My first husband was a soldier in the United States Army for the first 10 years of our marriage. After that he left active duty and went reserve status for another 10, for a total “time in service” of 20 years.
Initially, he was a medic, then an LPN after his college training, to each unit he was assigned to, wherever we were stationed.
I was 18 years old, and he was 19 when he enlisted. He left for basic training just 3 days after our first child was born and he was gone for nearly four months. It was a sacrifice to be essentially a single-mother during the time he was away in boot camp and then his Advanced Individualized Traing (AIT). But I knew it was necessary and that he was serving our country.
After basic training and AIT we left our home and family in Utah and moved to Ft. Lewis, Washington, where we lived on a Private’s pay, barely making ends meet, for eighteen months, at which time he received an overseas assignment to Germany. He was gone for 8 months before he secured approval for our son and me to accompany him (it’s mandatory for soldiers to live on post, in the barracks, until they reach at least the rank of Specialist (E4) and spouses aren’t allowed to live in the barracks. So, once again, I was a single mom for the better part of a year.
After we joined him, we lived in Germany for 4 years. And I loved it there. Though, back in those days (1981 – 1985) there was no internet and cell phones hadn’t been invented yet, so long-distance phone calls to the states were extremely expensive. I very rarely got to call my mother…once a month, if that. And when I did, it cost over $100 per call…which put a real strain on our low-ranking budget. The entire time we were in Germany the troops would spend 45 days at a time “in the field”, almost every other month. What that means is that my then-husband was more than 100 miles away, without access to phone, and we had zero contact during the extended time he was training for the possibility of military engagement.
Another real concern while we were in Germany was the regular bomb threats received by American soldiers and their families who were stationed in that country. These attacks were making national news in the USA before I ever left to join him, so my mother was, justifiably, worried about our safety going to live in that country. As US military personnel and their dependents, we were required to follow a daily procedure of putting a different color of tape across all openings on our vehicles each night before bed and then checking all the doors in the morning before getting in to make sure nothing had been tampered with during the night…to ensure our safety. There were those who didn’t take this step and their car exploded with them inside. So, we took this precautionary action very seriously. Many times there would be local demonstrations in various communities outside of US military Post Exchanges (department stores) and Commissaries (grocery stores) where the locals would pour red paint all over their bodies and lay down in the streets, blocking traffic. A clear statement of their opinion about our presence in their country…(even though we were there by request of their government in order to help secure their borders).
Overall, most Germans were very friendly to us and I loved our time living there.
But there were certainly sacrifices made as a part of serving in the military.
Our second son was born while we were stationed in Deutchland and I came back 8 months pregnant with our daughter, who is our youngest child.
Once we returned to the USA we were, again, stationed in states far from our home and family. But we knew going into it that this would be the case.
After my then-husband left active duty and was serving in the US Army Reserves we relocated back to our home state of Utah. But in 1990 he was yet again called to active duty when the war with Kuwait broke out. His unit was deployed to southern Germany, to fill in for active duty personnel there, who were sent to serve in the middle east during Desert Storm.
And once more, I was a single mother.
But this time our kids were approximately ages 12, 8, and 6. And even now, all these years later, they acutely remember the day we hung a big Welcome Home sign on the fence in our front yard and tied yellow ribbons all around the house before going to meet their father when he, and the rest of his unit, returned home from that war.
Why do I tell you all of this?
Because I suspect most “average Americans” have no idea what it means to truly sacrifice and serve their country. To spend days, weeks, months, and years away from home and family, to place yourself in harm’s way 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365 days a year, in order to preserve the freedoms those same Americans enjoy, without thought or consideration, every day of their lives.
So, after participating in that system, first-hand, for so many years of my life, it really annoys me to see people who have never given up anything, never truly dedicated themselves to something of significance, literally taking for granted not only the freedoms fought and paid for with blood, sweat, and tears of our brave men and women in arms…but all too happy to suck the system dry seeking federal funding for college, food stamps, financial benefit, and more.
And then they go so far as to trample on the flag…burn the very symbol of that sacrifice and freedom by which they receive so much benefit?
Yes, I absolutely believe in the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech. It is one of the core freedoms and privileges our military personnel fight to ensure. So, yes, unlike many other countries where that freedom is not guaranteed and there are strict prohibitions against such public displays of anti-nationalism, I’m grateful for the fact that, as Americans, we can openly express our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and even disapproval of government.
But I find it deeply disturbing and absolutely distasteful and reprehensible that there are citizens of this great country who enjoy the freedoms afforded that citizenship, yet who so blatantly devalue the sacrifices made by the few in order to maintain those benefits of the many.
And that, to me, is exactly what those who burn our flag are doing.
I find it shameful.