better than years ago

with this passing veterans day and endless line of military-themed movies playing all week, it’s amazing to look back and see just how far the military and military families have come.

i look back on my personal experiences from a child who grew up in the ‘old army’ and now my experiences as an army wife in the ‘new army’ (oh yes ma’am, there is a difference that has emerged over the last 20 years or so between how things were done and how things are done now).  and then i look back over those countless movies, yes many are fiction but many are based on how things really were, and it’s amazing to see just how far the military and their appreciation for families has come.

when you watch ‘a league of their own,’ and see how dottie’s husband just walks up one day upon his return, there’s no homecoming parade, there was no heads up to her that he was home-bound.  and when they’re in the locker room and the telegraph delivery guy tries to deliver a notification but doesn’t have the name and coach takes it and tells him in not so  many nice words to just give him the notification and he’d do it himself, there was no casualty office there to hold betty spaghetti’s hand as she got the news.

and then you watch ‘pearl harbor’ and watch as the letters come in stacks soldiers carried sepia-colored pictures with them of their loved ones because they didn’t have orders saying, ‘not to exceed 365 days,’ and wondering how long they’d be gone.

and from there you watch ‘we were soldiers’ and can’t help but cry as the taxi driver stops and asks for directions and once again there is no casualty officer, no care team, no one who knows the spouses but just a taxi driver.  there are no care packages, no skype, no phone calls.  just letters, if you even got those.  there was no parade or even big welcome home ceremony when the soldiers return, just a bus ride and disembarkment and soldiers walking home to see their families they had left behind.

from my personal experience i remember during desert shield/ storm, we had an answering machine with a tape in it and if we missed my dad’s call, if he left a message, it was the only way we knew he had tried to call.  there was no internet, no facebook, no webcams.  there were care packages because my mum knew my dad missed his oreo cookies and needed to read letters written by us and hold pictures of us.  there was no frg (family support group), there was my mum who called each spouse who had a soldier who was deployed and made sure they were okay, because that was the right thing to do, not because it was expected.  i remember my little brother who was a toddler at the time wore a dogtag necklace with a laminated picture of my dad in the middle of the desert  and my mum had to retape it countless times, but he wore that necklace for 8 months straight.  i remember we brought hot chocolate to the soldiers who patrolled our neighborhoods not because they expected it, but because it was a small way we could support our troops there.

through it all, when you look back one generation before the last, the next generation has had so many improvements and new resources.  doesn’t mean that it has gotten easier.  or that every improvement has made it easier (technology can be a double-edged sword).  but with each passing generation of military families, we have proven we are all more than army strong.

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