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Just Jack: Military members are your neighbors
On April 4, Kitsap County will take time out to show our appreciation for our most valuable neighbors – our military families and friends. They are ours. They are that quiet, unnoticed part of the community and individual neighborhoods who disappear for long periods of time, who participate in and support everything, and who guarantee for us the very freedoms and liberty we take for granted. They are the men and women in uniform who we turn to with expectations of miracles every time we face danger in an uncertain world or when disaster strikes close to home. They deserve not only our personal appreciation but our collective gratification that they chose to serve use before themselves.
In addition to the military members, we need to remember and demonstrate the highest degree of appreciation for those who stand by them every day – the military families. I can speak with some authority on this one having grown up as a “Navy brat” and then having a family of my own while serving the nation. I can honestly tell you that, if the challenge of serving in the military is tough, the job of a military family member, pressed into service by association, is much more difficult and demanding.
A military spouse, to be successful, must be a combination corporate executive and “Chief of the Boat.” When the military member is at home the spouse assumes a role of “team player” making sure that the spouse is fully integrated into the family unit and is allowed their classical role. The decisions that are routine when the spouse is deployed are now shared, sometimes with unusual outcomes. Life is a matter of two schedules and making sure that “spouse time” takes priority. Financial decisions occasionally get a bit tense. After all, the military person does not have to make ends meet all the time; just when they are home. The “stand down” after deployment means a rest for one and more work for the other. But in the end, enjoying a “second honeymoon” every now and then and having the opportunity to grow together and individually makes it worth while. Just don’t expect your military spouse to be attentive to your problems as they prepare for a duty station change (called a new job and moving in civilian life). For the spouse and the entire family, this is a drill they have run before and can accomplish with efficiency. For them it is simply part of their lives. And all the while, they must live not knowing where the other half is, what they are doing and praying they are safe.
A “military brat” will frequently become a strong individual, not because they want to but because they have no other choice if they are to survive. “Military brats” don’t have home towns; they chronicle their lives by parent’s duty stations. It is not uncommon that they will attend five or more schools between kindergarten and graduation from high school. Most often they have completed a course of “state history” in at least two states. The decision they make for college is frequently guided by the “Home of Record” of the military parent because they qualify for “in state” tuition there. Each one of the kids has friends all around the world and, with a bit of luck, the next duty station will reunite them with friends from the past. They are adept at joining classes, teams, and clubs in the middle of school years. They also know the absolute heartbreak of having to leave behind that very first love as they move on to the next duty station. They are flexible enough and resilient enough to live successfully in a part-time “single parent home” and still enjoy the opportunities of a home with two parents present.
Please do appreciate and honor our military neighbors; they are one of us. Please also remember and appreciate those who actually have the hardest job in the world; the military family members. They are the ones who actually make the entire system work. I know that was the case for me through 26 years.