Today is a day that we honor the men and women who are serving and have served the US. To all those that have served, are serving and those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, I salute you today and thank you for your service.
As some of you are aware, my husband is retired from the military and my oldest son is currently serving. It's a tough life in some ways and oh so rewarding in others. This is where I first built community and the sense of family among those that are not actually blood related. I would like to share a story from that time in my life with you today.
I thought I was the pretty good military spouse. It started the day before we got married; my husband to be showed up in jungle fatigues to our rehearsal and that didn't faze me. I handled the long weeks in the field, extended training exercises and the phone calls at work from some voice that simply said, "Mrs. Garst, your husband has been deployed". I knew better than to ask when he would return. I even handled the death of friends and supported their families the best I could. Yep, did all that and I thought I had it all under control. As strange as it may sound, it was our way of life and we all banded together, supported one another and just did what needed to be done.
On March 4, 2002, my world turned upside down. I had lived with worry on the fringes of my life for so long that I became comfortable with it and thought I had it in a safe little place where it couldn't control my life. You see, my husband was always in harm's way. It was the job he chose and one that I knew made him happy. I supported that choice and harnessed the fear that someday he might not come home.
I got a phone call that morning, before 7:00 a.m., from another spouse. You know when your phone rings that early that something is wrong. She was crying hysterically and it took me a few minutes to get it out of her. I kept hearing CNN in what she was trying to tell me. You see we all tuned into CNN as we figured we would see it there before the unit told us anything. I rushed to turn on the TV as I tried to make sense of what she was saying.
The news was a helicopter was down and it was ours.
Fear spread through my body and life stood still for a few minutes. It's hard to explain what goes through your head at a time like that. I know there are some that are reading this that have experienced this. The best way to describe it is paralyzing. My oldest son was only 11 at the time and he looked at me and said, "What's wrong Mom?" That simple question snapped me back to reality. I realized that I had to pull myself together and protect the boys from what was happening until I knew what was happening.
Throughout the day, tidbits of undocumented info…the rumor mill at its finest, kept emerging and I heard through the grapevine that supposedly my husband was wounded but alive. My husband always told me to not believe anything unless someone from the unit came and told me personally. The phone rang off the hook throughout the day as wives were reaching out to each other to see if anyone has gotten 'the' visit.
It was almost 12 hours of beating back the fear for me and my family before I found out that my husband was safe and sound. He was walking to the aircraft when someone rushed up and offered to take his place. It has always amazed me how the small events in our daily lives lead to bigger things. In this case, this small event saved my husband from harm. The one who took his place that day was indeed wounded. Some other families were not so fortunate.
I share this story today, this Memorial Day, so that you can get a glimpse into how much military families endure so that good men and women can serve their country.
To all those that have fought and given the ultimate sacrifice; you are not forgotten!
Blessings to you and yours this Memorial Day!