About a month ago our family had the opportunity to go to French Lick Springs Resort for a large Indiana National Guard convention. Each of us had different programs we were to attend. I went to the Family Support Group workshops. These are my memories and thoughts of that weekend.
During the whirlwind of events that weekend I met a lot of extraordinary women. Many were younger than me, and some were older. The one thing we all had in common was we all had a family member that was serving or had served in the Indiana National Guard. More than I could count had husbands that had been deployed somewhere in the world; mainly in Iraq or Afghanistan.
I met a young mom whose husband was able to be home for the birth of his son, then had to go back to Iraq 2 days later. She carried on and her husband returned safely almost 1 year later.
I met another young mother who endured taking her children to the emergency room on several occasions all by herself. (If I remember correctly she had young boys... you know how that goes!) We've had our share of emergency room visits and I cannot fathom doing it alone, not even being able to tell Benny about it until days later. This mom withstood all this with grace and a spirit that astounded me.
I had the pleasure of meeting a grandmother that had raised her grandson. He had been deployed to Iraq and thankfully come home safely as well. This young man had a lot of hardships in his life, and his grandmother was glowing when she told me how he had turned himself around by being in the military.
And then there is the young lady I can't get out of my mind. I happened to see her as I was leaving the conference. She was outside alone. I almost walked by, but decided to just go out and get a moment of fresh air before going back to the chaos of my family. This young lady had tears welling up in her eyes, hands shaking and she said to me, "I didn't sign up for all of this." She knew her husband was in the National Guard when she met and married him but really had no idea what it was about or the toll it would eventually take on her. I smiled as I listened. I have been in her shoes. 16 years ago when we were married I thought the National Guard was something Benny went to one weekend a month and for two weeks in the summer. (He would also take half the house with him to annual training so it seemed more like summer camp than military training) At that time I had no idea the impact this service would have on our marriage and our family. Her husband is in Iraq right now, and is scheduled to return in June. As we were talking some other women came outside with us with offers of help and advice. This is what we were there for... Family Support.
There was one other moment of the weekend that will stay with me forever. During a formal dinner and ball, before we were served our meals our attention was drawn to a table that was set up in the front of the room. This table was set with all the serving pieces, a vase with a red rose, and an empty chair. The speaker reminded us that the table and empty chair were there for us to remember those men and women who weren't with us that evening. They are serving and sacrificing for us. There was a beautiful poem that described each element of the empty table and chair. It was a moment I'll never forget.
At each event we attended the Pledge of Allegiance was said, the National Anthem was sung
(a capella... every time). Our family went home with a renewed sense of tremendous pride in our country and our National Guard soldiers.
On this Memorial Day, it's my hope you will remember our fallen soldiers from all wars and conflicts. Remember the men and women bravely serving today. You see, the sacrifice they make is not just of themselves. They leave behind spouses, children, parents, family and friends. We call them "Homefront Heroes" If you meet any of these family members ask them how they are doing? How can I help you? Tell them you'll pray for them and their loved soldiers. And thank them for their service.
Benny has been retired from the National Guard for a couple of years now but still plays an active role in several organizations tied to the Indiana National Guard. We are working on a plan to tie Julie Boyles Books into a program that will benefit our deploying soldiers and their families. It may take us a little while, but it's important to us... we'll find a way.
Here are some links for more information about the Indiana National Guard Family Programs, and a couple others that will touch you and give you more insight about our servicemen and women.
Indiana National Guard Family Programs
The Pioneer Woman Images with the theme "Coming Home" (get your tissues out!)
Thanks for sticking with me on this long post. Remember....