By T.T. Robinson
It’s been almost a year since we dropped my husband off at the pier for deployment. I remember parts of it so vividly– him walking up the ramp, one hand holding our then-four-year-old daughter’s hand, the other hand wrapped around our then-three-year-old son’s.
I walked slowly behind them, drinking in those last moments, my mind repeating here we go over and over. I remember watching other families say goodbye, wishing the rest of the world could see these moments.
This is what service looks like. This is what sacrifice means. Mommies kissing their babies one more time, the strongest of daddies wiping their own tears. Deployment is never easy, and yet, in this military life, its certainty is as predictable as moving, its routine nature as common as your annual physical. But it’s never easy.
Veterans Day will come and go, and we’ll hear “Thank you for your service” and get tagged on Facebook. Memorial Day will pass with its usual fanfare of sales and barbecues, juxtaposed with the solemnity that those of us who know what it’s really about will feel. Both are important holidays set to recognize different things, and situated between May and November is another holiday you might not have heard of.
It’s National Day of the Deployed. And on this day, we honor you, the ones living deployment.
You. Our husbands and our wives. Our brothers and our sisters; our daughters and our sons. Our mommies and daddies, our grandparents and grandchildren. You. The protectors of our freedom, the providers of our liberties.
Today, we honor you. And not just “we,” the military community. “We” know what deployment is like. We understand the lonely spot in the bed, the missing face in the audience. We know what it’s like to celebrate anniversaries apart and holidays alone and milestones via Skype. We know what the bags packed by the door means. We live our lives in countdowns to departures and returns.
But today isn’t a day just for us to honor you. Rather, today is reserved for the nation as a whole to pause. To remember. To be grateful. It’s a day to take a quiet moment to think about what deployment really looks like. To understand what sacrifice means. It’s a day for the country to stand united in our collective desire for your safe return and in gratitude for everything you’re willing to risk for us all. It’s a day for the rest of the world to think about that slow walk we make on the pier, or at the airport, and what that really looks like. What it feels like to watch someone you love the most fade into the distance. That empty feeling in your soul when the quiet surrounds you in the car on the way home, and the pit in your stomach when you’re leaving behind a new baby, or a sick parent or a high school senior. There’s never a good time to go.
So to our civilian friends? We need you to recognize today. We want you to honor our service men and women who so courageously serve our nation here and abroad. The ones who make the choice to trade in the comforts of home for beds of gravel in faraway lands. The ones who have given up more than time at home, they’ve given up limbs. They’ve buried their friends. They’ve risked, and some have given, it all. For you. For me. For us. They’ve run, time after time, into the danger so that we can speak freely, love unabashedly, and worship however we see fit.
Today, we need you to honor that.
Write a letter to a soldier.
Send a carepackage to a unit.
Thank a veteran and listen to their stories.
Make a donation to an organization that supports our military.
Ask your child’s teacher if the class can adopt a squadron.
Order a pizza for your local recruitment office.
And today, we need you to think about both sides of deployment. Not just the side thousands of miles away. The other side, too. The side where the families sit, staring down an empty chair and a missing place setting. The side where ribbons are tied, stars are hung in windows and countless trips are taken to the post office. Today, we need your support.
Make dinner for a military family, and don’t just drop it off; offer to stay.
Offer to babysit for a spouse.
Send a gift certificate for a meal delivery service.
Donate frequent flier miles so they can fly a friend or family member out to visit.
Take out their trashcan.
Mow their lawn.
Drop off flowers.
Today, we need you to acknowledge that our world is still at war. We need you to know that every day, we are sending off our husbands and our wives. Our brothers and our sisters; our daughters and our sons. Our mommies and daddies, our grandparents and grandchildren.
We need you to pause. Honor. Remember our deployed.
T. T. Robinson is a proud Navy wife, writer, and crisis management consultant – a skill that proves useful as the mother of two young children. She is the founder of Humans on the Homefront, author of the New York Times Deployment Diary, managing editor for SpouseBuzz, and political correspondent for NextGen MilSpouse.