Thursday, May 22, 2014

Stories Series Episode #4: The Greatest Honor

Meghan Stewart
20, May 2014

As a teenager, I felt ridiculed, judged even, when I told people my parents were in the military. After September 11, 2001; people looked to me for advice, for support, for help. My parents met while stationed at Fort Monmouth, NJ. After returning home from Germany, after I was born, my dad switched from soldier to stay-at-home father while mom went back into the service. Two years and another kid later, they switched roles permanently.

We moved from state to state, post to post, concrete walled house to concrete walled house. This went on until we moved to Michigan when my dad made the move from Active Duty Army, to Michigan National Guard recruiter. In Michigan, there is not a big military presence. September 11, 2001; I remember being herded into a dark room with fifty other 8th graders. Teachers were quiet, trying desperately to hide the fear, the concern they felt while we all watched the news. What always stands out to me about that day was my peers’ reactions to what was going on. I didn’t really know what the Twin Towers were, or why it was so important that they were targeted, but I knew it was significant. Every one of my fellow students knew something was wrong and I was the one they asked about it. “What’s going on, Meghan?” They knew my dad was military. And for some reason, I was the new expert about terrorism for the 8th grade class of Linden Middle School.  By 10am, my mom called my sister and I out of school and brought us home. The three of us waited impatiently for word from my father. We knew the dormant lifestyle we had become accustomed to was endangered now. It wasn’t until 2004 that the other shoe dropped and my dad was deployed to Iraq.

I used to hate the military. Both parents deployed to war, I felt like my family was cursed. It wasn’t until my dad returned and I met the men that served side by side with him for 14 months. I realized then, I am blessed. I was terrified that I would lose a family member and ended up gaining sixty more. Those men and their families became my family. That’s what happens in the military. If you are serving, the men or women who stand side by side with you, they become your blood, closer ties and relationships than with your actual blood relatives. I was lucky to get my dad back. Other families were not. Ten years after their deployment, the men of my dad’s platoon still have stronger bonds than anything you could imagine. They’ve all gone their separate ways. Some out of the military, some spread out to new units. But one thing will always keep them in contact. Their service together. The 14 months they spent together will ensure that our families will always be one. The lesson I’ve learned above all else: the military is a blessing. It may be hard to see at first, but it truly is the greatest honor, for the person in the military and their families. 

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