What the Fourth of July Means to a Military Mom
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It used to be that the Fourth of July meant barbeques and fireworks, but not anymore! What the Fourth of July means to a military Mom is different. The day my son enlisted in the United States Marine Corps my way of looking at everything changed. He stepped into a room with 50 or more young men and women, raised his hand and took an oath to defend our country on June 25, 2007, then boarded a jet for San Diego. It took my breath away when I walked out the doors of the airport, walking out without him, it was hard to breathe. I felt the weight of the entire country upon my heart. Then, I looked up and saw a giant red, white and blue flag overhead, flying gently in the midday breeze. I saw beyond the brightly colored fabric waving proudly in the wind to the blood, fear and tears that built the strong nation of the United States of America. I was instantly overwhelmed with a flood of pride which washed over me and gently soothed my pained heart. My son was a part of all that provided and continues to protect our freedom.
Every time we watch fireworks, hear our national anthem or see an American flag, Military Moms feel a mix of pain and pride blossoming within. We know the cost of the freedom it represents to those who serve: the freedom to see, touch and talk to the ones they love, the freedom to eat, sleep and play what they choose, the freedom to make a choice or change their mind. Those freedoms are gone. Freely given by our child who sacrificed them when they choose to become a service member to their country. It hurts to know our child, for whom we spent years planning and preparing for them to have a comfortable and fun future, may suffer, even die, in the days or months ahead. To know that our child willingly chose to put aside the "fun and comfortable" phase of their life known as young adulthood to serve their country fills us with unending pride. Don't let me fool you - my son is having fun - but he has earned it!
The tears that are shed every day for a son or daughter who has left someone they love behind at home could fill an ocean. The parked car, the empty bedroom becomes a connecting point, a place to feel their presence and remind yourself that they will come home soon. It is generally filled with momentos from their youth that a Military Mom will cling to at some time or another. As time goes on, it becomes filled with momentos from their travels with our armed services. These build pride in the parent's heart that their son or daughter has had the opportunity to experience the many varied cultures and even the awesome training opportunities provided by Armed Forces. My son's room has shells from a beach on Cuba, a boomerang from Australia, and a fan from Japan amongst many other bits of memorabilia. It helps comfort a parent to know that there are positive things happening in their child's life. The photos of his sliding down a cable from a hovering helicopter propped next to his high school graduation pic seems more like a wild amusement park ride than a practiced military action. The fear and angst that comes from having a child in a potentially dangerous environment (or confirmed war zone) NEVER goes away, but connecting with positive points of time in their lives helps to buffer the emotions.
My son's serving in the United States Marine Corps has forever changed what the fourth of July means to a Military Mom in our house. It means taking pride in what my son has fought for, protected, and sacrificed for every day of his service. It means being proud to be an American. Thankful for our hard won freedom. Grateful for the opportunities afforded to each and every one of us who live in the borders of this great nation.
I am proud of what my son has become, a strong confident man. I draw comfort in knowing he can forever take care of himself in any situation. I have found peace in knowing that wherever he is and whatever he does, he will always be my son. Always! I draw strength from the time of learning to trust that God's arms are not short and He kept my son safe.
This year, you will find me once again contemplating what the fourth of July means to a military mom. This year may be our last one with him serving on the other side of the world. He will not experience fireworks like we will - his may be that of the launching of rockets or jets. He may have a dinner of barbeque or hamburgers out on the flight deck, but he will not be surrounded with home and backyard fun. He will however be surrounded by men and women who will give their lives to protect him - his brothers and sisters at arms. He does have family. I will forever be thankful to them for filling in for me in my absence.
What does the fourth of July mean to you?
Photos and Text Copyright 2011 Deborah M. Carey