Finally! I finally got to talk to our son after missing his first three calls. If you are the mother, wife, grandmother, sister ,of a soldier, sailor airman or marine, you know what I am saying. Missing those calls are the worst! (men, I know you all miss your sons, but you do handle it differently)

I came home the first time from the grocery store to hear his voice on the answering machine “we’re here, doing fine, love ya all!” …I cried for an hour! I was glad he was fine, and where he needed to be, but I wanted that moment of real connection. Then it happened again! I cannot stay in the house for a whole year, but I was thinking about it! Finally he got through and I was home, Praise God! I could barely hear him for some reason, like a faint voice in the distance. He could hear us fine, but it sounded like we were talking on one of those phones we had as a kid, you know, the tin can with a string? Not that I’m complaining.

Speaking of phones, I got one this week, the ATT Go Phone, for my granddaughter and grandson. Their mom works, and I wanted my son to be able to get them if they are at daycare , with their nana, or wherever. So I got the phone, and now I don’t know if I buy the phone card for them, or for my son? The people who sold me the phone seem to need time to figure this out. If you have tried this for a deployed parent, could you let me know if it worked well? I’ll pass on the good and bad of it as we live it out so if you are having the same concerns we can figure it out together! The phone cards are only good for a limited time , 30 or 90 days depending on the amount on the card. If you buy a hundred dollar card it is good for a year, so that is the route I am going. Now I just have to hope that if it is the grandchildren that have the card, it isn’t used to call Disneyland or someone in Timbuktu.

I guess I am old fashioned, I would love letters that I could pull out and read, but that would of course be dependent on a son who would actually write one, so I need to rethink that. Writing has never been a favorite activity of his.

Families now can get a call once a week or more. This is wonderful in one way, and difficult in another. You are always in that limbo of missing calls, or wanting more. It makes me wonder about how that is for our troops too. Is it distracting to hear often from the home front about all the little trial life brings, and does it cause them to have their mind a bit more at home and less on the job at hand?

I struggle with the thought of those that get bad news, or hear complaints from home and are then left to digest that when they cannot do a thing about it. I think it is important for us at home to contemplate that.

Should we tell a deployed loved one every difficulty at home? I don’t think so. I think that we need to remember that they need to have their head in the game, and we need to help them with that.

In the old days everyone was part of it. “Loose lips sink ships” we were warned, and now the media nearly lays out our battle plans for the enemy. Children used to gather metal scraps while mom was Rosie the Riviter. Grandma tended the victory garden… and the country was at war.

Now we are here, but not as involved. Life goes forward, and short of those of us with a loved one in harms way, barely know we are at war. Kit up all of you! We are important in this fight too, send things to our troops, keep the home fires burning, pray for our service members and be proud of the United States of America, it is an extraordinary nation!

Goodbye from far away

September 10, 2008

Like many of his brothers in arms, our son will board a plane today and we will not be there. A few hundred miles lay between us, and I will not get the hug as he leaves on that plane taking him across the sea to a foreign place. I say my goodbye from far away.

This started me thinking of the things we take for granted that our warriors don’t:

Things we forget to even whisper a prayer of thanks for, becasue they are the norm . Things like, a private warm shower, looking into the fridge to see what we “feel like” eating , taking a walk through a neigborhood without fear of being shot at, watching our children play in relative safely. We take for granted that we can make a mistake and it will only be an inconvenience (well, if you are a doctor or a few other things ,maybe not) but our military has the job of split second decisions that can cost a life, maybe theirs.

As we go about our normal days, maybe we should take a few moments to whisper a prayer of thanks for all this country affords us. A prayer of thanks that we live in the greatest nation in the world and a prayer of thanks for the men and women who every day put on a uniform ,and go out to defend all that we hold dear.

So goodbye from far away, to our son! We will miss you, we love you, and please be careful out there!

Preparation for "the day"

Tomorrow my son is leaving. So I am decorating. Decorating?

yes. I am hanging red white and blue construction paper chains (my links I told you about before) so my grandchildren can begin their writing campaign. I put a yellow ribbon and some flags on our front door, and tied a yellow ribbon on the top of the flag. Last time Justin deployed that ribbon went on, and then he came home he took it off himself. Can’t wait for that day to roll around again!

I guess it is a way to mark a beginning. The beginning of our daily prayers for safety, our awareness that our country needs to be defended, a time of pride and pain.

I think of how many moms out there get to go through this. Sarah Palin should be about to send her boy off, as are thousands of us more common folk. I love other military moms. I see them sometimes buying beef jerky and looking kind of tired ( I think alot of us are helping with the grandkids). When a woman about my age is standing in line at the post office with a box and an APO address, I wish I could hug her. There is a camaraderie of mothers who are missing a kid that used to make more trouble than she could shake a stick at, and now all she wants is for that pain of a kid to walk through the door and hug her!

Children and Loss, how do we help them? Making Deployment a Time of Growth for Young Children

September 9, 2008

Childhood... We have pictures of it being carefree, protected and idyllic. Then life happens and we have to deal with not only our own pain, but the pain of children we love. How do we do that?

If we overprotect we rob them of valuable learning, of the coping mechanisms that they will need to adjust to the losses of life. If we do not protect enough, we throw them into situations above their ability, and harden them to joy in life. So what do we do?

Loss is a human certainty. If we live long enough we will lose things precious to us. Loss is an issue that we must think through carefully if we do not want children to see themselves as the victims of an unfair world. Rather, we would have them see the realitiy. Loss is a part of life, one that if faced with acceptance and faith, we will come out stronger.

This week a friend of my daugther in law, was killed , my grandaughter has questions. I told her that this friend is more alive now than she has ever been, that for her, it is not a bad thing, but we are sad. I told her that her friend is with Jesus, and is happy and whole and free. That is what I believe. I cannnot tell her what I do not know. Why does this friends little boy have to grow up without his Mommy? I don’t have the answer. I do know that God is good, and that our days are set before we live one of them. I think that we can tell our children the truth. The friend is gone, and we will miss her.

Long ago, all people went to the funeral of those they knew and loved. From the smallest infant to the oldest great grandparent the acknowledgement of death was easy as the acknowledgement of life. These days we think we need to protect children from loss, sometimes because we are consumed with our own grief, and sometimes because we think that we can protect the child from sadness. We can’t.

What about deployment? The loss of a parent for an extended time, is a part of military life. As in the case of sheltering a child from death, we should not shelter the child from the truth that the parent will be gone for a long time. The parent can assure the child that no matter how long it is, they will be thinking of the child, loving them and are still their parent. This takes some real commitment on the part of parents. The way many kids feel loved, is time, so what do we do when time is the only thing we can’t give?

Well, we can put some thought into the fact of loss. You cannot change the facts. You can work within them. Letters , phone calls, packages, go a long way to making a child feel remembered. Asking questions about the life they know, school, dentist appointments, all the things of everyday ,can still be shared, and should be as much as possible. Don’t worry too much about how they will cope, if you are coping well, it is more likely that they will.

Teach them that you are like a resilient rubber band. We get stretched and sometimes the stretching hurts, but we bounce back and over and over we can come back better than before. When we normalize a situation, we take the fear out. Deployment is a normal part of our life. We will feel the loss and move on, living and loving. With a loss such as death, we can tell the truth. It is a normal part of life, and though we will hurt, we will survive, and given time the mention of that persons name will someday bring a smile instead of tears.

Maybe it will help to know that children do not usually grieve the way adults do, but they do grieve. Commonly children will be irritable, whiny, cry easily. The fit over the chicken nuggets…is grief. Sure they throw a fit occasionally over chicken nuggets anyhow, but, familiarity in childhood is a core value. Maybe they do not want to go to bed (which is exactly what you need them to do!)

Children become fearful when they see a parent cry, but that does not mean a parent should not cry.

Tell your child something like:, “I am crying because I miss your Dad, it is normal to cry when we are sad, but I will feel better later”. “Crying helps us wash out our heart, so it will heal and feel better”.Be prepared that your little one will want to cling when you most when want him to leave you alone. Give yourself some space , but recognize that you have a chance to teach some coping skills while you are at it. “I know you want to be with me because you are worried, but I am fine, and I am going to take a short nap, could you sing me a song?” You may not get the quiet you desire, but you will be parenting, and that is worth more than you know.

As an adult you can teach good coping skills. Taking care of yourself and telling them how you are doing that, can teach then that there are ways to help ourselves feel better and we are not helpless. We can call a friend, engage your children in prayer with you, teach them to take a small moment to enjoy, a cup of hot cocoa. Loss is something none of us like, but we can and do grow through it.

Is it hard to send your son to war?

September 1, 2008

We leaned against a post, in the airport, sipping hot coffee. I asked him if I could lean against him for five minutes while we finished. I just wanted to be close, to lean against his strong shoulder, knowing that the five minutes would soon be over, and another year of waiting wold begin. He turned to me slightly amused with my request and said “sure Ma, is it hard to send you son to war?”

The answer is yes.

I am so proud of the man he is. I am proud to be the mother of a soldier. He is a defender of right and freedom. Today though, he is just my boy. I held him once, not so long ago. Back then, I knew where he was and could forbid him to do dangerous things! Hard to believe now at 6’2″, but that tow headed child, still lives in my memory, and he is very hard to let go.

The man that is leaving, has little resemblance to the little boy, but a mothers love does not get that. He knows, because he is a father and has only last night said goodbye to his own little ones. He says he felt like crying but can’t. I have no such trouble. The Bible says God counts our tears and keeps them in a bottle. Well, I hope there is an alert accountant up there today ,because I seem to be able to produce plenty!

I am thinking of a word a new friend of ours used for the military family “resiliancy”. Yep. As soon as I am done crying, it will be time to move on and get things done.

My son said he was sorry that the last time he was in Iraq he scared us so badly. We had a number of hours knowing only that he was in serious condition with a head wound of some kind. I told him ,in my most authoritative parental voice that he was NOT to do that again!

So I hugged him hard,and we went our separate ways, but our hearts are still connected.

I already bought his welcome home banner. That next hug will be so sweet!